What is the Two Generation (2Gen) Approach?

At United Way of Central Indiana, our work alongside partner agencies addresses the root causes of poverty: lack of education, financial instability, poor mental or physical health and the inability to afford basic needs. While United Way provides support in these areas through agencies and programs, thousands of Central Indiana families are likely facing these challenges — at the same time, under the same roof. This is where the Two Generation (2Gen) approach steps in.


For decades, the human services sector and government programs have fought poverty by focusing on either helping children get off to a good start, or helping parents get better education and training for better jobs. 2Gen is an approach to solving poverty that provides integrated services for both children and their parents together. 2Gen has proven effective at breaking families free from the traps of poverty and empowering them to live up to their potential.

How the 2Gen Approach Works

Developed by the Aspen Institute, 2Gen helps families get out of — and stay out of — poverty by providing programs and services around these 5 essential components:

  • Helping children get a high-quality head start to their education
  • Training and coaching their parents to achieve better jobs and higher wages
  • Building a family’s economic assets for stability
  • Improving a family’s health and well-being
  • Strengthening a family’s social networks


Why 2Gen?

Research shows that a parent’s education, economic stability and overall health has an impact on a child’s successful path to adulthood. Similarly, a child’s quality education and healthy development can inspire parents to succeed and set the entire family on a more secure path. 2Gen helps both generations make progress together. By offering integrated supports to families as a whole, each can focus on their needs to make necessary improvements to get them out of poverty.

Supporting Children and Parents Together: The Facts



-Parents’ educational level is the best predictor of economic mobility for their children; low levels of educational achievement and poverty are strongly correlated.

-Investments in high-quality pre-k yield a 7-10 percent per year return on investment. At the same time, parents who complete a college degree double their incomes.

Financial Stability

-A $3,000 difference in parents’ income when young children are in the household is associated with a 17 percent increase in the child’s future earnings.



-Physical and mental health have a major impact on a family’s ability to thrive. A recent study showed that low-income mothers with children enrolled in quality child care were 40 percent less likely to be depressed than those not enrolled.


Related article: How You Can Advocate for Indy’s Most Vulnerable Families



Putting 2Gen to Work in Central Indiana

Great Families 2020 is a four-year initiative of United Way that uses the 2Gen Approach to improve the lives of Indianapolis’ most vulnerable families in five Indianapolis neighborhoods. Funded in part through a $7 million federal Social Innovation Fund grant, Great Families 2020 is being matched at the local level for a total investment of $21 million.


For the first time in Central Indiana, agencies and partners have integrated services in education, financial stability and health for hundreds of parents and children in high-need communities which already have promising investments underway.

Great Families 2020 Grant Recipients



Each Great Families 2020 site will connect adults with workforce development, financial coaching, income supports and asset building services while supplying early childhood education programming to children. Locations will serve the community through a variety of programs and services, one being the Centers for Working Families (CWF). CWF includes friendly neighborhood centers where hardworking, low-income families can access a full range of services to help lift them out of poverty and achieve long-term financial stability. CWF provides services across three areas: employment and career advancement, financial literacy and coaching, and access to income supports.

Learn more about each of the Great Families 2020 Grant Recipients here


Fighting Poverty with the 2Gen Approach

Poverty can’t be solved as a single issue, by a single entity, or with temporary fixes. Poverty is complex, stubborn and now affects our community across generations. Using a 2Gen, family-centered approach to services gives families a greater chance at achieving self-sufficiency and getting out of poverty. Thanks to Great Families 2020, work is now underway to begin integrating services in education, financial stability and health for hundreds of parents and children in high-need communities in Indianapolis. By uniting these programs and services under one roof to serve the entire family, more of our neighbors can find a way out of poverty and begin to thrive for generations to come.



The 2Gen Difference