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.

A young man graduate embraces an adult during the graduation ceremony.

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 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.

Case Study: Stay Covered For Each Other Campaign

A little boy wears a mask and holds a puppet

Harlem Children’s Zone, together with three national partners (NAACPStriveTogether and PolicyLink) and six highly respected community partners (Northside Achievement ZoneOakland PromiseThrive ChicagoBRICK Education NetworkPurpose Built Communities and United Way for Southeastern Michigan) are driving awareness and public education about the importance of staying covered for each other. Because your mask protects your neighbors, and your neighbor’s mask protects you. And, by staying covered together, our community is stronger in fighting the virus.

Find out more >

News & Resources

Stay up to date on news, resources, and webinar recordings published by The William Julius Wilson Institute at Harlem Children’s Zone. 

News & 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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