Every mother has a different story to tell, but all share one thing: a child at home. Yet social services aimed at improving the lives of single mothers rarely come coupled with help tailored for the needs of children. But with a recent TwoGen summit hosted by the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, philanthropic leaders set their sights on changing that. “A system has to lead to family outcomes, or it’s just an abstract conversation,” said Anne Mosle, vice president of the Aspen Institute. “Childhood education and workforce development have to come together.


Mosle, who directs the Aspen Institute’s Ascend initiative, has promoted the TwoGen approach, one that addresses the needs of low-income mothers and children simultaneously, at social institutions around the nation, and she says work being done here stands as some of the leading work in the country. Roxie Jerde, CEO of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, says the approach has already led to success. The foundation in the past 10 years has implemented legacy foundations for two deceased donors, one who tasked the foundation with employing a fund to help single mothers and the other for a fund dedicated to supporting education in Sarasota County, and employed them together to enhance both elementary and workforce education. Jerde noted a successful childhood literacy program at Alta Vista Elementary that over several years has boosted the percent of 3rd graders reading at grade level from 53 percent to 78 percent. Now, the foundation also funds a Parent University that offers job training at the same time as after-school reading courses. In four years, a certified nursing program there has graduated 55 single mothers with nursing certificates, all earned as their children were in the next room taking reading classes. “At the end of the program these women have a job,” Jerde says, “but the great take-away is at home, mom is studying and the child sees their mom opening up a book, and then they prepare for school together.”


Coordinating funds also showcases how a community foundation working with multiple unrelated legacy funds can create special synergy, Jerde notes. But organizations throughout the region will benefit by finding a way to deliver social services with a TwoGen and hundreds of leaders attended the summit in April to learn more about it. Guest speakers brought in by the Aspen Institute from around the nation came together at the Boys and Girls Club of Sarasota County’s Lee Wetherington Club.

Mosle hopes this approach leads to a continued evolution in the constant push for a greater good. Philanthropy today must look beyond Band-Aid solutions. “We want to go deeper,” she says. “To have younger kids learning and to have a university for parents as well is a really big deal, but it’s also starting a conversation on education reform. It’s the systems that are the conversation.” 

Why the TwoGen Approach?


Dr. Neil Phillips, CEO Visible Men Academy: “It’s absolutely crucial families get behind the education of their kids. In order for that to happen there has to be an environment where they feel really connected to the school. And to me, being connected for their son’s best interest is not enough. We want them connected to the point where they see personal benefit.”

Dr. Aisha Nyandoro,Springboard to Opportunities (Mississippi) founder:“Problems don’t operate in silos. You can’t work with a mom and not recognize that she also needs support for her child. You cannot work with a child and not really see they need a support for their mom. We understand families are families. We cannot just work with one component of the family.”

Ann Silverberg Williamson, Utah Department of Human Services executive director: “We have to be intentional about approaching children and families more holistically. We come together and are very intentional about recognizing the exact families we are seeking to serve and relentless to work together to see they realize the outcomes we desire.”

Dr. William Serrata,El Paso Community College president: “If we don’t attack this from a two-generational approach, it just becomes a much more challenging nut to crack. We are seeing the TwoGen approach of serving the adult and the child at the same time as the key to ending intergenerational poverty.”

TwoGen in Action

“We connect in our programming, diction and inclination. We provide parents access to resources that support the needs in their lives. We think it really cements the partnership between school, family and student. For us it only benefits our boys.” Phillips 

“We really work to empower families that live in affordable housing to help them advance in life, school, work and so on. One of our most successful programs is called Phonic Phenomenal. We have an initiative working with kids on their reading skills and are making them proficient in one room, but in the other room, the exact same time programming was occurring, we are working with their parents on how to infuse literacy into their everyday operations at home. That not only directly impacts that child who is currently in 3rd grade, but the parent is building their capacity and their skills so they can transfer that information to other children in that family as well.”Nyandoro

“What’s proven successful for us in Utah is a system of care approach to service delivery. When a child presents with truancy or mental health needs, we go in and we recognize the needs of the whole family.
This approach has proven effective to keep children successful in their schools and homes and community.”Williamson

“We have an elementary school adoption program where we are trying to reach both the student and the parent to have them come back to college at the same time. We have five campuses in the greater El Paso area, but we also know transportation is an issue, and when the need and demand is there, we will go to an area and teach the class there.”Serrata