Energetic conversations filled the room Friday, May 24th, as The Literacy Cooperative hosted the 2nd Annual 2Gen Summit to support whole family literacy.

The 2Gen approach to literacy aligns and coordinates services for children, parents, and caregivers because research continually shows that a parent’s education level dramatically affects the educational success of their children. This method considers the lives of the adult and the child together to focus on the family as a unit as opposed to viewing the family as numerous individual service units.

Two-generation approaches focus on creating opportunities for and addressing needs of both children and the adults in their lives together. The approach recognizes that families come in all different shapes and sizes and that families define themselves.

The Aspen Institute

The Aspen Institute writes: “Two-generation approaches focus on creating opportunities for and addressing needs of both children and the adults in their lives together. The approach recognizes that families come in all different shapes and sizes and that families define themselves.”

Attendees networked with one another as Bob Paponetti, President and CEO of The Literacy Cooperative took the stage to introduce the 2Gen Community Call to Action to Address Our Economic and Social Gaps.

The Summit is part of a long-term Community Action Plan to involve organizations to commit to improving the landscape of economic and social inequalities through four steps: involving parents and family members to be a part of the planning process, expanding inter-agency knowledge among service providers, implementing formal referral strategies and shared databases among organizations and incubating a 2Gen programming pilot and tracking results, scalability and sustainability.

Robbie Lynn Lawrence-Willis, Director of Little Achiever’s Learning Center, Beatrice Patterson, CDA parent, student, and PRN staff at Catholic Charities, Linda Schettler, Director of the Early Learning Program for Catholic Charities, Qianna Tidmore, Manager of Universal Pre-Kindergarten for Cuyahoga County’s Invest in Children, and Alyssa Swiatek, Family Engagement Manager for Cuyahoga County’s Invest in Children, began the event with a poignant discussion of how providers can be 2Gen even when focusing mostly on early or adult literacy.

Swiatek is tasked with implementing 2Gen approach in Cuyahoga County, using the Aspen Institute’s model. More information can be found here.

Kenneth Hale, Director of Access and Community Engagement for Tri-C spoke with consumer educator Michael Lisman of Lisman Capitol LLC about Tri-C’s Saturday Family Academy. This is a “free, non-credit course designed to promote education, empowerment and success to the entire family.” Here, diverse families can participate in age-specific programming before gathering together at the end to discuss what they have learned.

The course is six weeks long, and the next semester begins this fall.

Towards Employment’s Senior Project Manager Grace Heffernan and Senior Manager of Advancement Staci Wampler spotlighted their partnership in the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s MOVE UP program. With the foundation’s help, TE trains and places economically disadvantaged workers into Cleveland’s three biggest health systems. These workers make an average of $2 more than Ohio’s minimum wage ($8.55 per hour), and nearly a third of the class of 2017 has already advanced in their careers.

“It’s creating opportunities where they [clients] already are,” said Wampler.

When a caregiver has a stable income and lifestyle, not only will he or she directly benefit – but so will his or her children. 30% of students at community colleges are parents or caregivers who must balance work and childcare demands with school. Millions of children in childcare centers are there because caregivers or parents are working hard to improve their family’s economic security. But, children who have money saved in a college account are more likely to enroll in and graduate from college – even if the account has under $500 in it.

Goals and outcomes should be focused on both the child and the caregiver and must be embedded in policy to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty.

Christie Manning, Senior Program Officer for St. Luke’s Foundation, Adrienne Mundorf, Senior Program Director for the Sisters of Charity Foundation, Courtney Robinson, Manager of Education and Workforce Readiness for United Way of Greater Cleveland, and Emily Thome, Vice President of Third Federal Foundation closed out the event with a discussion from a foundation’s view. Funders look for organizations with sustainable business models, deliverable impact and a clear mission.

NEO funders are very supportive of 2Gen strategies and continue to advance the concept through their work.  The panelists agreed about the need for collaboration and encouraged attendees to try to work together to grow their voice(s).  Funders also emphasized the importance of community voice and they will be looking for authentic community engagement as they continue to fund whole family, 2Gen work. TLC’s leadership is needed to ensure the 2Gen work happening in our different neighborhoods is connected to the 2Gen efforts in the entire county and linked to the community’s call to action.

“The Second Annual 2Gen Summit revealed a strong appetite for establishing the 2Gen approach inter-agency collaboration,” said The Literacy Cooperative CEO Bob Paponetti.

“There’s a hunger there, but collaboration takes time. People need action, and that is why we want to bring this diverse group together,” he said. “Success comes from being comfortable and trusting one another. We need to understand when one of our partners succeeds, we all succeed.”

The next 2Gen Summit is planned for the summer of 2020, but Paponetti said The Literacy Cooperative will provide ongoing working meetings and collaborative efforts until then. “You can’t meet too much,” he said. “The amount of engagement and participation in the room today proved that. People want to be here, and not just those in senior-level positions. Everyone wants to be involved and we want to help facilitate that.”

You can read our 2 Gen Community Call to Action plan here.

Special thanks to our 2Gen Planning Committee for continuing to support this great event.