Two-Generation Collaboratives

Half of all single mothers in Alabama live in poverty, the 3rd highest rate in the country. Many nonprofits are serving these families, but the system is fragmented. If we want to collaboratively chart a new course alongside women and their children, action must be taken in communities across our state.

The Women’s Fund’s Clearing the Path report revealed an eye-opening analysis: A mother employed full-time earning minimum wage – or even slightly above – earns less than the federal poverty level. To combat the lack of a living wage, mothers must work multiple jobs to pay the bills, yet they do not have access to affordable, quality childcare.

For many, these findings reflect a daily reality. How can women and their children be expected to thrive in this endless cycle of barriers?

Access to education and workforce training opportunities is a critical first step. As educational attainment among women rises, poverty rates decline. The educational attainment level of the mother has also been cited as the best indicator of the economic and educational success of a child.

The numerous barriers preventing women from pursuing education or workforce training opportunities, including limited access to affordable childcare and transportation, must be removed.

It’s no secret that this challenge of disrupting the cycle of generational poverty is complex. The good news? We have a strategy to catalyze that disruption.

Our Strategy

The Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham dedicates our resources and research to accelerate economic opportunity in Alabama. To achieve this goal, we support an innovative approach to catalyzing collaboration between local agencies and organizations.

Launched in 2013, Collaboration Institute is a strategy-based funding model that provides resources and support to local agencies and organizations that are committed to leveraging their women and children-focused services for the betterment of their communities. Taking a two-generation approach, the Collaboration Institute is making strategic investments to promote system cohesion and empower organizations to align efforts. A two-generation approach is a national, evidence-based model that integrates services and impact data for entire families.

By streamlining their services through Collaboration Institute, participating organizations provide a clear path and comprehensive resources for women working towards economic success. For example, while mothers are pursuing essential education pathways for a living-wage career, their children – through the work of Collaboration Institute’s participating organizations – will have access to quality and affordable childcare.

While many local agencies and organizations already have been providing important direct services to women and children in Alabama, efforts have been siloed. We believe it is critical to break through these silos and formalize collaboration amongst these groups to maximize their service recipients’ opportunities for economic security.

The Collaboration Institute’s 18-month curriculum is comprised of funding, peer-learning workshops, site visits, technical assistance, advisory services, connections to community leaders and funders, and coaching from both local leaders and the Aspen Institute Community Strategies Group.

The How & Now

Collaboration Institute 3.0 launched in 2017, and three teams were selected to participate in the 18-month curriculum. These regional teams – representing Jefferson, Shelby and Walker counties – are comprised of local organizations and agencies, including community colleges, child care centers, and public and private job training initiatives.

Over the next 18 months, The Women’s Fund provided the teams with strategies, tools, and expertise to help them realign and integrate their services to better serve low-income families, including:

  • Peer-learning workshops, led by the Aspen Institute Community Strategies Group
  • $100,000 in start-up funding
  • Site visits to 2Gen models that work in Garrett County, Maryland and Newport, Kentucky
  • A local coach, with place-based knowledge and expertise
  • Technical assistance training in areas critical to collaboration
  • empowOR, a robust database to measure the success of the work


At the conclusion of Collaboration Institute 3.0 in December 2018, the three teams formally joined forces as Thrive Together, a collaborative network providing seamless, wraparound services to women and their families, including quality child care, education and job skills training, career coaches and support services. The Women’s Fund continues to provide Thrive Together with capacity building.

Thrive Together breaks down silos and provides streamlined services for women and their families with the goal of ending generational poverty and accelerating economic opportunity. We are confident that it will produce sustainable success across our state.

Thrive Together is now implementing what they’ve learned in incremental phases and will serve roughly 100 families in 2019.

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