A Community Development Model

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.

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