Our Place, a recently established initiative of the Vancouver Inner-City Community Foundation, is a collaboration of residents, community-based organizations and service providers working in the Strathcona area, committed to ensuring that children living in Vancouver’s inner city have every opportunity for success.
Recognizing that reaching out to vulnerable populations who have experienced dislocation and trauma is most effective when approached relationally. Place-based strategy involves building on the strength of existing organizations that are trusted in the community to connect the helping professions with those whom they would like to serve.
Place-based strategy enables a customized, multi-level approach to complex problems, bringing together a combination of resources and funding sources to address multiple, intertwined problems that defy a simple solution or single strategy (the so-called “wicked” problems). Place-based strategy also builds on community capacity to engage in addressing issues. “For example, the Moms to Moms group in an inner-city social housing complex provides peer support in parenting. Unlike government programs, Moms to Moms operates 24/7 enhancing the capacity of low income single mothers to manage significant stresses.”
Recently posted on the site is a link to TED speaker Geoffrey Canada, who has spent decades as head of the Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ), which supports kids from birth through college in order to break the cycle of poverty. Called “one of the most ambitious social-service experiments of our time” by The New York Times, the Harlem Children’s Zone Project is a holistic approach to rebuilding a community so that its children can stay on track through college and to adult employment.
The goal is to create a “tipping point” in the neighbourhood so that children are surrounded by an enriched environment of educationally oriented peers and supportive adults, a counterweight to “the street” and a toxic popular culture that values anti-social behaviour. The HCZ begins with The Baby College a series of workshops for parents of children ages 0-3 that develops parents’ understandings of early childhood development. The network includes in-school, after-school, social-service, health and community-building programs.
For children to do well, their families have to do well; and for families to do well, their community must do well. That is why HCZ works to strengthen families as well as empower them to have a positive impact on their children’s development. HCZ also work to reweave the social fabric of Harlem, which has been torn apart by crime, drugs and decades of poverty.