By Sandy Wiegand, Copyeditor and Writer at Joining Vision and Action
Since starting at JVA in the fall, I’ve been fortunate enough to attend several events where I’ve met and learned from leaders of some of the great changemaking organizations, institutions and agencies supporting Coloradans. One such event was the Colorado Statewide 2Gen Conference.
“2Gen” refers to a multigenerational approach to tackling poverty that intentionally serves parents and their children in tandem. The 2Gen conference brought together about 200 people—from local and state government, businesses, philanthropies, nonprofits and other backgrounds—for a day and a half of presentations, panel-driven discussions and workshops. You can learn more about 2Gen approaches, and read JVA’s full report on the conference, at the Two-Generation Approach page on the governor’s website.
Leaders from four Colorado organizations, institutions and agencies spoke at the conference dinner. Each described ways they have tailored their work to meet the needs of their specific populations. I found the approaches fascinating, and I want to share the highlights.
Bringing Immigrants out of Isolation
Valley Settlement Project (VSP) is a nonprofit that provides multifaceted, multigenerational support to isolated immigrant families in the Roaring Fork Valley of Colorado. It has supported school readiness, elementary school achievement, economic stability, community engagement and other positive outcomes for hundreds of families since 2012.
Speaker: Jon Fox-Rubin, executive director
- Every program has a home visit.
- Clients are asked: Why are you here? What are your hopes and dreams? What are you willing to do to achieve them?
- Multiple programs serve each family.
- VSP meets clients where they are, literally and figuratively. Mobile preschools are an example of the “literal” approach.
- Most staff members are (female, immigrant) program alumni.
- VSP partners with government, community colleges and others.
- VSP staffers spend Mondays in the office and the rest of the week in the field.
WorkLife Partnership is a Colorado nonprofit that collaborates with employers to provide support to help low-income workers retain their jobs. A navigator in the workplace helps employees solve problems related to childcare, housing, transportation, mental health and other issues. Started in 2009, its model is now expanding nationally.
Speaker: Liddy Romero, founder and executive director
- The navigators are in the workplace.
- Employers pay 70 percent of the cost of the program.
- An Upskill program teaches skills (both soft and hard) to help employees advance from low-wage jobs.
- The program offers small amounts of one-on-one coaching. Ten hours of coaching per person has led to about 25 percent of people getting raises in the course of nine months.
- Leadership recognizes that a quality job has not just good pay but benefits and a consistent schedule.
Integrating Education, Employment with Home Visits
In 2016, Colorado won a $950,000 Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) innovation grant to create Working Together, a 2Gen approach to integrating education and employment into home visiting in the San Luis Valley. The program is housed in the Colorado Department of Human Services (DHS). Services include GED training and testing, short-term college certificate programs, workforce services, financial literacy, high-quality early learning, transportation and connections to community partners who provide food and emergency services.
Speaker: Mary Anne Snyder, director, Office of Early Childhood, Colorado DHS
- The program has added modules to existing high-quality childcare sites. That was the simplest, quickest way to address extreme shortages in childcare.
- It seeks to build clients’ social capital through career coaching, home visits, college experience and cohort support.
- Navigators help people overcome the fear of failure that can accompany returning to school.
- The program provides health screenings. Mental health and maternal depression screening, and screening of children’s hearing and eyesight are particularly important.
- It connects agencies and organizations that previously didn’t know what each other did.
- Partnering with a local college, the program studies what jobs have high placement rates in the area.
Wraparound Support for Students with Children
The School of Professional Studies and Sciences at the Community College of Aurora received a $4 million Department of Labor Strengthening Working Families Initiative grant to provide training in information technology, advanced manufacturing or healthcare along with wraparound services to students age 17 and over who have a child.
Speaker: Victor Vialpando, dean, School of Professional Studies and Sciences, Community College of Aurora
Innovative Program Elements
- The program has a career coach, an achievement coach and a childcare coach.
- Partnerships with the Community College of Denver, Anschutz Medical Campus, WorkLife Partnership and others have been key.
- The program is undergoing a random control trial evaluation to see if wraparound services have an impact on student completion rates. The aim is to create a tool and a model to replicate.
Could any of these innovative approaches–or something like them–apply to the work you do? Check out the full report, 2Gen Statewide Conference: A Call to Action, for more insights, new ideas and next steps for implementing 2Gen strategies.