Family Prosperity Partners: Second Phase


Ascend is proud to share descriptions of the 20 new partners joining the Aspen Family Prosperity Innovation Community. Ascend and Family Prosperity are looking forward to both exploring and putting to work fresh thinking to accelerate prosperity for families across the nation. We can’t wait to see – and share – what’s next.

Agape Child and Family Services (Agape) As one of the largest two-generation (2-Gen), place-based models in the nation, Agape will work toward refining its 2Gen paradigm to expand its economic mobility and social capital work and deepening its partnership with families through advocacy efforts, addressing significant equitable, structural, institutional matters of poverty in relation to career/workforce development. Agape will first engage the voices of families and communities via meetings specifically addressing workforce matters. Agape will then engage 2 ambassadors to attend meetings with the Greater Memphis Chamber of Commerce, local and possibly state workforce boards, and the Aspen Institute Convenings. Based on feedback from families, Agape will leverage its TeamWorks program to test the provision of barrier-busting small grants to families that have committed to a career pathway to see if eliminating barriers to employment (e.g. car repairs, childcare, etc.). Memphis, Tennessee.

All Our Kin – Children’s early years lay the foundation for future learning, behavior and health and have a huge impact on brain development into adulthood. Unfortunately, there is an acute lack of high-quality, affordable child care, especially for infants and toddlers. All Our Kin works to increase the supply, quality, and sustainability of home-based family child care programs, which often serve the children and families facing the greatest barriers to accessing care. With the support of Family Prosperity, All Our Kin created recommendations for state and local leaders about how to build thriving family child care systems that meet the diverse needs of all families. Now, through our inaugural Family Child Care Policy Cohort, we are working with 10 teams of state and local leaders across the country to implement those recommendations. By leveraging the data, stories, and lessons learned through our direct service work to influence policy, All Our Kin is well positioned to transform opportunities for thousands of young children, their families, and their child care providers. New Haven, Connecticut.

American Enterprise Institute (AEI) – AEI scholars will engage in a body of work focused on the experiences of low-income individuals and families, including the economic consequences of COVID-19. A grant from Ascend supports research on the following issues: unemployment benefit policies and reforms enacted in response to the pandemic and their effects on income, employment, and job creation; the relationship between paid leave, childcare, and safety net policies on the economic stability of low-income families and children; and the implications of parental employment and government benefit use on the long-term trajectory of poor children from single-mother families. These findings will be disseminated to policymakers, other researchers, and the general public. In the wake of our nation’s current public health and economic crisis stemming from the pandemic, this proposed work seeks to promote policies that better prepare families for economic shocks, encourage work and promote future job creation, and remove barriers by providing opportunities for lower-income Americans to flourish. 

Baystate Medical Center (BMC) – BMC and project partner, the Economic Development Council of Western Mass (EDC), are launching an Anchor Institution Collaborative (AIC) whose mission is to ensure that Springfield’s economy creates greater opportunity for low-income communities through deliberate action and meaningful collaboration among the private, public and nonprofit sectors. As an anchor, BMC leverages its economic output through three pillars: local hiring, local sourcing and place-based investing. Through a shared agenda, common goals, community action, and shared measures of success, the AIC is working to advance health and well-being in Springfield by committing to train, hire and invest in people from targeted neighborhoods (“Outside-in”), improve retention, and create career pathways to living wage jobs (“Inside-up”) by collaborating with other anchors and community based organizations to address racial and gender bias, education, skills, transportation, childcare, and other career advancement challenges of low-income working families. Springfield, Massachusetts.

Center for Public Justice (CPJ)For many low-income working families, a gap exists between their pay, work-related benefits and support and what they need to achieve family well-being and economic stability. The COVID-19 pandemic has deepened economic challenges and risks for families. The Center for Public Justice, a national Christian policy and civic engagement organization, proposes to develop and test a research model and media strategies that engage people of faith, including low-income families and faith-shaped employers, in informing and advancing work-family supports. Partnering with the Calvin University Center for Social Research (CSR), CPJ will generate research and policy briefs documenting employer and family experiences and attitudes about several family-supportive policies. This locally grounded research will assess and help build support for family-supportive policies among faith-shaped employers and community leaders in West Michigan and nationally. Washington, D.C.

Cook Inlet Tribal Council, Inc. (CITC) – Cook Inlet Tribal Council, Inc. is a tribal 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that seeks to share its experience developing the Five Factors (FF) project, a participant self-assessment of indicators of family health and wellbeing from a tribal perspective. Five Factors defines, tracks and measures participants’ movement toward their own definition of success and helps CITC determine the most effective way to unite the efforts of its service departments to meet the needs of our participants’ families. The eponymous five factors that are used in the Five Factors self-assessment tool are: (1) financial stability, (2) education and training, (3) cultural and spiritual wellness, (4) healthy lifestyles, and (5) relationships that lead to families’ success. CITC is a strong advocate for low-income families, minorities, and women. CITC’s work is designed to benefit people in Alaska’s Cook Inlet region, specifically, parents and children who are Alaska Native or American Indian (AN/AI) and who suffer from the adverse effects of poverty, addictions, and lack of opportunity. Innovation exchange, as a partner of the Aspen Network’s Family Prosperity cohort, will improve CITC’s ability to provide the highest quality of essential services in the community that impact health and well-being.  Anchorage, Alaska.

CrossPurpose – CrossPurpose is a non-profit organization abolishing relational, economic, and spiritual poverty through career and community development. CrossPurpose furthers Colorado’s work across systems and sectors to serve families with effective solutions to gain a living-wage job. We work to improve the services Colorado provides to families  through enhanced employment services for low-income families and an employer engagement strategy. CrossPurpose and its partners Activate Workforce Solutions (AWS), The Bridge Network (TBN) and the Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) are working to address the “benefits cliff effect” for many families by using innovative partnerships to achieve breakthrough results. The Colorado partnership would like to enhance and scale tools already in use to help employers understand the resources available to families, how salaries and benefits interact with those resources, and the creation of a plan for the loss of those benefits as families strive to become more self-sufficient. Colorado plans for these tools to be used nationwide, relying on the expertise of families and employers. Denver, Colorado.

Family and Workforce Centers of America (FWCA) FWCA is a non-profit workforce development agency that has multiservice resources to leverage and assist customers on the pathway to self-sustainability. FWCA’s primary mission is to implement programs that set youth, adults and families on a pathway to sustainable careers, secondary education, or training by emphasizing preemployment skills and reality-based learning. An organizing principle of FWCA is to deliver integrated services that lead to family economic stability over the long term for customers irrespective of race, creed or color in the St. Louis region. FWCA utilizes an integrated service delivery (ISD) approach with workforce development services as its core strategy, while integrating financial, mental health and wellness, entrepreneurship, transportation, childcare, and legal services as a means of removing barriers to employment, education, and skills upgrade. FWCA has implemented the ISD approach for innovative workforce solutions and is nationally recognized as a premier workforce center in the nation. Saint Louis, Missouri.

Family Values @ Work (FV@W) – FV@W’s 27 state coalitions have helped win paid family and medical leave (PFML) and earned sick and safe days (ESSD) policies benefiting 50 million workers. But these wins for working families depend on the people who most need paid time knowing about and being able to access their rights. Research has shown that many workers remain unaware of the laws or how to access the time. They may also fear retaliation for taking leave or be unclear on how to apply or seek enforcement. FV@W, with assistance from CLASP, will produce a blueprint that, through text and illustrations, provides a clear pathway for implementing agencies to engage communities in improving paid leave policy design, implementation, and enforcement, while increasing paid leave take-up rates among the most vulnerable workers. Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Jobs With Justice (JWJ) For 32 years, JWJ has focused on organizing people and money in order to build power and economic security for workers, their families and communities. For the last several years, JWJ has been advocating for policies that help women and people of color gain access to high-quality construction careers (paying, on average, $26 an hour) from which they have historically been excluded. In the process, women and people of color gain skills to use their voices to build power and increase the economic security of themselves, their children and their communities. We have done so by leveraging our broad relationships and bringing together partners who are often siloed from one another. We are using the voices and stories of women and people of color who have already benefited from high-paying construction jobs to challenge partners from across the community development value chain who don’t often work together – national foundations, local foundations, labor unions and local community organizing groups – new constellations of actors who could advance community economic development in a new way. Washington, D.C.

Legal Aid at Work (LAAW) – California has been a leader when it comes to innovative family supportive workplace policies. Yet, there is no comprehensive approach to ensuring low-income pregnant individuals, new parents, and family caregivers receive information about – and assistance in accessing – critical workplace rights that promote their health, well-being, and economic security. Rather, like in so many other states, enforcement and administration of these protections are spread throughout various government agencies that are often disconnected, creating unnecessary and often insurmountable obstacles for families. LAAW has a history of working closely with government agencies to ensure the effective and equitable implementation of paid family leave and accompanying job protections. We seek to leverage the current political climate in California and amplify workers’ and small employers’ lived experiences to deepen agency engagement and cross-agency collaboration, thereby increasing policies that build family well-being. San Francisco, California.

National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) Affordable, accessible, high-quality childcare is an essential component of any effort to transform the lives of working families—a reality the pandemic has only elevated and clarified. Yet the financing of the childcare system is deeply troubled, and our nation requires a significant shift in the behaviors and mindsets of employers and policymakers to advance a comprehensive solution to the expanding crisis in childcare. Alongside efforts focused on growing federal and state investments in childcare, NAEYC is looking to bring together employers and working families with low-incomes, including early childhood educators themselves, to explore viable policy, financing and tax strategies, as well as communications and messaging strategies, to support changing priorities of employers around child care, and the expansion of employer-supported child care as part of a solution to a complex challenge. Washington, D.C.

National Partnership for Women & Families – The National Partnership for Women & Families is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to improving the lives of women and families by achieving equality for all women. Our programmatic work promotes fairness in the workplace, access to quality, affordable health care, reproductive health and rights, and policies that help people meet the dual demands of their jobs and families. We have identified employers as essential stakeholders to advance our issue priorities. Employers largely determine the culture of the workplace and the conditions of employment and have outsized influenced on lawmakers in the development and implementation of public policy. As the nation faces an unprecedented public health crisis, employer engagement is critical. We must push employers to respond with improved policies and practices during the pandemic while simultaneously partnering with employers and affected workers and families to build a more inclusive economy beyond the pandemic—where workers and employers can both thrive and benefit from the stability of shared prosperity. Washington, D.C.

Nationwide Children’s Hospital (NCH) – Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s (NCH) Healthy Neighborhoods Healthy Families (HNHF) strives to expand NCH’s commitment to the health and well-being of all children and families. HNHF is a housing first, holistic, place-based initiative in urban Columbus, Ohio. While locally focused, it is nationally renowned as an anchor institution with experience partnering with a local community development corporation on affordable housing. HNHF has leveraged extensive community engagement and public-private investment to lift up the historically divested population it serves. Now, we are expanding our sphere of influence to include additional neighborhoods. The well-being of children in neighborhoods like Linden has not improved because child health is largely determined by geography and concentrated poverty where children are born and raised. By taking the lessons we’ve learned from our work on Columbus’ South Side, including the use of the My Bridge To Success program, and adapting to input from Linden residents, our plan aims to lift up the neighborhood, specifically in terms of household prosperity and the social determinants of health. Columbus, Ohio.

Partner4Work (P4W) – P4W is the workforce development board that connects funding, expertise, and opportunities to develop a thriving workforce in the Pittsburgh region. Families with low incomes continue to be disproportionately impacted by the effects of COVID 19, and are working to ensure that as we help rebuild the economy, we do so equitably. This must include helping to change employer policies and practices to create sustainable paths to economic stability for working families with low incomes. P4W and our key implementation partner, Allegheny County Department of Human Services, are committed to investing in innovation and creating cross-sector solutions to deliver a world-class workforce development system in the Pittsburgh region that functions for everyone. Working with over 60 local employers across 8 industries at our regularly convened Industry Council Meetings, we aim to not only educate employers on the perspectives and unique challenges of working parents with low incomes, but also help shift hiring, onboarding and mentoring practices to ensure these families have the social supports they need to be successful. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Partnership for Community Action (PCA) – PCA believes we must address the wealth gap experienced by those most disadvantaged in our country. Access to capital is limited for immigrant communities because credit worthiness is exclusive to US lending institutions. PCA has partnered with local credit union, Nusenda, on a micro lending program focused on shifting the lending landscape. Loans through this Program create immediate access to capital for immigrant families, and credit worthiness is dependent solely on the borrower’s social capital. Since 2015, PCA has developed a network of over 50, home-based childcare providers, an often overlooked and under supported essential sector. Now, PCA seeks to amplify the impact of the Loan Program with home-based childcare business owners, sharing the impact of a child care provider’s economic insecurity on the children for whom they care. PCA will also continue to build a movement through power analysis and policy change, led by parents and families,  to impact economic and educational systems proven inequitable. Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Springboard to Opportunities (Springboard) – Springboard seeks to not only support families during difficult times but also help inform policies and create new models of support. While there have been many articles, toolkits, and think pieces on social distancing and how to take care of oneself during the pandemic, almost all of these rely on middle-class frameworks that assume readers have space in their homes to spread out, access to technology, and a supportive social network to connect with. Many of these strategies rely on disposable incomes and disposable time, which are luxuries that those potentially working multiple “essential” jobs are unable to afford. Furthermore, they almost never address the important fact that the trauma most low-income families are facing during this pandemic is just one piece of a long line of traumas they have experienced due to racist, classist, and sexist systems in our country. As the organization attempts to operationalize family prosperity within the current reality of COVID-19, we want to ensure that trauma-informed, mental health support is an essential part of the conversation. Jackson, Mississippi.

StreetCred at Boston Medical Center (StreetCred) – Financial strain, debt, and poor credit is often associated with poorer health outcomes. As the United States is now in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, unemployment rates have skyrocketed, pushing many families into poverty and increasing overall financial stress. Poverty has been linked to sub-optimal maternal and child health outcomes. Boston Medical Center (BMC) provides the full continuum of care to Boston’s low-income and minority populations. The StreetCred program, embedded within the BMC Department of Pediatrics, provides clinic-based tax preparation, enrollment in college savings accounts, and employment opportunity services for families of our pediatric patients. StreetCred focuses on increasing access to policies like tax credits as a way to advance racial economic equity and mitigate the current effects of financial instability on families’ and children’s well-being. Boston, Massachusetts.

United Neighborhood Houses of New York (UNH) – UNH seeks to identify and advocate for policies, funding, and organizational best practices that directly support the human services nonprofit workforce and increase the economic security of their families. Human services employees are on the frontlines of promoting family prosperity in their communities. During the COVID-19 crisis, they are working in jobs that put their health at risk, and that involve considerable emotional strain. They support individuals who have experienced poverty, abuse and trauma, homelessness, economic and food insecurity, sickness, and death. But even though these are essential workers, they represent low-income families, and approaches to improving labor laws that promote family prosperity have for the most part left out the human services workforce. UNH will advocate for increased compensation and sufficient and flexible government funding so that nonprofits can implement paid time off and other policies without negative impacts to their services. New York, New York.

UTEC – The mission of UTEC is to ignite and nurture the ambition of our most disconnected young people to trade violence and poverty for social and economic success. UTEC works alongside families in the Merrimack Valley (Lowell, Lawrence, and Haverhill) as they break cycles of poverty and violence. The organization supports youth-led policy initiatives based on its two-generational (2Gen) programming for young parents in the community who have had negative contact with the criminal justice system. At the heart of this project lies a focus on preparing young fathers, specifically those who have been most impacted by the justice system, to lead and implement such policy and systems changes. UTEC’s policy focus will be on incubating innovative Whole Family Approaches to Ending Poverty at the local and state levels, then sharing and spotlighting these innovations nationally. They will spotlight best practices and advance policy by empowering experts in the community, especially young fathers. Lowell, Massachusetts