Harlem Children's Zone

Geofrey Canada.
United States
A comprehensive cradle-to-college pipeline of education, social services and community-building programmes that help children get to and through college, enter the labour world and build skills for successful futures, breaking generational poverty.
What solution does the innovation propose?

Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ®) engages the Central Harlem community in a multi-pronged, holistic strategy for a better neighbourhood future by providing a sequential pipeline of educational, recreational, and social programmes that serve children at all critical stages of their childhood and adolescence, starting at birth and continuing through college graduation. Its educational and enrichment activities are complemented by a rich network of wraparound services, including parent and family support systems, health and nutrition programming, and community centres that engage neighbourhood residents of all ages.


Jefferson Award for Public Service (2007). Harold W. McGraw Jr. Prize in Education (2004). Brennan Legacy Award, New York University (2002). First Heinz Award (1994).

Impact evidence

  • In 2015-2016, more than 13,000 children and 12,000 adults participated in HCZ® programmes.
  • President Obama instituted a Promise Neighborhoods Initiative intended to replicate the model in 20 cities across the United States.
  • In 2016, 96% of HCZ® high school seniors were accepted to college.
  • 90% of high school students and 73% of middle school students had school attendance rates that met or exceeded the New York City average.
  • Since inception, 99% of pre-kindergarteners were assessed as school ready.
  • A lottery-based randomised trial suggests that the effects of attending an HCZ® middle school are enough to close the black-white achievement gap in mathematics.
How does it work?

The organisation operates under three principles:

  • Serving an entire neighbourhood comprehensively and at scale.
  • Creating a pipeline of support.
  • Building community among residents, institutions and stakeholders, who help create a positive family and neighbourhood environment.

HCZ’s programmes and services include:

  • ‘The Baby College’, an intensive child development and parenting course for new and expecting parents and caregivers of children age 0-3.
  • 'Harlem Gems', a pre-kindergarten programme that prepares young children to enter kindergarten school-ready.
  • Two charter schools, called ‘Promise Academies’, and an extensive network of in- and after-school programmes that provide rigorous educational, college-preparatory, and youth development services to school-aged children and youth.
  • The ‘College Success Office’, which guides college students along their paths toward graduation and the workforce by providing academic and financial advisement, social-emotional support, and career development opportunities.
  • ‘Healthy Harlem’, an organisation-wide initiative that provides children with one hour of exercise a day and 45 minutes of nutrition education a week.
  • ‘Preventive Services’, which help families in crisis become more stable and avoid potential foster care placement, by providing services such as counselling, referrals to health care providers, and assistance with housing, clothing, and other urgent needs.

Geographical scope

Where was initially developed
Harlem, New York, United States.
Where has been implemented so far
The model has inspired public policies and community programmes at both the national and international levels.
Last updated: 
August 2018