Helping Funders Build Evidence for Two-Generation Approaches

Posted October 23, 2017, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

Blog helpingfundersbuildevidence 2017

A new report from the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion aims to help fun­ders strength­en the evi­dence for two-gen­er­a­tion approaches.

Accord­ing to the report, Strength­en­ing the Foun­da­tion, two-gen­er­a­tion pro­grams have evolved into a promis­ing strat­e­gy to inter­rupt inter­gen­er­a­tional pover­ty and improve out­comes for chil­dren and their parents.

But ear­ly approach­es weren’t always perfect.

Short­com­ings of two-gen­er­a­tion efforts in the 1980s and ear­ly 1990s ranged from poor qual­i­ty edu­ca­tion pro­grams for chil­dren and lim­it­ed career-build­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties for par­ents to dis­joint­ed ser­vices for both generations.

Mod­ern-day pro­grams are more inten­tion­al and seam­less in sup­port­ing both par­ents and chil­dren, yet the core ele­ments and end goals of these inter­ven­tions can still vary wide­ly. Con­se­quent­ly, eval­u­at­ing today’s two-gen­er­a­tion approach­es isn’t a cook­ie-cut­ter task.

Devel­op­ing eval­u­a­tion strate­gies that account for the nec­es­sary com­plex­i­ty of two-gen­er­a­tion pro­gram designs, as well as the diver­si­ty of dif­fi­cul­ties fam­i­lies face, is a major chal­lenge,” the report notes.

The good news is that pub­lic and pri­vate fun­ders can tar­get their eval­u­a­tion and fund­ing strate­gies to build evi­dence for two-gen­er­a­tion com­po­nents and strate­gies. Key ways to strength­en this evi­dence base — as out­lined in the report — include:

  • build­ing pro­grams to ensure a suf­fi­cient sam­ple size and enough vari­a­tion to test;
  • assess­ing a program’s readi­ness for eval­u­a­tion (ask­ing, for exam­ple, if the pro­gram has a well-devel­oped the­o­ry of change and appro­pri­ate data sys­tem in place); 
  • invest­ing in research designs that include imple­men­ta­tion stud­ies, lon­gi­tu­di­nal data and eval­u­a­tion across mul­ti­ple sites; and
  • com­mu­ni­cat­ing find­ings and insights in an acces­si­ble way for pro­gram lead­ers and policymakers.

The report also advo­cates for fund­ing research on sys­temic bar­ri­ers, such as insti­tu­tion­al racism, that impede the effec­tive­ness of two-gen­er­a­tion strate­gies and per­pet­u­ate inter­gen­er­a­tional poverty.

To pro­mote promis­ing two-gen­er­a­tion strate­gies on a large scale, we must sup­port research that can inform changes in poli­cies, pro­grams and prac­tices to reduce racial and eth­nic inequities and improve the lives of fam­i­lies tran­si­tion­ing out of pover­ty,” says T’Pring West­brook, a senior asso­ciate at the Foundation.

Read the report

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