Strengthening Services With Two-Generation Approaches in Memphis

Posted June 22, 2022
An adult woman sits in a kitchen with a young girl who is writing in an open notebook.

The Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion has spon­sored an equi­ty-focused project for quick­ly design­ing and test­ing improve­ments in ini­tia­tives that serve chil­dren and their par­ents togeth­er ― known as a two-gen­er­a­tion approach (2G).

Intro­duc­ing REVISE 2G

COVID-19 has dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly affect­ed com­mu­ni­ties of col­or and shift­ed ser­vice deliv­ery from face-to-face to vir­tu­al venues. This change has mag­ni­fied the need for inno­v­a­tive, high-qual­i­ty fam­i­ly sup­port in areas such as health, edu­ca­tion and employment.

Enter Refin­ing Vir­tu­al Ser­vices to Engage 2G Fam­i­lies — also known as REVISE 2G — a project that launched in Octo­ber 2020 and sought to solve this new challenge.

REVISE 2G looked at two ini­tia­tives offered by Agape Child & Fam­i­ly Ser­vices — a faith-based orga­ni­za­tion in Mem­phis, Ten­nessee — that serve a pre­dom­i­nant­ly (95%) Black pop­u­la­tion. The first is a school-based men­tor­ing pro­gram, called Stars, that aims to improve stu­dent atten­dance and behav­ior. The sec­ond is a coach­ing pro­gram, called Team­Works, that helps to con­nect adults with the right resources so that they can achieve their edu­ca­tion and employ­ment goals.

Agape staff employed a strat­e­gy called rapid-cycle learn­ing, which enables them to test solu­tions to ser­vice chal­lenges at a small scale. As a result, the staff can gain a bet­ter under­stand­ing of what is — and isn’t — work­ing and enact the nec­es­sary adjust­ments before expand­ing their programming.

The frame­work Agape staff employed to dri­ve their rapid-cycle learn­ing spans three phases: 

  1. Learn, which builds an under­stand­ing of the pro­gram envi­ron­ment and a com­mon def­i­n­i­tion of the ser­vice deliv­ery challenge;
  2. Inno­vate, which involves cre­at­ing solu­tions togeth­er that reflect people’s needs and are informed by evi­dence); and
  3. Improve, which requires con­tin­u­ous­ly refin­ing solu­tions to under­stand what works, for whom and under what circumstances.

As the staff advanced this frame­work, known as LI2, they con­nect­ed direct­ly with the kids and par­ents involved. These fam­i­lies, as well par­tic­i­pat­ing school dis­tricts and employ­ers, helped pin­point areas of oppor­tu­ni­ty while staff focused on devel­op­ing, test­ing and refin­ing solutions.

Accord­ing to Math­e­mat­i­ca, which con­tributed their exper­tise on rapid-cycle learn­ing through­out the project, Agape staff believed the strate­gies we co-devel­oped and test­ed with Stars and Team­Works strength­ened fam­i­ly engage­ment, sup­port­ed out­come effec­tive­ness and enhanced goal-set­ting and mon­i­tor­ing processes.”

Lessons and Next Steps

REVISE 2G revealed impor­tant lessons for Agape, its part­ners and any orga­ni­za­tion inter­est­ed in advanc­ing two-gen­er­a­tion solu­tions. These lessons include:

  • Fam­i­lies and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of com­mu­ni­ty orga­ni­za­tions can be vital forces in equi­ty-focused research. These groups con­tributed valu­able insights and played an active role in mak­ing and shap­ing deci­sions through­out the project.
  • The suc­cess of rapid-cycle learn­ing hinges on col­lab­o­ra­tion at all lev­els. Front­line staff can pro­vide insights on ser­vice deliv­ery and fam­i­ly expe­ri­ences while lead­ers can man­age coor­di­na­tion and align ser­vice test­ing with their orga­ni­za­tion­al and strate­gic priorities.

While the pan­dem­ic inspired REVISE 2G, the project also exposed some long­stand­ing orga­ni­za­tion­al chal­lenges. One exam­ple: Front­line staff report­ed hav­ing a hard­er time serv­ing fam­i­lies when the work required them to move beyond their areas of expertise.

Mov­ing for­ward, the three part­ners — Casey, Agape and Math­e­mat­i­ca — plan to con­tin­ue shar­ing lessons about rapid-cycle learning.

Alli­son Holmes, a senior research asso­ciate in Casey’s Research, Eval­u­a­tion, Evi­dence and Data unit, is quick to sing the strategy’s prais­es. She describes the REVISE 2G project as an inclu­sive way to sup­port two-gen­er­a­tion pro­grams” and one that ele­vates mem­bers, com­mu­ni­ty part­ners and the peo­ple served by them to be deci­sion mak­ers and experts.”

Read Math­e­mat­i­ca’s Report on Using Rapid-Cycle Learn­ing to Dri­ve Equi­table Change

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