The Secret Sauce: Strategies to Include Social Capital in Human Services

Sarah Haight | November 10, 2020 | Ascend Network

Social capital is the “secret sauce” of the two-generation (2Gen) approach. It manifests itself as increased peer support and a sense of community; connections to family, friends, and neighbors; participation in community and faith-based organizations; school and workplace outreach; leadership and professional development programs; engagement with case managers or career coaches; and other social networks such as cohort models and learning communities. It produces information, emotional or financial support, and/or other resources.

On September 28, 2020, Ascend hosted a webinar in partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) to discuss social capital and how to include this important core component of the 2Gen approach in human services.

Research shows that individuals with higher levels of social capital are happier and healthier, find better jobs, and live longer. Communities with higher levels of social capital have higher educational achievement, faster economic growth, and less crime. Many human services strategies may leverage social capital, but there is little research on how those programs can more intentionally understand, track, and use social capital to support families as they build their well-being. We sought to explore existing research around this topic while surfacing emerging practices and policy solutions to integrate social capital building in programs and initiatives.

During this webinar, we heard from Marjorie Sims, Managing Director at Ascend about why social capital is so important for the success of the 2Gen approach. She was followed by Charles Keckler, Senior Advisor at the Immediate Office of the Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) who explained why social capital became an important area of research for HHS, and Sofi Martinez, Social Science Analyst at ASPE who introduced The Value of Relationships: Improving Human Services Participant Outcomes Through Social Capital, a handbook on social capital for humans services. Janae Bradford, Assistant Director for Family Advancement and Diana Campos, Parent Ambassador at CAP Tulsa rounded out the presentations to showcase emerging practices for how practitioners using a 2Gen approach can help participants build and leverage their relationships to reach their goals.

Please find the webinar presentation here. Additionally, presenters shared several resources with attendees, which we included below.

Resources from ASPE:

Resources from Ascend:

Additional Resources Cited:

Please reach out to Eddy Encinales at or Sofi Martinez at for more information on the resources provided.

Related Posts

Ascend at the Aspen Institute released the landmark Building Evidence Together For A Better Tomorrow report today as researchers, state and local admi...
Press ReleasesMay 29, 2024
Ascend at the Aspen Institute today launched a report, A 2Gen Approach in Wisconsin: A State Case Study for Systems Leaders & Policymakers, which deta...
Press ReleasesMay 16, 2024
Photo of New Mexico Asian Family Center staff retreat and bonding activity.
Trauma-informed care refers to the assessment, recognition, and response to the effects of traumatic stress on children, caregivers, and providers. Th...
Ascend NetworkMarch 19, 2024
Here are a few key insights of our team’s place-based efforts in New Mexico and Los Angeles County that harness the power of the 2Gen field. 
Ascend NetworkJanuary 17, 2024
Ascend at the Aspen Institute today launched a report, A 2Gen Approach in Minnesota: A State Case Study for Systems Leaders & Policymakers, which deta...
Press ReleasesJanuary 9, 2024
In an Portland Press Herald op-ed, Nicole Witherbee of the John T. Gorman Foundation and Marjorie Sims share themes from a statewide convening and ide...
Media MentionsJanuary 8, 2024
The 2Gen Accelerator Community is a new effort bringing together 15 local and national organizations with best practices for two-generation (2Gen) or ...
Press ReleasesDecember 6, 2023
The Twomey family from the Crann Centre
Three Ascend Network Partners offer proven, practical examples of how to use a 2Gen approach when working together with families with disabilities.
Ascend NetworkNovember 8, 2023
Pictured are Bobbi Acoff and her two adorable children, Damauree and Darnasia. Credit: Brighton Center
The Next Steps for Rigorous Research on Two-Generation Approaches project is one of the largest federal research investments in the two-generation (2G...
Ascend NetworkOctober 2, 2023
This Campaign for Grade-Level Reading Week session discussed two-generation (2Gen) strategies to achieving improved outcomes for families.
Ascend NetworkJuly 19, 2023
A photo of students and their children at Santa Fe Community College
On May 9, members of the Ascend team had the opportunity to visit Santa Fe Community College in New Mexico. Here are three takeaways from our site vis...
Ascend NetworkJune 14, 2023
Ascend at the Aspen Institute builds intergenerational family prosperity and well-being for children and the adults in their lives through a two-gener...
Ascend NetworkApril 27, 2023
We are delighted to share a new research report in partnership with Child Trends: Data on Families with Low Incomes Across America Can Inform Two-Gene...
PublicationMarch 1, 2023
Magazine cover reading Kansas Child
In a recent article for Kansas Child Magazine, Ascend executive director and founder Anne Mosle discusses the how 2Gen approaches can build on family ...
Media MentionsOctober 19, 2022
Mental illness affects 1 in every 5 Americans, however, inefficiencies, siloes, and disparities among systems make it challenging for famili...
Ascend NetworkOctober 11, 2022