A Leadership Letter from Ascend on COVID-19

Anne Mosle | March 12, 2020 |

Dear Ascend Community:
I wanted to reach out personally to express our rock-solid support of and appreciation for each of you as leaders and partners, especially those of you who are acting as first responders in your communities.
Each member of the Ascend at the Aspen Institute team is keenly aware of the trusted and vital role you each serve in your respective communities. Together, we share the north star of building family prosperity and well-being for children, parents, and families. With linked arms, we embrace the core values of equity and authentically connecting to the parents, caregivers, and families we serve.
We know health, economic and natural crises exacerbate health and other disparities. In both our immediate and long-term responses, we must keep this front and center and do all we can to reinforce the resiliency of communities and mitigate the impacts of those most impacted. The COVID-19 pandemic is challenging our systems – from public health to economic. Daily routines of going to school, work and simply connecting with friends and neighbors are being upended. In moments of profound disruption and uncertainty, leadership, trust and care are essential.
We are here for you. We know leaders need a strong support network to play their invaluable role. Whether you are delivering front-line care, advocating for families, conducting research, or leading a state or county health and human service agency – your efforts are more important than ever. We need our structures and systems to prioritize and work for families. Common sense economic and health action around paid family and sick leave, access to quality health and child care, and stable, living wage incomes are essential.
Like many of you, we are reviewing our plans, practices and systems so we can most effectively meet our mission and ensure that our actions reflect what we value most. While we have cancelled or postponed near-term convenings (see below), we are actively looking into ways to build virtual communities to share ideas, problem solve, and support each other.
Ascend takes our role as the national hub for the 2Gen network seriously and want to hear from you what you most need at this time. Ascend will have open “call-in” office hours (see below) for Ascend Network Partners and Fellows, where an Ascend senior staff member will be available to discuss any issues, challenges, or needs playing out in your community.
We know the weight that each of you are carrying. We hold each of you in our hearts.
The author Anne Lamott offers powerful words as we go about our work:
“Most of us have figured out that we have to do what’s in front of us and keep doing it… Every time we choose the good action or response, the decent, the valuable, it builds, incrementally, to renewal, resurrection, the place of newness, freedom, justice… We live stitch by stitch, when we’re lucky. If you fixate on the big picture, the whole shebang, the overview, you miss the stitching. And maybe the stitching is crude, or it is unraveling, but if it were precise, we’d pretend that life was just fine and running like a Swiss watch. This is not helpful if on the inside our understanding is that life is more often a cuckoo clock with rusty gears. In the aftermath of loss, we do what we’ve always done, although we are changed, maybe more afraid. We do what we can, as well as we can. A great truth, attributed to Emily Dickinson, is that ‘hope inspires the good to reveal itself.’ This is almost all I ever need to remember. Gravity and sadness yank us down, and hope gives us a nudge to help one another get back up or to sit with the fallen on the ground, in the abyss, in solidarity.”
In solidarity, 

Anne Mosle
Executive Director, Ascend at the Aspen Institute
Vice President, Aspen Institute

Updates on Upcoming Ascend Activities

  • Deadlines and decisions for Aspen Family Prosperity Innovation Community grants are on track and will be met.
  • Convenings are postponed or cancelled through April.
  • Decisions for May convenings will be made by April 15.
  • For convenings in June, we will communicate any meeting postponements/cancellations five weeks prior to the program event start date.

Office Hours

Ascend is available for office hours during the dates and times below. A senior staff member will be available to discuss any issues, challenges, or needs playing out in your community. Please dial 202-850-0967 for all calls.

  • Friday, March 13(9:00 – 10:00am ET) with Anne Mosle, Executive Director and Vice President.
  • Monday, March 16 (12:00 – 2:00pm ET) with Lori Severens, Associate Director for Leadership and Design.
  • Tuesday, March 17 (6:00 – 7:00pm ET) with Marjorie Sims, Managing Director.
  • Wednesday, March 18 (12:00 – 1:00pm ET) with Sarah Haight, Associate Director for Network and Outreach.
  • Thursday, March 19 (3:00 – 4:00pm ET) with David Croom, Assistant Director for Postsecondary Achievement and Innovation.
  • Friday, March 20 (2:00 – 4:00pm ET) with Lori Severens.
  • Friday, March 20 (12:00 – 1:30pm ET) with Anne Mosle.


Below is a list of resources and tips from partners in the field, many of which came from the JED Foundation. If you are a Network Partner who specializes in remote learning, child care, or other resources that may be useful for the field – please email Sariah Toze at Sariah.Toze@aspeninstitute.org.

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