Aspen Forum on Children and Families 2017

January 6, 2017 | Convenings

On January 24 and 25, 2017, Ascend hosted its first major convening of the year: The Aspen Forum on Children and Families. This convening brought together policymakers, parents, practitioners, researchers, and philanthropists to lift up a set of solid ideas for investing in the economic stability and educational success of children and families.

Below, you can find video recordings of the event, along with the report, agenda, and other resources.

YouTube Recordings: 

January 24

January 25

Report: Children and Families at the Center

Featured Presentations

In the following video, Nobel Laureate Dr. James Heckman introduces his research on the high ROI associated with investing in early childhood education

Moreover, Celinda Lake, president of Lake Research Partners, and Brian Nienaber, vice president of the Tarrance Group, demonstrated strong support for the 2Gen approach from both sides of the aisle. 74 percent of those polled signaled support for the 2Gen approach, even if it raised their taxes. Their slides are available here.

Deep Dives on the Issues


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

2:00 pm – 3:00 pm: Registration

3:00 pm – 3:30 pm: Opening and Welcome

• Mike Bezos, Vice President, Bezos Family Foundation; Trustee, the Aspen Institute
• Anne Mosle, Vice President, the Aspen Institute; Executive Director, Ascend at the Aspen Institute

3:30 pm – 5:00 pm: Fueling Child and Family Well Being: Parent Voices, Public Opinion, and Leader Perspectives

• Celinda Lake, President, Lake Research Partners
• Brian Nienaber, Vice President, The Tarrance Group
• Robert Doar, Resident Fellow and Morgridge Fellow in Poverty Studies, American Enterprise Institute
• Ralph Smith, Managing Director, Campaign for Grade-Level Reading
• Steven Clemons, Journalist, Washington Editor-At-Large, The Atlantic (Invited)

Get a clear understanding of the perspectives of parents and public opinion around the issues facing children and families and the solutions that voters support. Leading Democratic and Republican pollsters will highlight findings from parent focus groups and a bi-partisan 2016 election eve poll commissioned by Ascend. Policy experts will reflect on these findings and highlight the opportunities for advancing child and family policies at the community, state, and federal level.

5:00 pm – 5:45 pm: Building Political Will so All Families Have the Opportunity to Succeed

• U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D – New Mexico)
• Anne Mosle, Vice President, the Aspen Institute; Executive Director, Ascend at the Aspen Institute, Moderator

U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich, ranking member of the U.S. Joint Economic Committee, shares his vision for increasing opportunities for families by aligning and linking existing systems and funding streams. Senator Heinrich will discuss The Two-Generation Economic Empowerment Act, a bipartisan bill he will re-introduce during the 115th Congress with U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R – Maine), which will lead to more families getting ahead while streamlining the programs available to them and ensuring they are family-centric and results-oriented.

5:45 pm – 6:00 pm: Reflections from the Day: Strategies for Child and Family Well-Being 

• Bruce Lesley, President, First Focus
• Dr. Maya Rockeymoore, President and CEO, Global Policy Solutions
• Dr. Aparna Mathur, Resident Scholar, Economic Policy, American Enterprise Institute
• Anne Mosle, Vice President, the Aspen Institute; Executive Director, Ascend at the Aspen Institute

Seasoned policy experts will offer their reflections on the earlier sessions and their perspectives on how to advance a child and family agenda in 2017.

6:00 pm – 7:00 pm: Connecting and Networking Reception

• Janet Froetscher, President, J.B. and M.K. Pritzker Family Foundation
• Anne Mosle, Vice President, the Aspen Institute; Executive Director, Ascend at the Aspen Institute

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

8:15 am – 8:45 am: Continental Breakfast and Networking

8:45 am – 9:15 am: Welcome and Why We are Gathered

• Marjorie Sims, Managing Director, Ascend at the Aspen Institute

Making Gains for Children and Families: A Two-Generation Approach to Lasting Economic Security  

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

We start a new year in a dramatically different political climate with an opportunity to strengthen our country’s top asset: families. By building effective, efficient, and equitable systems and services to power the cycle of opportunity for children and adults together, we can achieve long-lasting educational success and economic stability. We will examine the top ideas for making this a reality.

9:15 am – 10:00 am: Creating the Programs that Parents Need: Fewer Headaches, More Results

• Rynn Bell, Teacher’s Associate, Jefferson County Head Start
• Tameka Henry, Chair, Board of Directors, Acelero Learning Clark County; and Case Administrator, New Foundations
• Ariel Ventura-Lazo, Student Ambassador and Office Specialist, Adult Career Pathways and Career Services, Northern Virginia Community College
• Amber Angel, Program Coordinator, Family Resource Center, Los Angeles Valley College
• Carla Thompson Payton, Vice President for Program Strategy, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Moderator

To build strong families, we need to dismantle the traps of poverty and understand what families really need in life. We will hear from parents about opportunities to improve and innovate on the systems we have, so they are more intuitive, equitable, and impactful.

10:00 am – 11:00 am: Magnifying the Bright Spots: Insights and Innovations to Power a Cycle of Opportunity 

• Dr. Laurie Miller Brotman, Bezos Family Foundation Professor of Early Childhood Development; Director, Center for Early Childhood Health and Development, NYU Langone Medical Center
• Gloria Perez, President and CEO, Jeremiah Program
• Daniella Gratale, Senior Manager of Advocacy, Nemours Children’s Health System
• Marjorie Sims, Managing Director, Ascend at the Aspen Institute, Moderator

To identify new opportunities that make programs and services meet families’ real needs, we need a clearer picture of the data, evidence, and innovations in the field. Practitioners from different sectors will share their models and evidenced-based programs that advance educational attainment and the health and well-being of children and families.

11:00 am – 11:15 am: Break and Networking 

11:15 am – 12:00 pm: Starting Early, Starting Strong: Early Childhood Development Programs to Strengthen Families

• J.B. Pritzker, Chairman, J.B. and M.K. Pritzker Family Foundation
• Jackie Bezos, President, Bezos Family Foundation
• Walter Isaacson, President and CEO, the Aspen Institute, Moderator

We will hear from two leading investors in early childhood development programs and explore strategies and opportunities to reach more children and their families at the local, state, and national level. 

12:00 pm – 1:00 pm: Break and Networking Lunch

1:00 pm – 1:45 pm: Return on Investment: Long-term Results of Investing Early

• Dr. James J. Heckman, Henry Schultz Distinguished Service Professor of Economics, University of Chicago, Nobel Memorial Prize winner in economics
• Dr. Meera Mani, Director of Children, Families and Communities Program, The David & Lucile Packard Foundation, Moderator

Nobel Prize winner in economics Dr. James J. Heckman will share his new research findings demonstrating how investing early can improve life outcomes for children and lead to a strong return on investment for society.

1:45 pm – 2:00 pm: Break and Networking 

2:00 pm – 3:00 pm: Innovating at the State Level: Driving a National Movement

• Melvin Carter, Executive Director, Minnesota’s Children’s Cabinet
• Will Lightbourne, Director, California Department of Social Services
• John Davis, Executive Director, Mississippi Department of Human Services
• Raquel Hatter, Commissioner, Tennessee Department of Human Services
• Yvette Sanchez Fuentes, Assistant Director for Policy, Ascend at the Aspen Institute, Moderator

States and local communities are finding that a 2Gen approach is an effective way to fight poverty. State innovations are creating a new culture of collaboration that breaks children and families free from the traps of poverty and empowers them to reach their full potential. In this session, state services leaders will share how they implement a 2Gen approach to reduce poverty within their communities.

3:00 pm – 4:00 pm: Accelerating Action and Collaboration: The Opportunity Ahead

• Barbara Fabre, Director, White Earth Early Childhood/Child Care Programs
• Mindy Ysasi, Executive Director, THE SOURCE
• Joe Waters, Executive Vice President, Institute for Child Success
• Maisha Simmons, Senior Program Officer, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
• Anne Mosle, Vice President, the Aspen Institute; Executive Director, Ascend at the Aspen Institute

We have important opportunities to make real gains for children and families in 2017 and beyond. As we close the day, national and community leaders will share their perspectives on the Forum’s discussions and the work ahead.


Midpoint Snapshots, Campaign for Grade-Level Reading

By the Numbers: 3rd grade reading call to actionCampaign for Grade-Level Reading

Towards Bigger Outcomes: Taking on the Health Determinants of Early School Success, Campaign for Grade-Level Reading

Messaging Guide and Tip Sheet, Ascend at the Aspen Institute

Alliances for Reaching Community Health Equity, Global Health Solutions

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