Ascend Launches Innovation Community for Families

February 21, 2018 | Aspen Family Prosperity Innovation Community

The unemployment rate is lower than it has been for many years and working parents are and have been key contributors to our nation’s economic growth. With that, we must fully recognize that America’s workforce has changed dramatically over several decades – almost half of all children are being raised in households in which all parents work full-time, about twice the rate of 1968. We must reimagine the policies and solutions that ensure America is tapping the full talents, gifts, and potential of our nation’s greatest asset: our people.

Ascend at the Aspen Institute is proud to announce the new Aspen Family Prosperity Innovation Community: a group of extraordinarily talented and deeply committed leaders working together to identify new ways to ensure families in the United States can thrive. This learning and action initiative will develop bold strategies that strengthen parents’ and families’ employment, economic security, and health and well-being. Ascend is uniquely positioned to facilitate this initiative. We have a deep commitment to elevating the voices of families in policy and program conversations and a history of bringing together leaders who may never have been offered a seat at the same table.

The Innovation Community is generously supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. It is comprised of a core group of six leading organizations that have strong policy expertise: The American Enterprise Institute, The Center for Public Justice, Family Values @ Work, Legal Aid at Work, National Partnership for Women and Families, and Urban Institute. Thirteen distinguished experts – top researchers and communicators, private sector and nonprofit leaders – will serve as Advisors. They will provide guidance to the organizations on how to connect promising strategies and solutions to policy and systems, business, and communities. Parents will join the group’s convenings to share their valuable perspectives. A full list of Innovation Community members is below.

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) celebrates its 25th anniversary this month, reminding us how much more work still needs to be done to support families in the U.S. The majority of families whose income is below the median receive no paid leave, and we are the only industrialized nation in the world that does not guarantee workers paid family leave.

FMLA was an important step in ensuring job protection for parents that need to take time off work to care for a newborn or sick loved one – but they shouldn’t have to forgo a paycheck to do so. Other important family and work supports include childcare referral programs, lactation policies and facilities, flexible work schedules, on-the-job training programs, and transportation vouchers, among many others.

The Innovation Community is ready to think creatively to break through the enduring issues that challenge family economic security and health, like the lack of paid family leave and quality mental and physical health care, and persistent wage gaps by gender and race. The ideas and work produced by this group will be supported and amplified by the Ascend Network, which was launched in 2014. The Network consists of over 225 organizations and 41 Fellows working in 41 states and the District of Columbia. They represent the leading edge of practice, policy, and research efforts focused on a whole family or two-generation (2Gen) approach.

Join us as we embark on this exciting and crucial venture. What matters most to you and your family? What kinds of policies or system changes would create opportunity or lift barriers? Share with us on Twitter at @AspenAscend, using the #FamilyProsperity hashtag.

To learn more about the Innovation Community, read the press release here. 

Aspen Family Prosperity Innovation Community



  • Gina Adams: Corporate Vice President for Government Affairs, FedEx Corporation
  • Gordon Bronson: Head of Public Affairs, West, WeWork
  • Stuart Butler: Senior Fellow, Economic Studies, The Brookings Institution
  • Maria Gomez: President and CEO, Mary’s Center
  • Sarita Gupta: Executive Director, Jobs with Justice
  • Fatima Goss Graves: President and CEO, National Women’s Law Center
  • Kaya Henderson: Director, Global Learning Lab for Community Impact, Teach For All
  • Colleen A. Kraft: President, American Academy of Pediatrics
  • Randall Lane: Editor, Forbes Media
  • Eldar Shafir: Professor of Psychology, Princeton University
  • Greg Taylor: Senior Vice President, Player Development, National Basketball Association
  • Sarah Enos Watamura: Associate Professor of Psychology, University of Denver
  • Sheryl WuDunn: Founder, FullSky Partners

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