In her previous book, Within Our Reach, renowned Harvard social analyst Lisbeth Schorr examined pilot social programs that were successful in helping disadvantaged youth and families. But as those cutting-edge programs were expanded, the very qualities that had made them initially successful were jettisoned, and less than half of them ultimately survived. As a result, these groundbreaking programs never made a dent on the national or statewide level.
Lisbeth Schorr has spent the past seven years researching and identifying large-scale programs across the country that are promising to reduce, on a community- or citywide level, child abuse, school failure, teenage pregnancy, and welfare dependence. From reformed social service agencies in Missouri, Michigan, and Los Angeles to "idiosyncratic" public schools in New York City, she shows how private and public bureaucracies are successfully nurturing programs that are flexible and responsive to the community, that have set clear, long-term goals, and that permit staff to exercise individual judgment in helping the disadvantaged. She shows how what works in small-scale pilot social programs can be adapted on a large scale to transform whole inner-city neighborhoods and reshape America.
On the heels of the federal government's dismantling of welfare guarantees, Common Purpose offers a welcome antidote to our current sense of national despair, and concrete proof that America's social institutions can be made to work to assure that all the nation's children develop the tools to share in the American dream.
This prodigiously researched study by Schorr (Within Our Reach: Breaking the Cycle of Disadvantage), head of the Harvard University Project on Effective Intervention, is an optimistic and well-thought-out call to action in the wake of cutbacks in the social safety net, most notably the repeal of federal welfare benefits in 1996. The author argues that effective pilot projects that substantially reduce child abuse, school failure, teenage pregnancy and welfare dependency can be built into large-scale programs that will eventually transform society. Detailed here are a variety of projects that have grown well beyond their original scope, such as school principal Deborah Meier's revitalization of public schools in East Harlem, which led to the creation of the New York Network for School Renewal, and Michigan's Families First Project, which became a statewide program linking families in crisis with the resources they need. According to Schorr, these initiatives succeed because they are flexible, well managed and committed to forming partnerships with families and communities, and they utilize a combination of public and private funding. (Sept.)