Report Offers Advice to Funders on Supporting Two-Generation Work

Posted May 24, 2018
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Two children run on a playground

A new report, Invest­ing in Inno­va­tion, reflects on the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s expe­ri­ence with a two-gen­er­a­tion ini­tia­tive aimed at break­ing the cycle of pover­ty — and shares valu­able advice for fun­ders who may be inter­est­ed in sup­port­ing this work.

The Fam­i­ly Eco­nom­ic Suc­cess — Ear­ly Child­hood Edu­ca­tion (FES-ECE) ini­tia­tive, which Casey launched in 2013, was shaped by a sim­ple premise: Fam­i­lies do bet­ter when ser­vices are inte­grat­ed to sup­port chil­dren and their par­ents at the same time. In prac­tice, this work involved con­nect­ing chil­dren to high-qual­i­ty ear­ly learn­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties while also help­ing par­ents increase earn­ings, man­age finances and reduce stress.

Four sites with dif­fer­ing two-gen­er­a­tion approach­es par­tic­i­pat­ed in FES-ECE. These pilot efforts involved:

Over the life of FES-ECE, the Foun­da­tion pro­vid­ed $5 mil­lion in sup­port to help sites advance their work in areas such as peer learn­ing, data capac­i­ty and infra­struc­ture. In addi­tion, Casey com­mis­sioned an eval­u­a­tion to review the progress that three sites had made. The fourth site — Tul­sa — par­tic­i­pat­ed in a sep­a­rate evaluation.

The ini­tia­tive, which last­ed three years, pro­duced some use­ful insights for fun­ders, accord­ing to par­tic­i­pat­ing Foun­da­tion staff and con­sul­tants. This advice, which is out­lined in the report, includes:

  • Ensur­ing that indi­ca­tors and per­for­mance mea­sures are clear. FES-ECE need­ed a more devel­oped the­o­ry of change to effec­tive­ly mea­sure and achieve improved child out­comes over the course of its life.
  • Invest­ing in longer time­lines. FES-ECE involved sig­nif­i­cant changes in the ways orga­ni­za­tions oper­at­ed, worked with part­ners and mea­sured suc­cess. Six to eight years would have been a more appro­pri­ate length of investment.
  • Lis­ten­ing to fam­i­lies. Par­tic­i­pat­ing fam­i­lies should have a chance to describe their needs, strengths and ser­vice bar­ri­ers. In addi­tion to inform­ing a program’s design and eval­u­a­tion, this infor­ma­tion can help fun­ders gain a clear­er sense of the resources and invest­ment length need­ed to achieve results.
  • Build­ing a site’s capac­i­ty to col­lect and use inte­grat­ed fam­i­ly data. Pro­gram improve­ment requires good, user-friend­ly data sys­tems, and front­line staff mem­bers need infor­ma­tion on chil­dren and par­ents when work­ing with families.
  • Adopt­ing a for­mal team-based peer-learn­ing approach. The Action Learn­ing Net­work method­ol­o­gy, devel­oped by the Aspen Insti­tute Com­mu­ni­ty Strate­gies Group, helped orga­ni­za­tions par­tic­i­pat­ing in FES-ECE accel­er­ate and strength­en local changes in process, struc­ture and culture.

While the initiative’s ear­ly results are promis­ing — and build­ing knowl­edge on two-gen­er­a­tion strate­gies is impor­tant — FES-ECE did not clear­ly demon­strate that child out­comes improved across the three sites eval­u­at­ed. This is chal­leng­ing work,” says Senior Asso­ciate Rosa Maria Cas­tañe­da, who leads invest­ments in two-gen­er­a­tion approach­es for the Casey Foun­da­tion. It’s also worth­while work, accord­ing to CCas­tañe­da. We con­tin­ue to see great poten­tial in inte­grat­ed approach­es that simul­ta­ne­ous­ly address the needs of par­ents and chil­dren in low-income fam­i­lies,” she says.

Read or down­load Invest­ing in Innovation

Read more about advanc­ing two-gen­er­a­tion approaches:

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