How Women’s Funds Accelerate Gender Equality with 2Gen Approach

2Gen Approach
The Aspen Institute developed a 2Gen approach to improving the lives of women and girls, which the Women’s Funding Network uses to create a cohort of women’s funds applying this approach. (Image Credit: The Aspen Institute)

Editor’s Note: Women’s Funding Network Chief Strategist Marcia Coné is passionate about the Two-Generation (2Gen) Approach to breaking the cycle of poverty for women and their families. Here, she talks about WFN’s efforts to support its members in implementing the 2Gen philosophy and theoretical framework, as well as the work of the 2Gen Advocacy Cohort and their recent wins.

What is a 2Gen Approach?

When we think about poverty, programs are typically targeted to the needs of different members within the family. For example, you might have a child in a Head Start Program, while the parent is getting job training. This is helpful, but the 2Gen approach—which was developed by the Aspen Institute—looks at ways of addressing the family as a whole system and meeting their individual needs simultaneously, through multi-generational programming and policies. Two-generation approaches draw from findings that the well-being of parents is crucial to their children’s well-being and conversely, parents’ ability to succeed in school and in the workplace is substantially affected by how well their children are doing. 

What are some benefits of a 2Gen Approach?

The 2Gen Approach is an intentional way to move the whole family forward and its holistic focus looks at everything from post-secondary and employment pathways to the health and well-being of the family members, providing the entire family with the skills and resources needed to improve their outcomes as a whole. Historically, existing policies and programs have failed to acknowledge the interconnectedness of parent and child well-being and success, severely limiting their effectiveness and the ability of families to move themselves from poverty to opportunity.

How is the Women’s Funding Network promoting and supporting 2Gen Efforts?

Over the past five years, our members’ collective grant-making investments in economic equity have made this a top funding and advocacy priority. As we completed a landscape study on our members’ work in economic equity, 2Gen surfaced as an emerging, effective strategy for economically advancing women and their families. Furthermore, our partnership with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation allowed WFN to design a learning community and an advocacy cohort of our members. 

Currently, WFN serves as the convener, educator, facilitator, and evaluator of the work being done, lessons learned, advocacy wins, and opportunities for replication and scalability across our network of women’s foundations and funds. This June, our Two-Generation Advocacy Cohort met in Denver and our members were excited about policy wins in their respective states. 

For example, the Women’s Foundation of Colorado helped pushed through the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act, which prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex, while promoting pay transparency. In Alabama, The Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham has helped secure state funds to invest in childcare and transportation for families. In Dallas, The Texas  Women’s Foundation has successfully navigated procedural and administrative changes providing better access and services for women and their children by reorganizing the childcare administration. In addition, The Women’s Foundation of Southern Arizona passed legislation ensuring single mothers can attend their courses and remain eligible for child-care subsidies, with $56 million allocated for this purpose. 

 We will share more about these exciting wins—and what our members have learned about advocating for legislative change—at WFN’s upcoming Women Funded 2019 this fall in San Francisco, in a session entitled Strong Families: Eradicating Barriers to Financial Well-Being.

For more on WFN’s Women Funded 2019, visit

Check out the video below which provides first-hand accounts of how women’s fund leaders are taking a 2Gen approach to advancing gender equality.


Philanthropy Women covers funding for gender equity in all sectors of society. We want to significantly shift public discourse, particularly in philanthropy, toward increased action for gender equality. You can support our work and access unlimited and premium content with one of our subscriptions

Author: Marcia Cone

Marcia Coné, PhD, is Chief Strategist and responsible for all Women's Funding Network programs and initiatives. Prior to WFN, Dr. Coné led the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island for more than a decade, during which she developed and spearheaded the organization’s flagship programs and strategic investments. The Fund's transformation to a cutting-edge gender equality think-tank, continuously advocating for policy changes with a gender lens, resulted in more than two dozen legislative wins. In addition, the Fund produced reliable research on women’s representation across all sectors and provided policy recommendations designed to promote equity and strengthen the local economy. Under her leadership, through its Women’s Policy Institute, Women's Fund of Rhode Island led the state advocacy for paid family leave (Temporary Caregiver Insurance), positioning Rhode Island as a national leader in family and workplace policies.

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