I have written a number of posts exploring the approach of the Harlem Children’s Zone. This post will look at the heart of HCZ – the model, built on the coordinated application of five core principles.
I believe these are very insightful and important for everyone involved with community development to interact with. Though they clearly play out in a specific way in the Harlem neighborhood and would need to look different in each community, the overarching principles guiding the model are somewhat transcendent (or so I believe).
Read and consider. Future posts will take these 5 core principles and analyze them one at a time.
The Harlem Children’s Zone has created a new paradigm for fighting poverty, intended to overcome the limits of traditional approaches. Our model focuses primarily and intensively on the social, health, and educational development of children. To help support that development, we also provide wrap-around programs that improve the children’s family and neighborhood environments.
The theory of change underlying the HCZ model requires the coordinated application of its five core principles. To create change it is necessary to:
Select a specific neighborhood and work comprehensively within it. Engaging an entire neighborhood helps to achieve three goals: It reaches children in numbers significant enough to affect the culture of a community; it transforms the physical and social environments that impact the children’s development; and it creates programs at a scale large enough to meet the local need.
Create a pipeline of support. Develop excellent, accessible programs and schools and link them to one another so that they provide uninterrupted support for children’s healthy growth, starting with pre-natal programs for parents and finishing when young people graduate from college.
Surround the pipeline with additional programs that support families and the larger community. Build community among residents, institutions, and stakeholders, who help to create the environment necessary for children’s healthy development.
Evaluate program outcomes and create a feedback loop that cycles data back to management for use in improving and refining program offerings.
Cultivate a culture of success rooted in passion, accountability, leadership, and teamwork.
I am a lifelong Chicagoan, a pastor at River City Community Church, and an author who writes a lot about resisting and confronting white supremacy from a faith lens.
Our church was founded in January of 2003 in the west Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago, and is centered on the core values of worship, reconciliation, and neighborhood development. We long to see increased spiritual renewal as well as social and economic justice in the Humboldt Park neighborhood and entire city, demonstrating compassion and alleviating poverty as tangible expressions of the Kingdom of God. It is also through the gift of this faith community that I have learned to see the profound historical and spiritual impact of the stronghold of white supremacy, and where I have been challenged to broaden and deepen my understanding of discipleship in the hopes of becoming a serious enough Christ follower who is able to meaningfully participate with those who have risen up in defiance of this evil principality.
The lessons learned in this journey have been captured in a pair of books on race. The first, White Awake, explores the barriers that white people tend to face – white Christians specifically – when we attempt to awaken to and understand white supremacy through a faith lens. I spend a lot of time here addressing the internal defenses that are bound to go off when this journey is taken seriously, and I chart out a path for developing a resilient spirit that steadfastly moves towards truth, justice, and equity. The second, White Lies, further builds out the path for the white Christian who longs to actively participate in the resistance and confrontation of white supremacy. I spend a lot of time here exploring why it is so hard to tell the truth about race, as well as expose the lies that sustain it, within white, Christian, Bible-believing environments. I then propose nine practices that position us for engaging in this task.
On the personal front, my career started in the marketplace, as I was part of three dot.com startups in the 90’s. My vocational path shifted when I joined the staff of Willow Creek Community Church in 1998, and I spent five years working there. I started River City Community Church in January 2003 and have been happily serving here ever since. On the education front, my undergrad was in Business (Purdue University), my graduate degree in theology (Moody Bible Institute), and my doctoral degree in community development (Northern Seminary). On the family front, my wife is a Professor of Psychology, and we have two amazing children (Xander and Gabriella).
Leave a Reply