About Wilson Institute

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

Our Vision

Housed at HCZ, 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 WJW 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 Service Offerings

The WJW 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.

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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 Response and Recovery

During the height of COVID-19, HCZ successfully designed and implemented a five-phase emergency response and recovery plan in Harlem. The WJW Institute team is currently scaling the program with partners in six cities where Black people are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 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
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5 Needs That Any COVID-19 Response Should Meet

In a TED Talk, HCZ CEO Kwame Owusu-Kesse explains HCZ’s comprehensive COVID-19 relief and recovery response focused on five primary areas of need.

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Harlem Children’s Zone Responds: This Is About Saving Lives

In March 2020, HCZ staff came together to assemble free groceries for community members facing job loss, hunger, and grief due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Partners across the country are helping to scale COVID-19 response efforts in six cities.

Leveraging the Power of Place Conference

The William Julius Wilson Institute at Harlem Children’s Zone hosted a virtual summit focused on place-based, cradle-to-career solutions to confront systemic inequities devastating low-income communities, especially communities of color. Practitioners at Leveraging the Power of Place: Strengthening the Field from Networks to Neighborhoods advocated for systems change through neighborhood capacity building, effective school-community partnerships, and public sector engagement to change the odds for a generation of young people.

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Exploring Place-Based Efforts and the American Rescue Plan Act Webinar

​In partnership with Blue Meridian Partners and Results for America ​(R4A)​, The William Julius Wilson Institute (WJWI) at Harlem Children’s Zone hosted a webinar, Funding, Fiscal Transparency, and a Racial Equity Government Agenda, exploring place-based efforts and the American Rescue Plan Act. Policy experts from R4A and PolicyLink, along with local leaders from Salt Lake City, discussed how increased federal resources offer an opportunity for community leaders and local government officials to create more power-balanced partnerships focused on economic opportunity.

Watch the event >

About William Julius Wilson

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William Julius Wilson

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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