About Wilson Institute

The William Julius Wilson Institute, named for one of our nation’s most prolific African American scholars on poverty and inequality and led by Geoffrey Canada — founder and president of Harlem Children’s Zone — is a national resource for place-based, people-focused solutions that open pathways to social and economic mobility.

Housed at Harlem Children’s Zone, the Wilson Institute works together with on-the-ground collaborators and national partners to deliver comprehensive strategies, support services, and tools that systematically root out poverty and close opportunity gaps in neighborhoods across America. The Wilson Institute acts as a central hub for place-based services and programs and for backbone organizations to access the supports they need to be successful.

Our Services

The Wilson Institute provides three types of catalytic supports.

Best-in-class expertise to strengthen strategies, systems, and skills of community collaborators so teams can lead, achieve, and sustain measurable results.

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From education to employment and health access to housing, we collaborate with communities to close opportunity gaps in neighborhoods for direct impact.

Kwame Owusu-Kesse greets children outside school

Whether it’s shaping bold strategies, connecting partners, or scaling outcomes, we move the field forward with insight, influence, and impact.

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Case Study: COVID-19 Relief and Recovery

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COVID-19 hit Black communities disproportionately hard. Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ) took swift and broad action to hit back.

In short order, HCZ developed a five-pronged emergency response and recovery plan in Harlem — a critical lifeline to close resource gaps and address vulnerabilities in our community. 

So impactful was our work that The Audacious Project at TED selected Harlem Children’s Zone as one of its prestigious 2020 project grantees, making a generous $26 million commitment towards our goal of raising $50 million to expand our COVID-19 relief and recovery efforts to six other communities around the country. The William Julius Wilson Institute at Harlem Children’s Zone is leading this national effort by:

  • Outlining potential actions against each focus area
  • Providing training and technical assistance
  • Sharing public health campaign materials
  • Virtually convening community leaders to problem solve and share proven practices
  • Assisting in securing resources

Discover more about COVID-19 Relief and Recovery >


Case Study: Stay Covered For Each Other

A little boy wears a mask and holds a puppet

The Wilson Institute, together with national partners NAACPStriveTogether and PolicyLink and six community partners launched Stay Covered For Each Other. The national campaign was developed to drive awareness and public education about the importance of wearing masks to stem the spread of COVID-19.

The campaign’s message to everyone, everywhere, was simple: keep your distance and wear masks to protect your neighbors and those on the frontlines fighting the virus.

Discover more about Stay Covered for Each Other >

Events & Resources

Stay up to date on events and resources from The William Julius Wilson Institute at Harlem Children’s Zone. 

Events & Resources

About William Julius Wilson

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William Julius Wilson
Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor, Harvard University

William Julius Wilson is a sociologist and Harvard University professor who has authored seminal works on urban sociology, race, and class. His work has identified the importance of neighborhood effects and demonstrated how limited employment opportunities and weakened institutional resources exacerbate poverty in American cities.

His books include Power, Racism and Privilege (1973), The Declining Significance of Race (1978), The Truly Disadvantaged (1987), When Work Disappears (1996), The Bridge over the Racial Divide (1999), There Goes the Neighborhood (2006, co-author), Good Kids from Bad Neighborhoods (2006, co-author), and, most recently, More than Just Race: Being Black and Poor in the Inner City (2009).


Interested in learning more about the William Julius Wilson Institute? We’d love to connect with you.

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