Experiencing ThinkXChange: A Parent Ambassador’s Perspective

January 16, 2015 | Convenings

When I began my journey as a single parent, I had a fledgling law practice that did not generate consistent income. Living on inconsistent income made our household vulnerable to life’s uncertainties. It also taught me that my children and I must be holistically equipped so that our family unit can persevere in the midst of any emergency or uncertainty that we face. What does being “holistically equipped” look like? It means that we can responsibly manage our limited resources, that we are food and housing secure, mentally and physically healthy, and have at least one safety net. Holistically equipping, to me, involves using two-generation strategies to break the cycle of poverty and economic insecurity within vulnerable families.

I want to holistically equip other struggling single mothers in Columbus, Ohio who, like me, find their households teetering back and forth between stability and instability. Given societal views about single mothers, I wondered if I could successfully make the case for using two-generation strategies to improve
economic and educational outcomes for women like me and our children within my community. This question was answered during my participation in the 2014 Aspen ThinkXChange.

The Aspen ThinkXChange is the national forum on two-generation solutions held in Aspen, Colorado at the Aspen Institute’s campus. Hosted by Ascend at the Aspen Institute, the forum included more than 200 national leaders from a range of sectors, talking candidly and with great passion about ways to move families toward opportunity and security with a two-generation lens. My participation – as a parent and community leader – confirmed what I have always believed that regardless of race, sex, socio-economic status, or geography, we are each other’s keepers. Polling results released at ThinkXChange 2014 show that the public is very aware that two-generation strategies are increasingly necessary to improve economic and educational outcomes for parents and children in vulnerable families. There were plenary sessions that highlighted major issues like the transformation of Head Start to help advance parents’ college success, and there were smaller discussions on challenges like transportation and asset limits. Because I believe so strongly in the power of words, I was profoundly affected by the transformational narratives presented by ThinkXChange participants at the closing night plenary, where five two-generation leaders told their personal stories of resilience with candor – and humor.

Their narratives showed that as activists we must be transparent, vulnerable, and willing to share our personal story to establish the connections needed to successfully use two-generation strategies within our respective communities. So what is the best way for me to use the tools learned and network connections made at ThinkXChange 2014 to disrupt generational poverty in the lives of the single mothers and their children who live in Columbus, Ohio? By equipping them with the information needed to stabilize their household. My dream is to develop a curricula for individual and family workshops through community organizations covering topics such as financial literacy, with an emphasis on budgeting and building an emergency fund, postsecondary education and training, nutritious meal planning with limited funds, and accessing emergency resources. Being a single mother is extremely difficult and stressful. To that end, individual and family assessments must be conducted to determine the physical and mental health well-being of the household. Unless a household is physically and mentally healthy, its members will not have the capacity to absorb and apply information about financial literacy, nutrition, emergency resources, and improving educational outcomes.

I am already talking with foundations and national nonprofit leaders I met at ThinkXChange about my two-generation goals for Columbus. Breaking the cycle of generational poverty requires innovation, engaging different voices, and a willingness to collaborate across systems and disciplines. Implementing two-generation strategies will undoubtedly cause growing pains within the traditional models established to assist vulnerable families. But these growing pains will yield bountiful rewards – in holistically equipped families – that can ultimately change their trajectories across generations.

Related Posts

I started off the 2022 Aspen Ideas Festival at Aspen Words Book Ball, a passion project of Isa Catto and Daniel Shaw.
Ascend FellowshipJune 25, 2022
This year, the Aspen Idea Festival returns to in-person programming at our campus in the Rocky Mountains June 25 - July 1, 2022.
Ascend FellowshipJune 15, 2022
On Tuesday, June 1st, 2021, Ascend at the Aspen Institute’s Family Prosperity Innovation Community hosted a panel discussion about the recently proposed federal legislation on paid leave. This webinar presented how and why this proposed legislation matters and shared opportunities to advance paid leave locally and nationally. Watch Now Presenters and Panelists Vicki Shabo – New …

Webinar: Accelerating Paid Leave for Families Read More »

June 3, 2021
This blog is part of Ascend at the Aspen Institute’s 2Gen Level Up series. Ascend challenged organizations that work with and/or on behalf of children and families to apply one of six resources listed below and level up their two-generational efforts. Of the many organizations from across the country that put these resources to use, Ascend …

PelotonU: Principles for Engaging and Centering Parent Voice Read More »

BlogApril 6, 2021
Back to School Event
Governors, mayors, and families are on the front lines of communities coping with changes in the pandemic world. As the school year begins, the Aspen Institute turns to representatives of these three groups to ask: How can we support students and families in this unprecedented school year? On August 26, Ascend and the Aspen Education …

Virtual Discussion: How Communities and Political Leaders Can Support Schools This Year Read More »

BlogAugust 21, 2020
Physical and mental health and well-being are core components of the two-generation approach that builds family well-being by intentionally and simultaneously working with children and the adults in their lives to move whole families toward educational success, economic security, and health and well-being. Childhood trauma, for instance, has lasting health and social consequences. Similarly, economic …

Transforming Child and Family Mental Health in Washington, DC Read More »

BlogJuly 22, 2020
States and communities are where policy translates into real life outcomes. For nearly a decade, state and local entities have leveraged various federal programs and funding streams to integrate systems and services through a 2Gen approach. This powerful momentum is bipartisan, practical, scalable and most importantly, centered around families – their needs, their experiences, and their voices.   The new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, Poverty Reduction: …

Virtual Briefing: Milestone Federal Report Drives 2Gen Momentum Read More »

BlogJuly 9, 2020
The Aspen Postsecondary Success for Parents (PSP) Initiative at Ascend at the Aspen Institute hosted a two-day convening to mark entering its second phase. More than 50 researchers, philanthropists, higher education administrators, policymakers, and student parents gathered at the Aspen Institute office in Washington, D.C. for a strategy session titled, “Postsecondary Completion: What Works for …

Postsecondary Completion: What Works for Parents Read More »

BlogFebruary 12, 2020
Families must be at the center of any and all work to address intergenerational poverty. That’s why our Aspen ThinkXChange 2019, which focused on using a two-generation (2Gen) approach to advance family prosperity, began the way that it did – with more than 240 leaders (parents, practitioners, and policymakers) listening and learning from families. At …

Aspen ThinkXChange 2019: 240 Leaders Convene to Advance Family Prosperity Read More »

BlogOctober 31, 2019
Two-generation (2Gen) convenings have the potential to create change for whole systems and the lives of the families they serve. This planning guide is the first step. Having planned and supported more than 100 2Gen convenings, Ascend has cultivated a depth of knowledge for the practical elements and nuanced factors that result in successful convenings. …

New Toolkit Offers Tips on Designing a 2Gen Convening Read More »

BlogOctober 25, 2019
It was another great day of provocative conversation at ThinkXChange. Here are three of our favorite insights from the breakout group on cash transfers: “Poverty is the absence of cash flow. If you want to solve poverty, give people money. That’s it. We can solve poverty if we want to.” — Anthony Barrows, managing director …

“We can solve poverty if we want to.” Read More »

BlogOctober 17, 2019
Speakers onstage at 2019 Aspen ThinkXChange
The racial wealth gap is well-documented and undisputedly real. The median white family has 41 times more wealth than the median African-American family and 22 times more wealth than the median Latino family. And things are getting worse, not better: The proportion of black families with zero or negative wealth rose by 8.5 percent to …

Real solutions for closing the very real racial wealth gap Read More »

BlogOctober 17, 2019
With family voices at the center, Ascend brought together leaders from across key issues and sectors at the Aspen ThinkXChange 2019: Advancing Family Prosperity on October 15-18 in Aspen, Colorado, to share bold ideas, generate new strategies, and identify critical partnerships to move families toward opportunity in the decade ahead. The convening highlighted inherent strengths of families with …

Aspen ThinkXChange 2019 Round-up: Materials and Videos Read More »

BlogSeptember 25, 2019
At the second Aspen Forum on Children and Families last month we brought together national leaders – policymakers, practitioners, researchers, philanthropists and parents – to surface big ideas for investing in the full potential of children and families, two generations at a time. Centering parents’ and caregivers’ perspectives is vital to Ascend and our work with …

Meeting Parents Where They Dream: Critical Voices and Lived Experiences Read More »

BlogMarch 21, 2019
As state and federal lawmakers prepare for the year ahead, more than 350 practice and community leaders, policymakers, researchers, and philanthropists - including Ascend Fellows, Family Prosperity Innovators, and Ascend Network Partners - joined us at the 2019 Aspen Forum on Children and Families to harness this momentum for investing in the full potential of children and families, two generations at a time.
BlogMarch 13, 2019