She brings generations together for networking

Why We Wrote This

Charlotte Japp saw how both younger and older people could benefit from cross-generational networking initiatives. Her organization's parties and cultural events serve the greater purpose of ending age segregation.

Kyka Rae Polanco/Courtesy of Encore.org
Cirkel's Charlotte Japp (r.) at one of the startup's events.

This essay is part of an occasional series provided by our partner organization Encore.org, which created the Generation to Generation (Gen2Gen) campaign, inviting those in midlife and beyond to connect with young people who need champions.

Charlotte Japp saw both of her parents get pushed out of their primary careers around age 50. At the time, she was growing into her own career at the media company Vice, where she observed that most executives were under 40. 

“I learned that ageism not only affects older people who are left out of work, but it also deprives younger people of seasoned knowledge and perspective,” Ms. Japp says. 

So it was a natural evolution for her to create Cirkel, an intergenerational networking initiative that’s based in the New York borough of Brooklyn. “I’ve always felt that the most fun parties and cultural events are the ones where people from all different ages and walks of life are enjoying it together,” she notes.

The funky spelling – cirkel – is circle in Swedish, which Ms. Japp adopted as a nod to Swedish design that is not only beautiful but also solves a problem. In this case it’s about bridging a divide that few young people discuss: age segregation.

In the past year Cirkel has hosted four events, with 80 to 100 people attending each one. Its first event explored the morphing publishing industry, from books and magazines to digital media. Diane di Costanzo, editorial director of The Foundry at Meredith Corp., provided an overview of the industry and its changes. Afterward, when Ms. Japp saw intergenerational groups of guests (who had never met before) so caught up in conversation that they finally had to be asked to leave, she sensed it was the beginning of something big.

“I’m surprised by how grateful so many guests are for being given the opportunity to meet people from different generations,” she says. “Whenever I get those thank-you’s after an event, I’m reminded why Cirkel is important.”

In December, when Cirkel sponsored an event about fashion, Ms. Japp says she had to catch her breath when Vogue editor Anna Wintour showed up to support those she was mentoring, who happened to be two of the Condé Nast editors on the panel: Michelle Lee (Allure) and Lindsay Peoples Wagner (Teen Vogue). 

Sara Chishti, who is in her 20s, attended the fashion event and says it was the best panel she’s been to. “Each figure had so much wisdom and insight given their own experiences, and it was fascinating to see them recount their thoughts on the industry given their different positions, ages, and ethnic backgrounds.” 

Most events have taken place in New York City, but “CIRKEL: love” was a sold-out, women-only event in San Francisco, at a new location for the coworking space The Wing. Older and younger women spoke about relationships, comparing experiences across generations. Ms. Japp plans to expand to Los Angeles and London later this year.

Her big goal is crystal clear: “I hope Cirkel changes young people’s perception of older generations, as they realize that olders are an invaluable resource for learning and growth,” she says. “In turn, I hope olders learn new skills from youngers and eventually are able to keep working (if that’s what they want to do) or retire in a way that makes them feel connected, fulfilled, and engaged in society.”

• For more, visit www.cirkel.world.

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