Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Guest Correspondence

Photo courtesy Community Foundation: Anne Mosle.

Many who know me know that I truly believe in the value of teamwork. Collaboration is critical to making visions become reality, and this is a guiding principle for me, whether I’m considering my favorite football team—The Chiefs!—or contemplating how our Community Foundation can achieve the greatest impact. 

Just a few short weeks ago, our Community Foundation hosted the region’s third 2Gen Summit, convening practitioners, policymakers and parents to celebrate community progress in 2Gen—or two-generational—approaches to strengthening families and to explore new ideas for catalyzing 2Gen strategies.

While whole-family approaches to well-being have existed since the dawn of civilization, the idea gained prominence as a solution to the social problem of intergenerational poverty and ancillary issues of health, education and social capital through the work of Ascend at the Aspen Institute, whose founder and executive director Anne Mosle delivered the keynote at the summit. 

During her keynote, Anne invoked the saying, “a parent is only as happy as their unhappiest child,” a sentiment that rings true for many parents. It underscores the interdependency of parents and children and may explain why supporting either parent or child in isolation often falls short of creating sustainable, holistic progress for families. The components of 2Gen—the multigenerational, multifaceted indicators of well-being—are all interdependent and interwoven, like a tapestry. 

It can feel like a tall order to tend to both parents and children on fundamental foundations of a thriving life. It might be a chicken-egg proposition to figure out which components of well-being to address first: financial assets, education (early childhood, K-12, adult), physical and mental health, or social capital, which is the human support network people need to flourish. You can’t weave a tapestry out of a single thread, after all.

That’s where collaboration enters. Anne Mosle called for “radical collaboration” to propel the work of 2Gen, noting changing systems through collaborative contributions of the nonprofit and public sectors, along with parents themselves, will make a big difference in family well-being that can be sustained long-term. 

Now is the perfect time to catalyze collaboration. Recently, our Community Foundation published a Community Indicators Dashboard that offers rich data on well-being for the four-county area our foundation serves—Charlotte, DeSoto, Manatee and Sarasota counties—and provides projections into the future on defining aspects like population growth. 

A dive into the data reveals sobering statistics about Sarasota County: 

  • Currently, 38% of all residents in Sarasota County live at or beneath the ALICE (asset-limited, income-constrained, employed) threshold, meaning roughly 75,000 families are struggling to afford necessities, despite working and earning an income. 
  • More than half of all students enrolled in Sarasota County public schools qualify for free and reduced-price lunch, and this proportion climbs to above 90% in several Sarasota schools. 
  • Half of all middle and high school students report feeling chronically depressed. 

It is clear there is a need for intervention. 2Gen solutions can help families by providing pathways to prosperity and well-being, so they can create stability that enhances their quality of life, health and happiness.

Since our Community Foundation began grounding our work in 2Gen philosophy, we have witnessed tremendous results—parents earning credentials that open doors to lucrative careers, their achievements providing a sturdy bedrock for their children. This is great news for those families; research tells us the two most reliable predictors of a child’s success are their parents’ educational attainment and income. And it’s also great news for the community, which can receive the gifts the family has to offer rather than run interference when a rippling crisis demands it. 

Collaboration is key to these strategies. Putting our heads, hands and hearts together, we can make transformative change that has the power to enhance our entire community, immediately and for generations, weaving a rich tapestry with each strand holding its load and reinforcing others. 

Roxie Jerde is president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County.

Photo courtesy Community Foundation: Anne Mosle.

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