The scene at the Colorado 2019 Summit in Denver, Colorado.
Colorado is an important state for Ascend. Indeed, in 1950 the Aspen Institute was founded in the Rocky Mountain town of Aspen, which has been home to eight Aspen Ideas Festivals, and was most recently the launching pad for Ascend’s inaugural Aspen ThinkXChange. I recently had the opportunity to learn more about the struggles of vulnerable families in Colorado when I attended the Colorado 2019 Summit in Denver, which explored opportunities for and challenges facing over 5 million Americans who call Colorado home, including 1.2 million children under the age of 18, of which nearly 18% are living in poverty.
Hosted by the Colorado Center on Law and Policy (CCLP) and supported by two of Ascend’s philanthropic partners, the Chambers Family Fund and the Kresge Foundation, on October 19th, the Colorado 2019 Summit: Promising Practices to Reduce Poverty convened nonprofit leaders, local human service providers, and state legislators for a day-long exploration of county-based collaborations and other promising models towards moving Colorado families out of poverty. The Arapahoe/Douglas Works! Center was one of several site visits offered at the Summit, which offered an opportunity to learn about effective, partnership-based models that focus on increasing employment among vulnerable Coloradans, including employment assistance programs for parents.
Charged with a goal to reduce poverty in Colorado by 50% by 2019, the Summit’s host, CCLP – which is a leading stakeholder in the Economic Opportunity Poverty Reduction Task Force of the Colorado General Assembly – offered an important reminder for Colorado: the value of relationships between state agencies and local communities. As a county-administered state, practitioners, administrators, and law-makers maintain unique relationships with their communities, reflective of their distinct ability to administer services and programs based on local needs. While there is no “silver bullet” solution to address complex problems like poverty, strong relationships within and among communities are often seen as good practice and critical components in alleviating the complex problems facing families in poverty. As Ascend continues to elevate effective policies and two-generation solutions, Colorado will continue to be an important place of momentum and leadership.