Abstract: Contextual Factors Affecting Incorporation of Equitable Two-Generation Approaches to Community Change (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

Contextual Factors Affecting Incorporation of Equitable Two-Generation Approaches to Community Change

Sunday, January 19, 2020
Independence BR C, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Susan Popkin, PhD, Institute Fellow, Urban Institute, DC
Theresa Anderson, MS, Senior Research Associate, Urban Institute, Washington, DC
The three FCCC comprehensive community initiatives are complex interventions with long durations, which means that FCCC leaders must continuously respond to economic and policy contexts. Since FCCC launched in 2012, contextual changes that have required the community partners to adapt have included the economic recovery from the Great Recession, wage stagnation, expansion of charter schools, and the nation’s worst affordable housing crisis since the Great Depression. Additionally, the change in federal administrations in 2017 marked a shift in federal policy direction that affects the FCCC communities.

In this paper, we draw on secondary data from public sources on the three FCCC communities and four years of program documentation and qualitative data collection from site visits to each community to paint a picture of how the communities navigated major trends over the first four years of the initiative.

These communities’ experiences offer important lessons for the field about the potential of this two-generation approach to strengthening families and communities using equitable approaches in changing contexts. The key lesson from the FCCC experience is not to give up in the face change, but that any community seeking to create a new two-generation community change initiative needs to be prepared for societal shifts. The FCCC experience also highlights the reality that communities designing these kinds of ambitious initiatives need to be aware of the contextual factors that will necessarily impinge on their ability to bring about real change.

The FCCC communities’ experiences offer examples of how they have adapted to navigate these types of challenges in order to continue providing equitable services to meet community and participant needs. For example, in response to the growing affordable housing crisis, Buffalo shifted its approach to incorporate building new affordable housing and has made adding eviction prevention services a goal. Columbus shifted its approach to partner more intensively with the local school district and other city-level partners to reach more children. And San Antonio has been strategic about looking for new funders to buffer the changes in child care funding, as well as building a stronger partnership with the school district and workforce systems.

Further, any new initiatives need to be prepared to build in flexibility so that they can serve the needs of current participants and be prepared to serve new families in the future. All three FCCC communities have made that pivot. Buffalo has looked to add more child care slots and find new funding partners, Columbus has looked to build on its school partnerships while considering how to expand their footprint, and San Antonio has sought to create system changes that will bring more sustainable resources to its service area.

Finally, a key lesson from FCCC is that any community attempting this kind of comprehensive change needs to be ready to address the realities of the structural racism that underlies many contextual challenges. That means both training staff on racial and ethnic equity and inclusion and advocating for meaningful system-level change.