Across the country an exciting new initiative is being implemented. The idea was originally born in Harlem in the early 90’s when leaders realized they would need to do something to turn their neighborhoods around. They decided to do a series of activities designed to change the environment in the neighborhood from crime driven to education driven. The ambitious project included a 10 year business plan. What began as a one block project has now expanded to 100 blocks and is the model being used to implement change all around the country.
The Harlem Children’s Zone has been called “one of the most ambitious social service experiments of our time” by the New York Times. The success of the program is driving local and national leaders to attempt to replicate the program in their own neighborhoods. The hallmark of the program is that they try to catch children when they are babies and to follow them through college and into the job market. This idea is known as “cradle to career.” Children of all ages and their families receive services all along the age and developmental continuum until they enter the job force.
National Holistic Model Adopted Locally
Our Kearns Junior High Community Learning Center, in partnership with the United Way of Salt Lake, Utah Partners for Health and many other excellent partners, is attempting a similar model to bring services into the school and break down barriers. It seems that these collaborative partnerships are the “wave of the future” and are likely to become more common.
There are many advantages to this holistic approach to communities and education. More and more political and educational leaders are realizing that focusing only on academic achievement doesn’t necessarily capture the “whole” picture.
In order to help a child succeed in school, it’s important to make sure that all of their needs are being met. A child who is hungry cannot concentrate in school. A child who cannot see has a difficult time completing school assignments. These efforts to bring a variety of social services into the schools and communities are ways to overcome these barriers. The best way to bring these services to communities is through partnerships between schools, social services organizations, health organizations and many others. These efforts take a great deal of collaboration.
More Effective Collaboration: 5 Conditions for Success
In an article entitled “Collective Impact” the Stanford Social Innovation Review highlighted ways that groups can collaborate more effectively. They refer to these as the “five conditions of collective success:”
1 – Common Agenda -collective impact requires all participants to have a shared vision of change that includes a common understanding of the problem and a joint approach to solving it through agreed upon actions.
2 – Shared measurement Systems-collecting data and measuring results consistently on a short list of indicators ensures that all efforts remained aligned and enables participants to hold each other accountable and learn from their successes and failures.
3 – Mutually Reinforcing Activities-encourage each participant to undertake the specific set of activities at which it excels in a way that supports and is coordinated with the action of others.
4 – Continous Communication-have regular meetings and make sure that people attend them.
5 – Backbone Support Organizations-there needs to be an organization able and willing to bring everyone together and serve as the “backbone” for the initiative.
By using the Harlem Children’s Zone model in close collaboration, we hope to see a great impact with the youth and families we are workig with in the Kearns area. By working together, we can accomplish so much more than just standing it alone!
What do you think? Why is it so important to build partnerships to help families and youth?