Leveraging the Power of Place: Strengthening the Field from Networks to Neighborhoods

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.


A Call to Action: Equitable Recovery and Systems Change

Geoffrey Canada, Harlem Children’s Zone

HCZ Founder and President Geoffrey Canada issued a call to action to end poverty in America through the power of place.


Neighborhood Capacity: Evidence for Linking Networks and Neighborhoods

Raj Chetty, Harvard University and Opportunity Insights; introduced by Connie Ballmer, Ballmer Group

Data shows the power of place and its impact on social and economic mobility. Raj Chetty, the leading authority on using data to understand social and economic mobility, discussed the importance of neighborhoods in helping children from disadvantaged backgrounds succeed.

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Place-Based Work in Action

Geoffrey Canada, President of Harlem Children’s Zone; Anne Williams-Isom, James R. Dumpson Chair in Child Welfare Studies at Fordham University’s Graduate School of Social Service and former CEO of Harlem Children’s Zone; and Kwame Owusu-Kesse, CEO of Harlem Children’s Zone

Three current and former leaders of the Harlem Children’s Zone reflect on their lived experiences implementing place-based work at scale.


Shifting Power to Neighborhoods: Negotiating Municipal Power Centers

Mayor Michael Nutter, Columbia University and Former Mayor, Philadelphia; interviewed by Kwame Owusu-Kesse, Harlem Children’s Zone

With competing priorities and power centers, how can cities ensure they meet the needs of their most disadvantaged constituents? Michael Nutter, former Mayor of Philadelphia, discussed how focusing on neighborhoods can empower communities and constituents.


Networks and Neighborhoods: Needs and Opportunities for Partnership Private

Jennifer Blatz, StriveTogether; Sondra Samuels, Northside Achievement Zone; and Dreama Gentry, Partners for Education at Berea College; moderated by Angela Glover Blackwell, PolicyLink

The Power of Place movement encompasses regional networks and neighborhood organizations with the same goal: address systemic issues to end poverty. The panelists – representing national, urban, and rural perspectives – shared the major challenges, needs, and opportunities for collaboration to end systemic inequities once and for all.


Effective School-Neighborhood Partnerships: Vehicles for Systems Change

Paul Reville, Harvard Education Redesign Lab and former Massachusetts Secretary of Education and Jose Munoz, Coalition for Community Schools; moderated by Carol Naughton, Purpose Built Communities

Schools and neighborhood organizations are at times viewed as having competing priorities in supporting children. But in reality, they are aligned, and together, they can powerfully change systems. The panelists discussed how effective school-community partnerships are key to ensuring a holistic approach to address a range of issues – education, housing, economics, safety, health, family, and others – that systematically affect vulnerable children and families.

Discover Paul Reville’s Presentation 


Remarks from William Julius Wilson

William Julius Wilson, Harvard University

William Julius Wilson, the Institute’s namesake, spoke on his seminal research on poverty and inequality’s impact on place and neighborhoods, and provided insight into how the Power of Place can be leveraged to eradicate poverty in America.

The Power of Place: Building a Field

Jim Shelton, Chief Investment and Impact Officer at Blue Meridian Partners

The power of place is gaining momentum as more and more communities attain meaningful outcomes and move the needle on social and economic mobility. Jim Shelton spoke on strategies to build a field to sustain and scale place-based efforts.

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The Power of Place: Principles and Pillars

Simone Brody, Executive Director of What Works Cities; and Hayling Price, Managing Director, Public Policy & External Engagement at Harlem Children's Zone 

Communities across America are focused on place to address pervasive social challenges and eliminate inequities. To ensure progress and impact nationwide, it is vital to align our work on a common set of guiding principles. Simone Brody and Hayling Price gave an overview of the principles and the ongoing process of developing them to advance the Power of Place movement.

Read the Place-Based Partnership Principles


Systems Change: Building Neighborhood Capacity

Lisa Early, Director of Families, Parks and Recreation at City of Orlando

Neighborhoods have a long history of facilitating systems change. Lisa Early shared lessons about catalyzing neighborhood impact from the perspective of a city-coordinated effort that builds the capacity of neighborhood organizations in one of the most vulnerable communities in Orlando, Florida.


The Policy Landscape: Engaging the Public Sector

Michael McAfee, President and CEO of PolicyLink

The success of the Power of Place movement will be measured by our ability to change the systems that perpetuate inequities in our nation. To accomplish this, collaboration with the public sector is key to systems change. Michael McAfee provided an overview of the current policy landscape and strategies to engage policymakers and officials to advance the movement.


Breakout Session Report-Out

Jennifer Wynn, Founder of Wynn Strategies; and Othello Meadows, Managing Director at Blue Meridian Partners

In break-out groups, participants shared practical examples of local and regional systems change efforts.


Shifting Power for Systems Change, Kwame Owusu-Kesse

Kwame Owusu-Kesse, Harlem Children’s Zone 

HCZ Chief Executive Officer, Kwame Owusu-Kesse closed the convening by discussing what it will take to move beyond the multiple crises of inequity facing our children, families, communities, and nation.