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Intergen vs. 2-gen: What’s the Difference?

August 30, 2019

The original version of this article by was published in the EMPath Blog on August 21, 2019 and can be accessed here. This post has been cross-posted with permission by the author.

Learn about EMPath's whole family coaching approach and how it differs from more traditional "two-generation" approaches.

Individuals don’t move out of poverty; families do.

That’s why in 2014, EMPath introduced a new model to help whole families exit poverty and achieve economic self-sufficiency. The Intergenerational Mobility Project (“Intergen”) is grounded in a deep understanding of how children develop in an environment of relationships – and how a parent’s ability to meet life’s challenges is intertwined with the well-being of their children.

A similar approach to helping families out of poverty, called two-generation or “2-gen,” has become more popular among human service organizations in recent years. Intergen is an expansion of the 2-gen model.

Here’s what you need to know about 2-gen, Intergen, and their differences.

What is 2-gen?

A 2-gen approach focuses on providing services for both parents and children together, rather than separately. A traditional 2-gen program, for example, may provide job training for a parent while simultaneously offering childcare. In this way, the needs of the parent and the needs of the child are both being taken care of at the same time. 2-gen models are valuable in providing services to families across generations in a more coordinated way.

What is Intergen?

Intergen goes beyond just providing services or programs. It differs from the 2-gen model in three primary ways:

  1. Mentors help address not just people’s external needs, but their inner selves. “Inner self” is a person’s sense of who they are, how they think, feel, and manage their own behavior.

  2. Intergen focuses on the inherent interdependence of families’ inner selves – how each family member (especially adults and children) impacts the others.

  3. Intergen recognizes that there is no pre-established definition of “family” and lets families define themselves.

What is the thinking behind Intergen?

Intergen is an expansion of EMPath’s breakthrough coaching approach, Mobility Mentoring ®. This economic mobility coaching model is based on how the chronic stress of poverty affects the brain. Research tells us that the effects of scarcity (not having enough resources) can affect how we think and behave and, therefore, how well we can achieve life goals and navigate challenges along the road to economic independence.

Intergen focuses not on bringing in experts to work with a family, but on building the skills of each family member. As each family member develops skills and confidence while working toward their own individual goals, the family makes progress on their common goals. The parent or guardian acts as a “team coach” in this process, with the aim of continuing in this role even after exiting the program.

How does Intergen work?

Each family is assigned a mentor. Mentors provide assessment, goal setting, coaching, and recognition for each individual in a family, as well as for the family as a whole. Intergen is like an “expansion pack” for Mobility Mentoring, building upon EMPath’s Bridge to Self-Sufficiency ® tool to include child- and family-centered tools that were designed with key input from participating families. Mentors use these tools when working with each member of the family and the whole family together.

Watch this video to see Intergen in action:

Where is Intergen being used?

EMPath has integrated Intergen into three of its own programs, and has partnered with organizations in Seattle, WA and Jackson, MS to conduct external pilots in the past.

This year, EMPath and the Nordblom Family Foundation selected five social service organizations to receive grants that will enable them to implement pilot testing for Intergen. The organizations, from all different parts of the U.S., gathered at EMPath’s office in August for a three-day training on how to implement Intergen in their programs.

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