It Takes a Neighborhood: Purpose Built Communities and Neighborhood Transformation

An in-depth report by Shirley Franklin, Purpose Built Communities and David Edwards, IBM Corporation

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In some respects, we, the public, are victims of our own unrealistic expectations governing the silos we have created. Schools systems cannot change educational outcomes on their own. Housing authorities cannot make up for the lack of affordable housing on their own. Police cannot on their own make streets safe. It takes a healthy, functioning neighborhood for these systems to stand a chance of delivering the outcomes we expect.

As a result, neighborhood transformation is not a complementary strategy in the fight on poverty: it is the central one. A specific, tailored plan is needed for every distressed neighborhood in the country. Alternative models must be developed for success, measuring results, and replicating them as rapidly as possible.

What East Lake has proven is that although neighborhood transformation is possible, it is tough work. It needs to be easier. When it is all said and done, the health of a city is inextricably linked to the health of its neighborhoods. They are in fact one in the same. Our nation cannot hope to advance the goal of improving educational outcomes and reducing poverty if there is not an appreciation and response to the geographic dimension of these problems. A vibrant and prosperous future for our cities can be created, but it needs to be created one neighborhood at a time.