2Gen Peer Learning Cohort

The 2Gen Peer Learning Cohort is a network of child and family advocates committed to amplifying the two-generation (2Gen) approach, which builds family well-being by intentionally and simultaneously working with children and the adults in their lives. Guided by the work of Ascend at the Aspen Institute, the Cohort works to create an ecosystem of programs and services that support intergenerational economic opportunities for all families.


The 2Gen Peer Learning Cohort meets monthly. Meetings present a chance to learn more about the approach and engage in peer learning to deepen the understanding and practice of 2Gen, the whole family approach. During sessions, members will engage with other people across programs and services to explore ways to apply concepts, share ideas, foster collaborations, and improve our work.

Upcoming Sessions:
Date: Forth Wednesday of each Month
9-11:30 a.m.
Admission: Free

May 22, 2024
June 27, 2024
July 25, 2024
August 22, 2024


Becoming a member of the Cohort provides a special opportunity to learn from and collaborate with others around the Itasca-area communities who are committed to identifying, developing, and implementing 2Gen approaches.

Partner Organizations

Advocates for Family Peace
Boys & Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids and Greenway
Boys and Girls Club of the Leech Lake Area (Deer River chapter)
Deer River Independent School District 317
First Call 2-1-1
Forward Health Foundation
Grace House of Itasca County
Grand Rapids & Bigfork Independent School District 318 – Community Education, Project READ
Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation

Itasca County – Health & Human Services
Itasca County Family YMCA
Itasca County Habitat for Humanity
Itasca Youth for Christ
Minnesota North – AspireNorth
New Beginnings Pregnancy + Family Support
Niemala Mediation

Family Centered Guiding Principles

  • We empower families to set their own goals and make their own informed decisions.
  • We strive to understand each individual family and approach our relationship with them as a partnership.
  • We provide services to families within or across organizations based on their strengths, assets, interests and expressed needs.
  • We provide opportunities for families to be directly involved in an organization’s decision-making structure and will not make decisions without their input.
  • We provide opportunities for families to build social networks and ensure that our communities support families.
  • We work to reduce cultural and systemic barriers to family-centered practice.


Inclusive language conveys respect to all people, promotes belonging, and seeks to disrupt the social norms perpetuating injustice. Inclusive language avoids bias, steers clear of words and sayings that give offense or cause harm, and affirms multiple aspects of human identity. When organizations adopt inclusive language practices, it makes a difference both inside and out. Internally, it helps create a space where people can bring their full selves to the work of the organization, unlocking the potential of diverse teams. Externally, inclusive language models demonstrate a commitment to fairness, inclusion, and accessibility. Read more

2Gen approaches recognize whole family units – as families define themselves – to consider the variety of pathways for promoting positive, pragmatic, and effective outcomes for everyone. We work with families as experts and meaningfully engage parents and caregivers in designing policies and programs that affect them in order to develop holistic, integrated, and equity-focused solutions. Read more

Ascend’s learnings have demonstrated the critical role parents and those with lived experiences play in shaping effective policies, programs, and initiatives that work to support family outcomes and alleviate poverty. Far too often, the decision-makers are not those with lived experiences, who are regularly sidelined.

The overarching goal is to improve family outcomes by identifying intersections between family-centered principles and existing practices, programs, and partnerships to create opportunities for improvement or innovation. One example is an afterschool program that might see an opportunity to help build social capital for families by creating space to foster stronger connections between parents and youth in your program. Another example might be practices that cut across multiple programs, such as intake.

In foundational sessions, we balance giving information, practicing tools, and giving members time to work together to develop their 2Gen approach, independently and collectively. We are exploring and practicing action steps for empathic research, where we listen to understand program users’ or potential users’ perspectives and lived experiences. The study will teach us what motivations, decisions, thoughts, and emotions drive their goals. From here, we can identify themes and key improvement opportunities.

Using the ’empathic interview’ model, members will conduct at least six interviews with 3-4 individuals or families, including those underrepresented in other feedback loops. Members’ design questions unique to their program focused on the Family Centered Guiding Principles and asset- or person-first language while concentrating on person-first vs. program. Two staff or staff and volunteers are needed to conduct the interviews. One will host the conversation, and the other will take notes. The upcoming session will further explore insights to identify themes and opportunities.

To request an interview guide and notetaking materials, email kimberly@uwlakes.org.

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