Principles of Community Development – #3

Continuing a series of posts looking at the 5 principles that govern the Harlem Children’s Zone model…

Principle 3: Building Community

Of course, no matter how effective, it takes more than one series of programs working together to support a child’s development. It takes an entire community working together to do that. So from the beginning, HCZ has worked collaboratively with local residents, faith-based institutions, cultural organizations, and other leaders on an array of issues affecting children.

Children’s development is profoundly affected by their environment. The most important part of that environment is, of course, the family and the home. But it also matters greatly what children face once they step outside their home. Will their role models be drug dealers loitering on the corner or neighbors in work attire walking to the train every morning to go to work? Will children jump rope in safe playgrounds or congregate in vacant lots? Pride in the neighborhood and strong, thoughtful local leadership must flourish alongside stable families and effective programs. For it is residents, stakeholders, and local institutions that will, in the end, sustain the community.

For these reasons, community building is an essential part of the HCZ model. Residents have advised us on local needs and guided our growth at every stage of our development. Through leadership training, community organizing, neighborhood beautification, connections to social services, and a host of other activities, we work every day to build a strong community and mend the fabric of Central Harlem.

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