​2Gen Summit: What We Heard

On September 14, 2017, The Amherst H. Wilder Foundation co-hosted the Minnesota 2Gen Summit to Reduce Poverty along with Minnesota state agencies, the City of Saint Paul, the Saint Paul Foundation, and the Future Services Institute. "2Gen” solutions integrate strategies and programs for young children and adults living in poverty, focusing on housing and economic opportunities, early childhood education, health, and social connections.
Anne Mosle 
Statewide leaders and service providers came together to learn about 2Gen approaches and to hear from Anne Mosle, Aspen Institute vice president and executive director of Ascend at the Aspen Institute. A panel of parents who had received 2Gen services spoke about their experiences and offered insight as to how providers could do more to implement and improve such services.
Below are a few key takeaways from the day-long summit:

2Gen Isn’t New but Provides a Framework to Reduce Poverty

The idea of serving two generations or more at a time is not a new concept. 2Gen draws upon the traditions of indigenous cultures that emphasize the need to steward resources now and for generations to come. Many consider Head Start, which began in 1965, to be the first true 2Gen program. The Wilder Foundation and other organizations around the country have used 2Gen or whole-family approaches for decades, knowing that when children and parents are served together as a family unit, their life outcomes and pathway out of poverty improve.  

Effective Strategies Require “Radical Collaboration”

Mosle offered this phrase as a way to think about the 2Gen model. Rather than expecting families to navigate existing, sometimes fragmented systems, radical collaboration calls for a reorganizing of the systems in order to fit the needs of families. Paul Fleissner, director of Community Services for Olmsted County, explained how the County has reorganized its services to ensure that all departments are aligned with one another and revolve around families. No matter where a person enters this system, they have support in accessing any other community services they may need or want.
“We’ve worked to move away from a culture where we think about our individual roles or departments to one in which everyone asks, ‘How can we better connect people to broader systems of support?’ says Fleissner.

Measure Outcomes for Children and Parents Together

To best serve children and parents together, experts noted that we need to measure outcomes for children and parents together as well. How can providers and government agencies do this? Mosle and others agreed: “it depends.”
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, but there are examples and resources available. Ascend at the Aspen Institute maintains an Online Outcomes Bank where providers can share reports and other information about their efforts to measure child and parent outcomes together. A report from a two-generation outcomes working group is also available for agencies to begin thinking about how they might implement and measure 2Gen strategies.

There is Public Support for 2Gen

Addressing the needs of children and parents together is not a partisan issue. According to a recent poll commissioned by Ascend at the Aspen Institute, 89 percent of Americans favor two-generation programs to raise families out of poverty. 70 percent would strongly favor the approach even if their own taxes were increased. This support exists across demographics of gender, race, political affiliation and region. The message: the political will for 2gen is there. And where there is a will, there is a way.  

“Break Bread with Us”

Parents who had been served by 2Gen programs shared their personal experiences and offered ideas for providers to consider when implementing 2Gen strategies. A parent from the Saint Paul Promise Neighborhood who remains deeply involved in the initiative had a clear message for everyone in the room: “Break bread with us. Get to know us. Data doesn’t matter unless you go out into the community and see what people are facing…our struggles and strengths.”

What’s Next

Wilder will continue to explore and implement 2Gen strategies such as the Saint Paul Promise Neighborhood and the Family Independence Initiative. We hope to involve more and more partners in this work to understand how we can “radically collaborate” across sectors to fully support children and families in Saint Paul and beyond.

 Quick Links


 Op Ed: Poverty Shouldn't Determine Destiny

​Read this Pioneer Press opinion article in support of 2Gen co-authored by Wilder President and CEO MayKao Y. Hang, Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and Minnesota Department of Human Services Commissioner Emily Piper.

 Related Resources


​Ascend at the Aspen Institute has a wealth of publications, guides and other resources related to 2Gen. Here are just a few referenced at the Minnesota 2Gen Summit:

Making Tomorrow Better Together Report


Two-Generation Playbook


Children and Families at the Center


Colorado Guide to 2Gen

State Human Services Model: Colorado as a Case Study for Policymakers