Five Ideas from Colorado’s 2Gen Statewide Conference


Golden, Colorado is a quintessential main street community with boutiques that encourage browsing, yummy wood-fired pizza, and the stunning backdrop of the Rockies. It’s probably not the first place you’d think of for a high-powered gathering of the state’s top policy players. Yet, here they were for a packed 36 hours focused on what it would take to help all Colorado families reach their full potential.

As parent Aaron Roybal said in the opening panel, “It was time to put ‘human’ back in ‘human development’.” Here are five ideas that emerged from the 200 local, county, and state leaders who participated in Colorado’s first 2Gen Statewide Conference.

“It’s about mission, not organization.” If we truly want to make a difference in families’ lives, we need to work together to align services and resources for families instead of competing, duplicating efforts, or leaving gaps. The camaraderie and laughter with which the heads of Colorado’s state agencies took the stage were a clear indication of their trust and collaboration in service of a shared mission for families. (Quote: Sue Birch, Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing)

“2Gen should not be a new thing. This should be a framework by which we do our work.” A two-generation approach is not a project to add to already heavy workloads. It is a mindset focused on how to serve families holistically, starting with the tools we have at hand. (Quote: Reggie Bicha, Colorado Department of Human Services)

Family experience must inform our programs and policies. “I’m here to give you the voice of that person living on the cliff who is invisible to the systems.” Good policy should be informed by families’ strengths and expertise, data and research, and best practice. Family voices contribute to much of Colorado’s work, from Member Experience Advisory Councils and the Valley Settlement Project, to the JeffCo Prosperity Project and the Arapahoe GOALS project. (Quote: Lisa Kordisch, Jefferson County Human Services and parent)

“Innovation for and with families happens in the counties.” In Colorado, which is a local control state, counties have added opportunities to think creatively about how they use their resources to serve children and families. Archuleta, Arapahoe, Jefferson, Mesa, and Prowers are among the many Colorado counties to watch. (Quote: Marjorie Sims, Ascend at the Aspen Institute)

Partnerships matter. “We’re looking towards the same North Star.” No single organization or administration can ensure all families reach their full potential. Colorado has a long and productive history of partnerships among leaders from philanthropy, state and county agencies, nonprofits, and the business sector. (Quote: Letty Bass, Chambers Family Fund)

To learn more about the great work happening for families in Colorado, here are a few resources:

Interested in joining the Aspen Institute Ascend Network, the national 2Gen learning and action community? Contact the Ascend team for more information.

Header photo: Parents Aaron Roybal, Lona Juarez, Lisa Kordisch, and Michaela Hartman share their experiences and recommendations with Ascend’s Anne Mosle.