A Big Idea for 2012: Two-Generation Approaches


Welcome to the new Ascend website, a virtual hub for leaders working on solutions and innovations to move families toward economic mobility.  Ascend at the Aspen Institute is based on a simple but powerful idea: two-generation approaches, which focus on creating opportunities for and addressing needs of parents and children together, hold great promise and potential. Over the past 18 months, Ascend has engaged with and learned with the field, including:

•focus groups with low-income parents from diverse backgrounds;

•analysis of Census data using a two-generation lens;

•national roundtables on applying two-generation approaches to programs, policies, systems, and research at the local, state, and federal levels; and

• learning trips and interviews to identify, understand, and document promising programs around the country.

For Ascend, this research has illuminated both emerging and established leaders who are working across sectors – in very different roles and capacities – with a clear common purpose: they are each committed to advancing the educational success and economic security of parents and children together. On one hand, the economic context for many American families is challenging:

•Unemployment has remained high, exacerbating conditions for families who were already poor or low-income before the 2008 recession.

•Nearly three-fourths of children living in single-mother families are low-income, compared to just under one-third of children living in married-couple families.

•Low levels of educational attainment and poverty are strongly correlated. Only 10 percent of those with a bachelor’s degree are poor. More than 30 percent of those with a high school diploma or less are poor.

Yet, I am a firm believer in the notion that out of challenges great invention and opportunity can emerge. The time is ripe for bold approaches that foster new collaboration across sectors to address poverty.  I hope you will explore the  website, including background on the 2012-2013 Ascend Fellows – dynamic leaders who are moving ideas into action;  and the Aspen ThinkXChange – a national convening to explore the power and potential of two-generation approaches, expand the network of leaders working on solutions, and move good ideas into action.  Please share the site with others in your network, and come back often to stay informed about the latest developments in cutting-edge two-generation approaches.