Fran Fajana, staff attorney at the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, came to the Institute last week to share her vision of a place-based, intensive, comprehensive Harlem Children’s Zone-style response to poverty and inequality, and to gauge interest: “We, advocates for low-income people, are interested in collaborating with community based organizations and other stakeholders to advance innovative approaches to systematically change opportunity structures in low-opportunity communities.”
Fran drew on a recent report about Massachusetts, “The Geography of Opportunity,” which concludes that “the core of the City of Springfield contains the largest concentration of very low-opportunity neighborhoods within western Massachusetts.” (See chart below.) Fran is involved in nascent efforts in Boston (Mattapan, Roxbury, North Dorchester), led by veteran civil rights and social activist Hubie Jones. And she is motivated by the superlative data to see what can been done in Springfield.
We explained how we have been working hard to raise the level of debate, and broaden participation in the debate, about bold approaches like HCZ, and that an effort had begun in Springfield to replicate the model (aka, Promise Neighborhood). That effort–which includes Springfield and Holyoke teams–is on hold pending funding. At the federal level, there has been one recent development: the initial (and miniscule) commitment of $10 million in Obama’s FY10 budget to replicate HCZ has been augmented by $200 million in his FY11 budget.
Fran and Hubie would be wonderful partners for this important work in Springfield, and we stand ready to contribute our resources to the effort.