For the past few years, the Union Home Mortgage Foundation has supported local non-profit The Literacy Cooperative with grant funding to continue their 2Gen work with Cleveland's nonprofit community. What exactly is 2Gen though, and how does it look in practice? Learn more from our non-profit partner as they interview an organization involved in their pilot program.
The Literacy Cooperative is an umbrella organization that brings foundations, organizations, and people together to find practical solutions to improve literacy. We are mobilizing Northeast Ohio resources to increase reading, math, and digital literacy, beginning at birth, so our kids are performing at grade level throughout their educational journey. Our support, coordination, and facilitation of adult literacy initiatives are creating pathways that lead to rewarding and life-sustaining careers. We are sharing our research and introducing best practices and pilots that are innovative, interactive, and effective. The Literacy Cooperative provides oversight and overall strategic coordination currently not being fulfilled by individual providers.
In 2018, The Literacy Cooperative and 30 stakeholders created a 2Gen Steering Committee dedicated to promoting Two-Generation (2Gen) policies, practices, and programs within Cuyahoga County, Ohio. Through the years, this committee has transformed and grown to 31 members representing 19 organizations and five initiatives (The Centers for Families & Children, Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C), Towards Employment, Sisters of Charity, and MetroHealth Medical Center).
Today we are highlighting one of the 2Gen initiatives - Towards Employment’s Whole Family Workforce Services project. Towards Employment is an organization which helps facilitate connections between people and good employment and their mission is to empower individuals to achieve and maintain self-sufficiency through employment. Staci Wampler is Director, Industry Partnerships, at Towards Employment. She oversees the 2Gen initiative and its impact on their organization and the community.
Could you explain your 2Gen initiative and its importance within the community?
Staci Wampler: The 2Gen initiative supports a whole family approach to workforce services. By partnering with parents to improve their employment status - moving into stable employment, with family sustaining wages and benefits, and chances for career advancement – the goal is to show how this translates into improved household security and an increased ability to thrive. This work continues a prior two generation (2Gen) approach to build family well-being by intentionally and simultaneously working with children and the adults together.
In what ways has the 2-generational approach been helpful to your work?
Staci: This has been a true collaboration for Towards Employment to build a 2Gen approach to employment. At Towards Employment, our expertise is in getting people ready to work and to build careers in local high-demand industries, but with support and expertise from The Literacy Cooperative, Ohio Guidestone, and Invest in Children Cuyahoga County, we are able to partner with parent workers, and the people in their children’s lives. Research highlighted by Ascend shows that increased family income during early childhood can have a profound and lasting impact on children’s lives. A $3,000 difference in parents’ income when their child is young is associated with a 17 percent increase in the child’s future earnings. This approach truly brings families to the center of our workforce efforts.
How did Towards Employment choose these partners?
Staci: We chose to work with The Literacy Cooperative because they have access to Imagination Library and family engagement sessions which we believe would be helpful to our work. We chose Invest in Children because we felt that they would be a great resource to connect families with quality childcare centers and preschool. Partnering with Ohio Guidestone and their great services for families provides great resources for our participants.
What makes Towards Employment’s work 2Gen?
Staci: What makes our work 2Gen are our coaches who have been trained in Family Centered Coaching, in addition to this our coaches and Case Managers use techniques which include the whole family. For example, our assessments and curriculum include the whole family into the conversation, not just the person in the room.
Since starting your partnership with The Literacy Cooperative, how have they been able to help your organization?
Staci: The Literacy Cooperative has provided support with our family literacy pillar in our Whole Family Workforce Services project. Additionally, The Literacy Cooperative has been a partner in our implementation process and helped connect organizations and services when we initially launched. The Director of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library also provides monthly sessions for our parents to discuss the importance of family literacy and access to the Imagination Library. In the next few years, I could see The Literacy Cooperative becoming a cornerstone of our parenting services. We aspire to have regular parent meetings, connecting parents to resources in their community and supporting our parent advisors to excel in their area of interest. We would love to identify a few parents who will take a deep dive into family literacy and share learnings and insights with the larger group.
The 2Gen Committee is very active within the community and holds various events, including the 2Gen Summit spotlighting the work of the committee each year.
To learn more about The Literacy Cooperative’s work, click 2Gen Community.
To learn more about Towards Employment, go to www.towardsemployment.org/.