An introduction to Harlem Children’s Zone

I am going to write a number of posts about an organization called Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ) over the next couple of weeks.  HCZ is an important organization to interact with for at least two different reasons:

1.) They have a well articulated and powerful vision and philosophy for addressing impoverished neighborhoods in a comprehensive fashion.  Decade after decade we collectively ask the question of how there can be so many ultra poor neighborhoods in a country as rich as ours, and decade after decade we fail to answer it.  The approach at HCZ seems to be achieving outcomes that are not limited to just feel good stories.  They have been analyzed by a variety of metrics from places like Harvard and journalists from the New York Times, and consistently people who may have initially been cynical walk away believing that this model and philosophy is genuinely facilitating community transformation.

2.) Another reason they are important to interact with is because President Obama has chosen them as the model by which he will emulate other anti-poverty approaches.  He is personally convinced that their model works, and that it can be replicated in other under-served communities.  Therefore he is going to launch 50 “Promise Neighborhoods” based on the model of HCZ in 20 cities across the country.  The plan is to put substantial government funding behind these anti-poverty approaches.  What HCZ stands for and the outcomes they are producing are going to have a national impact on all of us, so it would seem undebatable that it is important to interact with their model.

Future posts will get into their philosophy and strategy.  For now I have attached an American Express commercial that aired during the Oscars profiling Geoffrey Canada, the founder and CEO of HCZ.

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