Sarasota and Manatee counties have been local laboratories for testing and enhancing a two-generation approach to strengthening families and improving the lives of individuals, so it's fitting that on Tuesday and Wednesday our region will host a 2Gen Summit.
Local educators, social-service providers, philanthropists, analysts, government workers and policy-makers and others will gather for two days to share thoughts, ask questions and discuss how communities can help low-income family members help themselves by advancing their education, escaping poverty and building better futures for themselves — and for generations to come.
The concept, advanced on a national level by Ascend at the Aspen Institute, has been methodically embraced by key local organizations — including philanthropic foundations — as well as service providers and educators. The Community Foundation of Sarasota County is the host of this year's event.
We commend the organizers and participants to their efforts, which have already helped generate community- and family-based successes.
The main goal of 2Gen is to focus equally on services and opportunities for children and the adults in their lives. The proponents emphasize and recognize that, in all but the rarest cases, the health, well-being and success of children and parents are inextricably linked.
The most notable example of implementation locally has occurred at Alta Vista Elementary School in Sarasota, where before- and after-school programs for children have been supplemented by job training, remedial education and parenting courses for mothers and other caretakers.
The Alta Vista experience has been used as a model elsewhere in our region. What's more, the two-generation concept is influencing other initiatives: For example, the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading is providing tools and offering guidance that encourages parents to develop the communication and comprehensive skills of their children from the time they are born.
2Gen has gained support in our region for a variety of reasons. One of the most compelling aspects of the approach is that it is neither dogmatically liberal or conservative. It recognizes the need for, and value of, public- and private-sector programs but also recognizes the importance for parents and adults to set good examples for their children.
The concept calls not only for providing aid but for doing so effectively and efficiently. It espouses the need for measuring and accounting for outcomes, whether they involve the work performed by agencies or the success of children and families.
The multi-generational approach recognizes the need for public- and private-sector institutions to provide leadership and financial support, but also for them to engage and listen to family members, so that programs and services address real-world challenges.
As with any philosophy and practice, 2Gen appears to work best when its adherents are humble, respectful, flexible and willing to improve and challenge themselves — all of the attributes that society has a right to ask not only of its leaders, service providers and philanthropists but of its children and families in need of aid.
The 2Gen concept has already benefited organizations, children, parents and extended families in our region. We hope this week's summit builds upon that foundation and leads to further success.