Geoffery Canada is the CEO of Harlem Children's Zone
We need to work with kids from birth all the way through to adulthood. They took a block-by-block approach to changing the entire community. They helped provide medical care, dental care, and other health, recreation, and other services for the children. Every child needs to be supported, guided, and cared for.
At some point in society, a culture begins to take place that works against every positive message and becomes stronger so that the child is overwhelmed by the negative. We must constantly reinforce the positive messages that are needed to help a child grow the way that he should to be a contributor to society. You have to reach a tipping point. When we look at the places where it is extraordinary that kids make it out, then those are the places that the church should go and make a difference.
It is simply about caring for people - caring for children and teaching them the way they should go and how they are to live. He talks about his grandmother and how she spoke into his life and told him about Jesus and truth and the way to live and she confronted him and he gives her great credit.
Is there great success? Do all the kids advance and get up to grade level and get better? No. He failed and there were people around him who knew he would fail and were happy he failed. Before he made big goals, it didn't matter. But after he went public, his failure in his vision became a big deal. A natural response is to pull back. But, instead, he stepped forward and said that he was going to try twice as hard and go after it again.
He had personnel problems. He had people working for him who were not getting the job done, but he kept on hanging on to staff that was not performing well. He kept hoping that people would work hard and get better. That was a mistake. He forgot that his focus was to be on the kids, not the staff. He still roots for his staff, but he now expects productivity. Think about who you are serving. You need to take notice of those who can get the job done and those who cannot.
Fundraising: raising money is really tough and the relationship that you have with the donor can be difficult. You have to listen to the donor and work with them, but you need to keep your focus on your work. You have to make sure that the gift does not detract from the work that you are called to do. Keep the vision in focus. Stay the course, even if you lose donors.
You have to build an organization that will tackle the tough problems and that is effective in dealing with the complicated problems of abuse and struggle in the community. We have to create capacity and make a difference. It is essential that we create solutions.
We need to keep working and following the vision. We don't know where we are in the process of moving toward victory. Keep fighting the good fight. If you are right, keep going. Never give up. Don't worry about adulation or credit or people taking notice of you. No one may know your name, but spend your life fighting for the right cause, even if you do not see it in your lifetime, you are part of the great march toward victory.
What role does faith have? He grew up in the 1960's in Harlem and he lost faith in the church. Inside the church building, everyone was celebrating, but they were not making a difference in the world and its suffering with drugs and crime and human devastation. His grandmother became worried about him and began speaking into his life. His grandmother was dying of cancer and he became angry and asked her how she could still have faith in God. She told him that the real test of faith is when you are faced with something so powerful and that only your faith will keep you believing in God and His love for you. It was through the suffering of his grandmother that he began to rethink things and has seen his faith in God return.
If you are a leader, you have to be 100% in on what you are doing and what you know to be right. We have to get the moral compass right. You have to think about those who are watching you and that they are trying to figure out if what you say is real based on the way that you live it out.
Geoffery Canada was profiled in the documentary, "Waiting for Superman."
Also see Michelle Rhee with Student's First.