Sunday, December 27, 2009

Obama supports Promise Zone. How in Chicago?

Today's Chicago Tribune features a story about the Harlem Children's Zone, which is a highly visible effort to provide a wide range of educational and community support services for people in an 97 block stretch of the Harlem Area of NYC.

The Tutor/Mentor Connection has been proposing geographic based strategies for many years, and uses maps to help draw investment (talent and dollars) to all of the tutor/mentor programs operating in different parts of the city.

This link shows the location of the Harlem Children's Zone headquarters in the Harlem Area of NYC. (If you know of anyone mapping youth serving organizations in NYC, please share the link.)

We've also been creating an information based library, so that leaders in Chicago can build their own understanding of strategies that they read about in the media. This link points to a section of the T/MC discussion forums (inactive since 2013) where you can find more information about the Harlem's Children's Zone, as well as challenges that face anyone who wants to duplicate that in Chicago or elsewhere.

According to the Tribune article, "The Harlem Children's Zone offers educational, medical and social services from cradle to college." On the HCZ web site you'll see different sections describing services for pre school, elementary school, middle school, high school and college. This has been so well publicized that at this page you'll see efforts to spread the model all over the country.

What I don't see on the web site are maps, that show the Harlem Zone, or show how HCZ is interacting with other community agencies that also work in the area? Do they compete with HCZ? does the HCZ use all of its media attention to draw volunteers and needed resources to programs on every block in the zone. The graphic below illustrates what such a leadership role might look like.

Kids and families living in high poverty area need a wide range of supports. If you think of building a new building, the architectural drawings show diagrams of how many people work together at each stage of the project, so that the end result is a completed building. Every worker at each stage needs to do their job correctly, and each needs to be fairly paid. This concept map illustrates a first grade, to first job pipeline showing how extra adult tutors/mentors, donors, leaders, etc. need to be involved in providing age-appropriate supports as kids grow up.

Unless someone is creating a map, showing the organizations already operating in a neighborhood, and segmenting this by type of activity, it would be difficult to know if all of the talent and services needed were available in a neighborhood. It would also be difficult to mobilize the continuous resources to make sure everyone was getting paid to do what needs to be done.

The Tutor/Mentor Interactive map is a sample of what is possible. We only map tutor/mentor programs because that is the focus of our work. We don't do this as well as we'd like because we can't find donors to invest consistently in this work. Yet, you can turn layers of information on, and of, or zoom into specific areas, to learn what programs, if any, are in any specific area.

If you've been reading about Promise Zones, or inner city violence, or the state of Chicago Schools, and you are concerned about how the next $30 million or so of public money will be spent, I encourage you to take a look at our maps, and some of the articles we're pointing to. There are many strategies that leaders can take right now to make poor neighborhoods "neighborhoods of promise". There are many strategies that might cost millions, that may never come close to that goal.

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