Public Health Discussion

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REV: MARCH 11, 2004
The Harlem Children’s Zone
Driving Performance with Measurement and Evaluation
What we are doing for our children, middle- and upper-class people do for their children without the need
for data analysis or evaluation. You don’t go to any middle class parent and tell them of the great analytics of a
Head Start program or the lasting effects of after-school activities. But that is how it works with poor children.
— Geoffrey Canada
In December of 2002, Geoffrey Canada reviewed the progress of the two-year-old business plan of
the Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ), a $15.6 million social service organization working with poor
families and children in Harlem, a borough of New York City. (See Exhibit 1 for statistics on
Harlem.) He reflected on how his theory to save thousands of children, one child at a time, was
becoming a reality. Growing up poor and fatherless in the Bronx, he learned the dangers of streets
and the difficulties of drugs and violence. “As a child,” said Canada, “I desperately wanted to be
rescued. I said that if I ever got the chance, I would try to rescue kids.” Now president and chief
executive officer of HCZ, Canada managed 450 employees serving over 8,000 children and 5,000
adults through 12 interrelated programs in Central Harlem.
Canada believed that to actively help children from troubled communities grow to healthy
adulthood and become responsible and fulfilled members of their community, two important things
had to happen. First, they must be surrounded by a critical mass of caring adults. Second, early in
their lives, they must be exposed to sound health care, intellectual and social stimulation, and
consistent guidance. These twin principles formed an integrated program model upon which HCZ
developed an ambitious growth plan in 2000. Previously, the agency had run a variety of successful
programs that were funded separately and worked somewhat independently of each other. But none
were at the scale that Canada felt was needed to reach thousands of poor children in Harlem. Now,
with this new integrated model, Canada was betting on the promise that within 10 years HCZ would
reach $46 million in revenues, serve 24,000 people, and expand to an area three times the size of its
current zone. He and his senior staff were confident that HCZ would prove to be a replicable model
for social service delivery and child advocacy across the country.
But the plan required the agency to drastically change its management structure, measurement
systems, and program goals. Over the past two years, he and his staff had struggled with measuring
the impact of HCZ’s work, especially in monitoring the overall effectiveness of its interrelated
programs. Canada spoke optimistically of “setting up a seamless system of support from the moment
of pregnancy to the time that child goes to college, a best-practice conveyor belt.” But could such a
system be measured? Could it be scaled? And how did the changes challenge the passionate program
managers who first developed the components of the system?
Professor Allen Grossman and Daniel Curran, Director of the Humanitarian Leadership Program at HBS, prepared this case. HBS cases are
developed solely as the basis for class discussion. Cases are not intended to serve as endorsements, sources of primary data, or illustrations of
effective or ineffective management.
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The Harlem Children’s Zone
The Early Years
The Harlem Children’s Zone was formerly known as the Rheedlen Centers for Children and
Families (Rheedlen), which was founded by Richard Murphy in 1970. Rheedlen focused mostly on
truancy prevention and from the start gained a reputation for being innovative and unafraid to work
in the city’s most devastated neighborhoods. One long-time employee remembered, “Richard
Murphy was a driven guy who sought to create safe places for kids in bad neighborhoods.” Ray
Laszczych, current director of development and a 17-year employee, stated, “Murphy was confident
in his people. He was afraid of structures and planning, because he felt this was the approach that
other less effective agencies had pursued. Instead, we would find an opportunity, go get the contract,
hire a good person, and send him or her to figure out how to do it.” Rheedlen grew in this way
throughout the 1980s to become a strong social service organization with programs throughout the
Geoffrey Canada assumed the leadership of Rheedlen in 1990. Canada had grown up in the Bronx
and received an undergraduate degree from Bowdoin College and a Master’s degree in education
from Harvard. He spent several years working in schools and social service agencies in Boston. In
1983, Canada returned to New York and started working in the truancy prevention program at
Rheedlen. The agency had a strong culture of promotion from within and Canada slowly moved up
the ranks. He worked in a variety of Rheedlen programs with other committed social service
providers, gaining a reputation as an effective manager and motivator. When Murphy moved on to
become New York City’s Commissioner of Youth Services, Canada was his natural replacement.
“Geoff was inspirational and visionary,” stated Laszczych. “When he came in, he posed a challenging
question to the agency: ‘What should we do to transform our neighborhoods?’”
Rheedlen in the 1990s
At the time, Rheedlen ran a patchwork of distinct programs serving approximately 1,500 children
throughout the city. Programs included several foster care prevention services, a senior center, and a
dropout prevention program. Each program was led by a long-term program director who had near
autonomy in program design and implementation. In his first few years as president, Canada
encouraged Rheedlen’s opportunistic growth and, at the same time, worked to bring about a sense of
commonality in mission among the program directors. He maintained a lean headquarters staff,
running all operations out of a small office on Broadway and 107 Street. “We never had fancy
offices, because I wanted us to work at the street level. We needed to be where the kids were, to know
them by name and work with them directly,” stated Canada.
In 1991, Rheedlen opened its first Beacon School at PS 194 on West 144 Street. The Beacon Schools
Program was a city-funded after-school initiative, which redesigned schools to become multiservice
centers open days and evenings, seven days a week, throughout the year and provided programs in
sports, adult education, and parenting support. The idea was to keep children engaged in positive
activities during their off hours.
The program, named the Countee Cullen Community Center, sought to use the school to support the
redevelopment of the community. In the same year, Rheedlen opened the Neighborhood Gold
homelessness prevention program. The program’s work with organizing tenants to improve the
quality of life in their buildings led to the development of a community-building program,
Community Pride. Starting in 1993, Community Pride, under the direction of Lee Farrow, worked
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The Harlem Children’s Zone
closely with the residents of one block in Central Harlem, West 119 Street, to restore their buildings
and block. In 1995, Rheedlen took administrative responsibility for TRUCE (The Renaissance University
for Community Education), a project that provided arts and media education for youth in Harlem. In
1996, Rheedlen developed the Harlem Peacemakers’ Success in Schools program. Under the direction of
Rasuli Lewis, the program placed Harlem Peacemakers, college-age AmericCorps interns, into
classrooms in Harlem where they assisted teachers with lessons, taught conflict resolution in the
school yard, tutored after school, and worked with parents and staff to create safe zones in schools.
As Rheedlen grew, Canada relied heavily on his deputy, George Khaldun, to help in management,
strategy, and fundraising. Each program director reported directly to Canada and Khaldun. Canada
left all hiring, program, and personnel decisions in the hands of the program directors. Each program
was supported by multiple, often-overlapping funding sources, each with its own reporting and
accounting requirements. Some requirements were handled from headquarters, others from the
program sites. Canada was confident in the abilities of his directors to take advantage of
opportunities to design and run effective programs. But he and Khaldun were demanding of their
directors. One director remembered, “Geoff would visit and always wanted to know why we were
doing certain things. He demanded that we verify the work of our staff. He didn’t micromanage us,
but we had to be able to provide evidence for our decisions.” Another stated, “Geoff had first-hand
experience and always asked broader questions about how our work fit into the fight against poverty
and violence.”
The program directors met regularly and shared the lessons they learned in the course of their
work. They became familiar with each other’s strengths and helped one another with difficult
personnel and program issues. For instance, directors would go to Lee Farrow, the director of
Community Pride, when they needed assistance in organizing community outreach efforts. Wilma
Morton, director of the Family Support Center on Lenox Avenue had a good understanding of
regulations governing social services in the state and city. Likewise, Canada brought important
strategic questions to the directors for their input before making decisions.
By 1999, the agency was serving over 6,000 children with a budget of $9 million. (See Exhibit 2 for
financial statements.) An effective speaker and writer, Canada brought recognition and funding to
the agency’s programs. He argued that the problem of poor children could not be solved from afar:
There is no way that government or social scientists or philanthropy can solve this problem
with a media campaign or other safe solutions operating from a distance. There is no safe way
to deal with the violence our children face. The only way we are going to make a difference is
by placing well-trained and caring adults in the middle of what can only be called a free-fire
zone in our poorest communities. Adults standing side by side with children in the war zones
of America is the only way to turn this thing around.
But Canada was frustrated by the whims of foundations that dictated program design through their
various initiatives. He considered whether Rheedlen was maximizing its effectiveness with its mix of
programs or whether its pursuit of funding left it with services that were diffuse and disconnected.
He dreamed of building the agency based on its potential impact rather than creating new programs
and adapting existing ones to accommodate externally perceived needs and available funding.
Canada began to pay more attention to a Rheedlen initiative called “The Harlem Children’s
Zone,” which he, his senior staff, and program directors had developed to help the agency reach
critical mass and scale. In 1995, the city of New York began to explore alternative management
programs for the thousands of run-down properties it held throughout the city. The Tenant Interim
Lease (TIL) Program was established to allow tenants of city-owned buildings to organize and obtain
ownership of their apartments. “We started a massive outreach for residents to organize under the
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The Harlem Children’s Zone
TIL Program,” stated Lee Farrow, director of Community Pride. “In two years, we organized 12
buildings on 119 street and helped 133 families with home ownership.”
In 1997, the city gave Farrow a list of 150 buildings that it owned in a 24-block zone in Central
Harlem, a residential and commercial area between 116 and 123 Streets and between Fifth and
Eight Avenues, six blocks north of Central Park. “We developed a community-building program and
called it the Harlem Children’s Zone,” stated Farrow. (See Exhibit 3 for maps of the zone.) The
project, funded in parts by several sources, combined successful elements of the Community Pride and
Neighborhood Gold programs and integrated them with Rheedlen’s school-based preventive programs
to serve the same families in the zone.
Business Planning
Canada felt that the zone approach might make a good model for Rheedlen’s future growth. It
was designed to have a cumulative and scalable impact on a designated population, and it set strict
geographic boundaries for the provision of services. In late 1999, Nancy Roob of the Edna McConnell
Clark Foundation1 called Canada and asked if he would like to participate in a business planning
process. EMCF was a recognized leader in the youth development field and a long-time supporter of
various Rheedlen programs. The Foundation was in the process of fundamentally altering its grantmaking approach from limited funding of many organizations to larger, longer-term institutionbuilding grants. Roob saw Rheedlen as an attractive candidate for one of these new grants and
wanted to determine whether the agency could sharpen its focus through a careful business planning
Canada welcomed the chance to obtain sustainable funding for more purposeful growth. In early
2000, EMCF provided a $250,000 grant for Rheedlen to hire Bridgespan, a Boston-based firm founded
earlier in the year by Bain & Company, a leading for-profit strategy-consulting firm. Itself a
nonprofit, Bridgespan focused on providing strategic consulting services exclusively to the nonprofit
sector.2 Under the terms of the contract, a team of consultants from Bridgespan—under the
leadership of Jeffery Bradach and Paul Carttar—would work with Canada and his staff to develop a
plan that, if approved, would form the basis for a five-year EMCF grant. Bradach stated, “Our
challenge was to help Canada evaluate the myriad programs Rheedlen offered, sharpen its strategic
positioning, and create a solid growth plan and performance measures he and his team could use to
move forward and attract broad-based, long-term funding.”
For the next five months, the Bridgespan team and the Rheedlen staff worked together to collect
and analyze data to answer four important questions: What was Rheedlen’s theory of change? Who
did it intend to help? What programs were needed to achieve its intended impact? What operating
infrastructure, performance metrics, and funding levels would be required over time to reach its full
potential? Bradach stated, “Rheedlen needed a clear focus and a plan that would inform its growth
and Canada needed more leeway in funding to support the big picture over the long-term.” The
consultants, most of whom had MBAs, worked to assemble a base of facts about each of Rheedlen’s
programs relative to expectations for the program’s performance. They analyzed enrollment data
over multiple years, both within and between programs. They also gathered primary data through
interviews with participants, other local service providers, and community members. And they
analyzed each program’s profits and losses to help guide the allocation of resources. With this data,
1 See HBS Case 302-090, “EMCF: A New Approach at an Old Foundation.”
2 See HBS Case 301-011, “The Bridgespan Group.”
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The Harlem Children’s Zone
the consulting team and Rheedlen staff engaged in discussions around several themes: What do we
consider to be “success”? What are we trying to achieve? What are we willing to be held accountable
for achieving?
At first, the collaboration was rocky. The directors at Rheedlen were engaged in managing day-today operations in some of the most violent neighborhoods in America. They had learned to make
decisions quickly and adapt programs as needed. They had not had the time, resources, or skills to
analyze their efforts in great detail. For many, the self-scrutiny was uncomfortable. “We rarely had
the historic facts and figures that they wanted,” stated one program director. “It made me feel like I
was not doing a good job.” But over time, the process brought to Rheedlen a new type of analytic
thinking combined with a deeper understanding of the underlying economics of its programs. The
analysis allowed management to think holistically about the agency and compare the performance
and relative impacts of each program. Canada stated:
The process was harder and more time consuming than I’d expected. It was four to five
hours a week of thinking, and talking, and working through issues that came up. If I had
known before what it was going to take, I probably would not have gotten involved. But the
payoff has been tremendous. It helped us see our programs more clearly and make decisions
based on concrete comparative costs and opportunities.
The Business Plan
The process resulted in an ambitious and detailed growth plan (see for a copy of the
complete plan) based on several key elements. First, it forced Rheedlen to explicitly state the theory of
change that would undergird its approach—i.e., for children to reach a healthy and productive
adulthood requires programs that provide a critical mass of engaged, effective families, and early and
progressive intervention in children’s development. Second, the organization decided to concentrate most
of its activities on the families in the 24-block region of the Harlem Children’s Zone. This
concentration of efforts—reaching a greater percentage of residents in the zone with a wider, more
effective mix of services, particularly at earlier stages of a child’s development—became the
operational blueprint for the organization. Third, the organization committed to go to scale and
eventually serve thousands of poor children with a large network of program services in an
expanded geographic area. The plan then described the kinds of beneficiaries, rates of growth, and
zone penetration goals that Rheedlen committed to reach. It explained the new management and
information systems that the agency would need and presented a specific timetable for the
development of each (see Exhibit 4 for elements of the plan). It laid out a clear path for the following
nine years, separated into three distinct phases. The first phase would be devoted to refining the basic
program model; the second and third would involve systematic expansion of HCZ to two adjacent
geographic areas.
Canada and his senior staff determined that Rheedlen needed to align its current programs and
add certain programs to its mix to achieve their objectives. Of particular importance were the needs
of children in the preschool-age bracket. The plan called for the development of two Head Start
programs within four years. Likewise, the plan suggested a reorganization in which the Harlem
Children’s Zone Project and the Beacon/Preventives Programs were split and managed by separate
senior program directors. To free up managerial and financial resources, Canada made the difficult
decision to close three successful programs—the Jackie Robinson Senior Center; El Camino Drop-out
Prevention Program in lower Manhattan, and the Neighborhood Gold Homelessness Prevention
Program. “It was very hard to close those programs and the other directors were stunned,” stated
Canada. “Intellectually, it made sense, but, emotionally, we did not want to let them go.”
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The Harlem Children’s Zone
Nevertheless, he felt that the resources required to support them would have far greater impact if
they were directed to penetrating the zone with more services. (See Exhibit 5 for market penetration
rates by age.) In addition, the plan called for the construction of a new, $31 million, 100,000-squareth
foot headquarters to be built at 125 Street and Madison Avenue and opened by 2004. The facility
would house administrative offices, a planned charter school and Beacon Program, Head Start, the
Baby College, a Medical and Dental Clinic, and a new Practitioner’s Institute.
In his 2000 yearly report, Geoff Canada described how the programs would function together:
Our programs are built around a belief that aims to develop healthy children and a healthy
community at the same time. Our focus is on frequency and critical mass. The programs form a
continuum of care, beginning with the Baby College, which teaches skill for parenting children
ages 0–3; progressing through Harlem Gems, a Head Start Program for four-year-olds; on to
TRUCE, a comprehensive youth development program that last year helped 17 out of 18 high
school students gain entrance to college. Our programs to promote community building
include the Employment and Technology Center and Community Pride, a resident-led
neighborhood revitalization project. HCZ also provides child-abuse and neglect-prevention
services to residents within and outside the HCZ Project in part through its two beacon
schools; Countee Cullen Community Center at P.S. 194 and Booker T. Washington Center at M.S. 54.
Lee Farrow stated, “Making the Harlem Children’s Zone the centerpiece of our strategy was a
brilliant idea. We focus all of our energies on the same families and children. We get churches,
businesses, schools, and tenants together to be part of the design and solution to make kids healthy
and safe.” Standing in front of a large map of the zone hanging in the conference room of her office at
Community Pride, she pointed out the red-shaded buildings, gold stars, and green flags that demarked
programs and plans for the agency. “We are now a patchwork whole, not fully conceived, but
merged together for a unified purpose. There was no grand design—it is really an emergent vision
that will take a lot of work, but I am certain will succeed,” said Farrow. (See Exhibit 6 for program
Following the creation of the business plan, EMCF provided Rheedlen with $5.75 million in
funding over the following three years. The Robin Hood Foundation and The Picower Foundation
provided an additional combined total of $7 million.
Measurement and Evaluation
One of the first imperatives in the business plan was the need to “rigorously track and apply
appropriate performance metrics to validate and improve the service model.” Canada was driven to
meet this imperative. Over the years, he felt that his directors were doing a good job of achieving
outcomes for children in their respective programs. “This is not revolutionary stuff. It is just common
sense what we are talking about: start them early and give them good solid interaction and stay with
them over time and it works.” But he committed the agency to be more rigorous and systematic
about measuring impact for several reasons. First, the agency had never shied away from scrutiny.
Canada and his senior program directors had always prided themselves in evaluating their work to
enhance program quality. Second, the stakes were higher. Khaldun said, “Funders have always been
concerned about deliverables and how we spend our money. But at this new level of funding, they
really want to quantify their deliverables.” Finally, it gave Rheedlen the opportunity to engage more
fully in policy debates. Canada stated:
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The Harlem Children’s Zone
If we are right 80% of the time, it is fine for the kids in our programs. But it won’t have an
impact on policy. We want our work to have an impact on city, state, and federal policy for
poor children in poor communities. And we know what that game is all about. They say,
“Show me. And even after you show me I won’t believe you. And I certainly won’t let you talk
about it unless you show me the numbers.”
Canada felt that the agency had to prove its model case-by-case and child-by-child. Furthermore, if
the zone was going to grow at its planned rapid rate, then it needed to first refine its model. Reaching
the goal would require simultaneously developing several new capabilities. Although the business
specifically described most elements of Rheedlen’s strategy, it left the following elements largely
Indicators of success The plan promised to “establish specific goals and metrics for each
program.” Developing a robust program response depended on a deep understanding and
knowledge of what types and “doses” of interventions truly had a positive impact on children. This
would require working with program directors to determine indicators of success for each program
or devising a common set of indicators from program to program. (See Exhibit 7 for example of
outcome measurements.)
Information collection Rheedlen committed to design a comprehensive measurement and
evaluation system by the end of 2001 that would provide a timely management tool as it grew. The
plan stated, “The agency will need to create the capability to collect and thoroughly evaluate
objective data on the performance of specific programs and of the agency as a whole.” Khaldun
explained, “The system would need to integrate several sources of information into a sophisticated
moving picture of the people the agency served and their satisfaction with the service and
effectiveness of programs.” The plan promised to include information sources such as demographic
data, participant surveys, school attendance, and academic performance. It would also track the rates
of participants who lived in the zone and the frequency of their visits to an HCZ program.
Information analysis Canada stated, “Our hope was to find out clearly where we have a
positive impact and how can we improve it.” For example, Canada suggested that Rheedlen measure
academic performance by systematically collecting students’ report cards and attendance in its
programs. The system would then be able to run an analysis of how many times a young person has
to come to one of the programs, for how many hours, and over how many days to receive its benefits.
Canada elaborated:
We felt that the frequency and duration of a kid’s participation was important in
determining impact. We assumed that if we are going to have an impact, then we think a kid
will need to visit this program at least 50 times in a year. So we said to our program directors,
“How many of your kids are going less than 50? And how can we get the kids that are between
40 and 50 to come over 50? How much is that going to cost us?” Then we can compare
programs. Why is one working better than the other? We have the same kids but they may be
getting an entirely different response [in a different program]. Perhaps there is something
qualitatively different going on.
Measuring overall impact A key assumption in Rheedlen’s theory of change was that
children in the zone would receive multiple services, but little data existed about whether that was
happening. The new plan promised to track cumulative evidence of the effectiveness of its overall
approach. It stated: “The Harlem Children’s Zone is more than simply the sum of its programs.
Accordingly, setting overarching goals that reflect the results of the combined efforts of the HCZ
services, and determining appropriate indicators to measure the achievement of those goals, will be
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The Harlem Children’s Zone
critical components of a comprehensive outcomes and evaluation system for the whole
Canada knew that he was committing the agency to a challenging imperative. Meeting
operational milestones such as hiring staff and implementing new technologies would not be
difficult. Likewise, he could see meeting output goals such as the number of people served and the
integration of services.
But finding a cost-effective and reliable means of measuring the long-term impact of the agency
would be a complex task. He and his staff were committing to improve the lives of children in one
geographic area—an area that had a poverty rate five times the national average, unemployment levels
four times the national average, a high rate of foster care placement, and low percentage of high
school graduates. This would require each program to focus management attention on increasing its
penetration rate in the zone (see Exhibit 8 for penetration targets). Could they even correlate
individual child achievement to improvement in the zone?
One of the critical factors of the agency’s success was the freedom for directors to follow their
distinctive interests. Most of them had been with the organization for more than seven years. They
were each used to developing programs and using individual systems of evaluation in varying
degrees to measure their impact and inform their decisions. Now, funders and senior managers were
going to demand that they be responsible for success in the zone and individual students’
performances, a uniform set of measures, and perhaps a uniform model. (See Exhibit 9 for outputs.)
In early 2000, The Robin Hood Foundation funded Philliber Research Associates for three years to
evaluate the Harlem Children’s Zone Project. The agency had long been running evaluation efforts
and this would augment internal systems. Using existing data, such as demographic profiles and
attitudinal surveys, Philliber promised to provide process evaluation reports for several programs
and determine indicators for each program to measure interim and longer-term outcomes.
Staff at headquarters began to ask program directors for more detailed information on all
participants. The numbers and ages of children, their residence in the zone, the numbers of times they
came to the program each week, and their situations at home were all important. This information
would form the basis of an agency-wide database. Early meetings with program directors, Philliber
researchers, and senior staff determined that academic performance in reading and math would be an
early common measure of impact. This goal resonated with Canada’s firm belief in educational basics
as a proxy for sound development. Accordingly, they asked directors to collect and record the
reading and math grades of each child so they could measure progress over time. Khaldun
distributed electronic scanners for tracking the attendance of every participant, each with his or her
own card number and bar code. When a participant passed through any HCZ program, his or her
card was scanned. Khaldun stated:
We not only wanted to know the effectiveness of each program, we wanted to know what
happens to our kids over time. From one program to the next—Baby College, Harlem Gems,
programs from K-5 inside public school, middle school, and high school. Our bet is that any
child who starts with us and attended the series of supports we provide, by fourth grade,
should be able to read on grade level.
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The Harlem Children’s Zone
Over the next year, program directors began to feel changes in their relationship with HCZ senior
managers. Most obvious was the frequency of new demands for numbers. Leroy Darby, director of
the Employment and Technology Center, described his new reporting responsibilities:
The measurement process drove directors crazy. Some got their whole staff involved in
counting numbers, but I refused. I wanted to shield them from the craziness. We got strange
demands at odd times. For example, I would get a call for an immediate report on the numbers
of kids between ages of four through seven that lived in the zone and took classes at our center
during the year. The reports sometimes got in the way of programs. The database was a big
work in progress. The idea was to have a tool to help us make reports without going through
papers. But it didn’t work easily. I sat and went through all of the addresses and started
checking attendance sheets. I checked each one off and then tallied the numbers.
Another program director observed, “Overall measurement was not something that I was
interested in. I did the numbers to report to others what we were doing. It’s driven by our revenue
streams and I am willing to do it to stay afloat.” After a year of reporting, another director stated:
We key in all of our report cards, but have yet to see what they do with them. I think it goes
on a big grid and goes to a funder. We don’t get those reports back but I am not sure if they
would be very helpful to me. I will leave that analysis and crunching to the gang in HQ. But it
is demanding of our time. We have kids from many different schools. We get report cards from
different schools at different times and all sorts of classes fit under the same subject. Simply
measuring it is harder than it seems.
Canada sympathized with his directors. “People were accustomed to dealing just with their
programs. Now we were suddenly asking them to think about the zone and its interactions. We
expected them to deal with six or seven big changes at the same time. And we wanted them to think
about penetration rates, frequencies, and integration.” Khaldun remembered:
We were in a difficult place because our funders were making frequent demands for data—
how many seven-year-olds in all of your programs? How many four-year–olds in Harlem Gems
came from two-parent families? We became a lab for all of our funders research. And we could
not say “no.” Technology was supposed to help us, but the database took time and had many
problems with duplication.”
Canada told his directors, “I know how you feel and I’m sorry. We will make you feel better later.
But now you’ve got to do this.”
By the end of 2001, Canada hired two senior program directors from the outside, as stipulated in
the plan, to oversee the direct management program directors. This would free him and Khaldun to
focus on the growth, strategy, and measurement of the organization. “I know that my program
directors did not like being removed from me and I didn’t like it,” stated Canada, “but I knew that it
was necessary to scale the agency.” The new positions in senior management enabled him to better
respond to funders and collaborators.
In April 2002, Canada hired Betina Jean-Louis as the new director of Evaluation. She held a Ph.D.
in psychology from Yale and had extensive experience in measuring child development. Jean-Louis
was charged with setting up an internal evaluation system in line with the business plan. She would
work at headquarters and report directly to Canada. (See Exhibit 10 for new HQ structure.) Shortly
thereafter, the agency decided to officially change its name to The Harlem Children’s Zone, Inc. (HCZ).
“It more clearly described our focus and direction,” stated Canada.
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The Harlem Children’s Zone
Using the Data
By July 2002, after more than a year of implementation, HCZ continued to work on establishing a
streamlined tracking system. Each program had its own idiosyncrasies and set of variables that made
it hard for consistent evaluation. The central database contained 15,000 names. But it had nearly 3,000
duplicates. Data was manually copied on disks at each site and then transported to a central database
in headquarters. Inconsistent data entry and problems with coding for participants made it difficult
for senior managers to create accurate reports.
But the first year’s efforts at measurement revealed some insights. “We began to progressively see
that the dose and intensity of services mattered, “ said one director. “It gave us parameters. We
realized that we may have the right ideas but don’t follow through to reach an outcome.” Canada
asked program directors to work with Jean-Louis to realistically consider how many kids they could
help with available funding and staff. At one meeting, Canada pointed out Philliber research that
showed that 95% of middle school kids in the zone were behind in math and reading. He asked, “Can
we design a program to lower that number, perhaps to 60%?” For much of the time at the meetings,
directors talked of cross-registering participants.
Soon, the agency realized that report cards were not a good measure of a student’s progress.
Tutors from the various programs, who knew the kids well, reported that there was little correlation
between a student’s progress and his or her grades. Schools were different, teachers frequently
changed during the year, and grades were sporadic. Khaldun reported, “It was clear that the public
schools were not holding themselves to the same standard that we were holding ourselves to.”
To come up with a better measurement of progress, HCZ program staff developed a program
called SMART (Shaping Minds Around Reading and Technology), which combined off-the-shelf software
designed to improve literacy with HCZ tutors and incentives. The tutorial worked with a child at his
or her reading level, drilling them on literacy skills, and advancing them only when they had
mastered the previous level. Canada stated, “We still collect report cards, but we are now
emphasizing the results of student’s work on the SMART Program. And we have advised program
directors to adapt their work to use the tutorial as much as possible.” Senior staff began to speak
about making sure that all program efforts went towards helping students raise their reading and
math scores, at their own pace, with the goal of bringing them up to their appropriate grade level as
measured by the State’s Regents Exams held in fourth and eighth grades. These efforts affected
TRUCE, Harlem Gems, ETC, Beacon Schools, and the Harlem Peacemakers programs. Pre- and post-tests
became a common practice in all programs.
New Demands in the Field
Laura Vural sat in her office at TRUCE (The Renaissance University for Community Education) on the
second floor of an old school building on the corner of 118 Street and St. Nicholas in Harlem. The
stucco in its interior hallways was crumbling and a few lights were out. It was 2:30 on a winter
afternoon. In a few minutes, the center would become a beehive of activity for six hours as dozens of
teenagers from Harlem engaged in arts and media education. Vural, a former CBS producer, founded
the program in 1988 (then called Rise and Shine Productions located in Times Square) because she had
a passion for children and a belief that involvement in the arts would better help them to develop
their communication skills and self-esteem.
In 1995, she brought the program to Rheedlen (now HCZ) because she found it too difficult to
simultaneously run programs and seek funding. Two years later, Rheedlen incorporated Vural’s
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The Harlem Children’s Zone
program into its new TRUCE Program and asked her to move it to Harlem. Since then, her staff of 15
worked long hours with over 100 kids to produce a weekly cable television program that featured
poetry, video dramas, and documentaries. The center also published Harlem Overheard, a youth
newspaper and worked with students to apply to college. She and her staff maintained a portfolio of
work for each student that they used to measure progress over time. She encouraged staff to get to
know each student individually and focus on building relationships. Most of her students learned
about the program from their friends and asked Vural if they could join. Many took the bus and
subway from distant neighborhoods to spend their afternoons and evening with TRUCE.
Vural was concerned because she had recently received a request from her senior program
director to provide headquarters with data on the numbers of 14- to 16-year-olds from within the
zone, their ages, and how many times each had visited the center over the past six months. The
request would require that she and another staff member manually go through case files and
attendance records and fill in a spreadsheet. Although it would take only a few hours, she had
planned to use the afternoon to work with three of her newer staff as they reviewed student’s
portfolios—to help them better coach and challenge the students. She understood that HCZ wanted
to measure its cumulative impact in the zone. But she still resented being pulled from her work to
provide the numbers. She reflected:
Evaluation at HCZ keeps us honest and I respect that. We used to have very loose records.
But I want to integrate the evaluations of our real work into the demands of our donors. If I
had been at the table in determining our measurements, I would have stated that there are
better ways to judge our programs. The only thing we are evaluated on are the Regents’
Reading Exam scores and students’ grades, but not on the plays, videos, and newspapers that
indicate the artistic development of the children. We are not a school but we are evaluated as
such. I know that there are interesting things in these evaluation numbers, but they are not
very telling in how we design our programs.
Vural respected Canada and appreciated the difficulty he faced, but she thought:
If I could, I would spend more time proving that youth development through the arts
works. I want to find a way to allow kids to be more creative and take risks. The fact that we
are tested on academic components drives our progress—it gets us more staff, tutors, and
funding. The kids are not coming here for academic help but because they want to be social
and to express themselves. The arts help them with self-expression and self-image. We have
had many college acceptances and scholarships and awards but we are not assessed on those.
Also, take Janet over there. She was doing well on her studies, but we determined that she
would be better off living with her sister outside the zone. We took great effort to get her there,
but where does she fit in an evaluation? Is she is an asterisk on some report?
Canada understood Vural’s concerns. He attributed some of headquarter’s frenetic demands to the
new level of funding from HCZ’s large foundations, referring to them as the “three great forces in our
lives.” Nevertheless, he was committed to using a comprehensive measure of impact to drive
As an agency, we now have to show outcomes and impact rather than really good stories.
We need to be able to clearly state that we have invested “x” million dollars and proved that
we have had an impact of X% of the kids that can now read who couldn’t before. HCZ has
committed to be responsible for all of the kids in a 24-block area. This means we have to teach
them. We had to modify our lofty goals and focus on the basics. In each of our programs, we
have been very good at saying, “If this is not working, let’s fix it.” Now let’s apply that to the
whole agency.
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The Harlem Children’s Zone
But for most of the program directors, improving the reading of the kids in their program was not
the reason they got involved with social service work in the first place. One director said, “We never
appointed ourselves to making the changes that we are being held accountable for. My staff is
spending most of its time helping kids to read. But our schools are failing and that is what financial
performance is tied to. We are held to that standard.” Leroy Darby at the Employment and Technology
Center stated, “We now measure attendance and work with school guidance counselors to get report
cards. Our goal is to help kids to improve their reading by a half of a grade level. We used to allow
free time in our center from 1–3 PM. Now we conduct pre- and post-tests and they have to improve
by one grade level or we have failed in our efforts.”
At the TRUCE Fitness Center, Will Norris stated, “We now demand that a kid sees a tutor at least
two hours per week regardless of their performance. We insisted on this because we found that once
a kid was doing well on a report card, we’d neglect him and he or she fell through the cracks in
academics while they participated in martial arts. If I could, I would look much closer at the retention
rate of our kids. If you hold on to people it really matters; they need to be a part of a program for at
least 70% of the time to benefit from the discipline and consistency. Current measurement sometimes
pulls us away from that kind of work.”
Staying the Course
Canada recognized the occasional disconnect between the measurement demands of his
organization and the program passions of his directors. “What the director’s job was and what it is
now are two very different things. People are terrific at what they do and they get into being a
director and figure that they will do more of what they do, but the issues of hiring and firing and
measurement turn them into managers.” He continued:
But we need to stick to the basics. We have found a variety of ways for kids to seek their
own pathways—in arts, technology, fitness, conflict prevention, chess, you name it. We must
spark their interest and set them on the path. But then we need a basic skill concept. There is a
clear correlation between the ability to read and write and failure in life. The social and artistic
activities and the passions of the directors merely work to attract the kids.
Marilyn Joseph, director of the Baby College, described HCZ as “a great place to be” where she was
given the freedom to build her program and the respect to make decisions. The fast-track unification
of the programs was exciting to her but she lamented the quantitative focus:
I see the things that you will never see in the numbers. They will not show the story of the
homeless family who, with our help, found a home, or the mom who had a high-risk
pregnancy and no extended family. Our staff reached out with emotional and physical
support. We accompanied her to appointments, advocated with doctors, and were there with
her in the hospital when she gave birth to a healthy little girl. Quantitative reports will always
give you numbers, but not these stories. The qualitative piece complements and gives a clearer
sense of the depth of the work we do each day.
Farrow worried about the ambitious growth plan. “We remain a culture of strong individual and
independent program directors. But are we drifting from our base? We built our reputation on grass
roots intelligence and community involvement. It is the power of conviction in our community that
matters.” She pointed out that, by 2009, HCZ expected to increase the number of children served to
16,800. (See Exhibit 11 for beneficiary and financial growth targets.) “How will we account for all of
the children?” asked Farrow. “Our programs are intensive. High quality cannot match the rapid
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The Harlem Children’s Zone
growth.” Many directors reminded themselves of their commitment to the children in their
programs. Darby stated, “I am now responsible for increasing the numbers of participants that come
from the zone. But I cannot forget the kids with whom I work. This is a calling for me. I have told
them I will never leave the agency until all of their goals are met.”
Norris felt that each of the program directors knew what was best for his or her clients. “All of the
project directors have pride in their work and we all support each other with our strengths.” Another
director related, “But there is now a whole new layer of management. The corporate cabinet makes
decisions that used to be made by program directors. I used to deal directly with the funders a lot
more. Now that is what Ray and Geoff and George and Kate do. They used to draw on directors to go
to those meetings. It is a different kind of smart. We now have savvy quantification people focused
on making funders happy but less knowledgeable in how to deliver programs.”
New Management Initiatives
In response to the concerns of program directors, Canada and Khaldun instituted several
initiatives that they hoped would keep them engaged in the growth strategy. “Implementing the
plan for the zone is tough. There are many projects going on within each of the programs. They all
have different outcome measurements. And they all require staff attention,“ stated Khaldun. “So we
designed the Program Council so Geoff and I could keep in contact with the program directors.” The
Program Council met every other month at one of the program sites. The agenda covered strategic
issues and included all program directors and senior executive staff from headquarters. Toward the
end of each meeting, the executive team (including the senior managers) left and the program
directors met alone with Canada and Khaldun. “It gives them an opportunity to speak with us
directly like they used to do, “ said Khaldun. In addition, Khaldun introduced a series of program
design meetings, in which each director would describe his or her program in detail, including how
he or she made staffing decisions. The other program directors would give suggestions, particularly
in ways to improve training and engagement of high-potential staff members.
Will Norris considered, “When you are asked to do more and focus in on numbers, quality can
suffer along other dimensions. I don’t want us to be just a recreation center—we could play all the
games in the world but ultimately we want these kids to be productive citizens.” Vural
acknowledged the leadership of Canada. She stated, “Geoff and I have an interesting relationship:
I am a free spirit, artistic, and fierce fighter for my kids—we don’t always agree on things—but I have
a strong belief in his mission and vision. I respect Geoff and know that he is interested in the kids
and would do nothing to detract from that.” Another director said, “People want to work for Geoff
and feel that they are a part of something important. He brings his childhood to the table and that
means a lot. He can get the troops rallied at even the lowest moments.”
Lynn Burt said, “We are dealing with poor housing, educational neglect, sexual and physical
abuse, drug addiction, and a host of clinical mental health problems. Every day you go home
thinking about the kids. We are stressed and overwhelmed and crazy all the time. These new
demands don’t help much, but it is just great to be a part of the very best social services in the city.”
Darby agreed, “This is the best place to work. But I am a buffer for my staff from the craziness from
above. I tell them, ‘You just do your job and don’t worry about above.’”
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The Harlem Children’s Zone
A New Opportunity
On November 18, 2002, Barbara Picower of the Picower Foundation co-hosted a breakfast in
Manhattan’s financial district on behalf of the Harlem Children’s Zone. The breakfast drew Mayor
Michael Bloomberg, city schools chancellor Joel Klein, and 75 corporate and philanthropic donors.
Following the breakfast, Chancellor Klein asked Canada if HCZ would be interested in placing
Peacemakers in an additional elementary school in District 5 in Harlem in 2003. The school was not in
the zone. In fact, it was located several blocks beyond the northern-most boundary of the future
expanded zone. But it was part of the worst performing district in New York. For Canada, working
within a school was “the holy grail” in reaching children. The Department of Education was involved
in a massive reorganization. Perhaps HCZ had a chance to be more involved in school management
and operations in Harlem. It was a wonderful opportunity. It didn’t fit in the plan, but could he pass
it up?
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The Harlem Children’s Zone
Exhibit 1
Statistics on Poverty in America and in Harlem (from HCZ Business Plan)
The children of America’s devastated communities face an uphill battle from day one. A child
entering first grade from a low-income family has, on average, been given 25 hours of one-on-one
picture book reading, whereas a child from a typical middle class family receives 1,000 to 1,700 hours
of one-on-one picture book reading (M.J. Adams. 1990. Beginning to read: thinking and learning about
print. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press). By age three, children from families on welfare have a cumulative
vocabulary of 525 words compared to children from professional families who have a vocabulary of
1,116 words (B. Hart and T. Risley. Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American
Children. Paul H. Brooks Publishing Co., 1995).
These wide disparities are both an effect of and cause of broader set of problems that plague
depressed communities. Central Harlem in New York City, the primary focus of Harlem Children’s
Zone’s efforts, is such a community, deeply afflicted by poverty and the attendant social ills that have
a demonstrated harmful impact on the development of the children that live in them.
Statistics highlight the severity of the situation:
Five-fold poverty rate: In 1998, 12.7% of all Americans lived
below the poverty line. In Central Harlem nearly 50% of the
population and 61% of children live in poverty.
Four-fold unemployment rate: U.S. unemployment levels
hover in the low single digits. In the HCZ Project, where about
half of Harlem Children’s Zone’s children live, the rate is 18.5%.
Startlingly low education levels and student achievement: In
Harlem, less than 25% of adults have a high school diploma and
over 40% dropped out before high school. Less than 20% of
children in the HCZ elementary schools read at grade level.
Record-setting foster care placement rates: Central Harlem has
among the highest rate of foster case placement in New York
HCZ Business Plan.
Percent of Population Who Live Under the Poverty Line
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Exhibit 2
HCZ Historical Financial Statements
Year Ended June 30 ($ in millions)
Public Support and Revenue
Public Support:
Grants and Contributionsa
Special event
Interest income
Other income
Gains on investments
Total Public Support and Revenue:
Program Services:
Child abuse services
After-school youth services
Youth drug prevention services
Harlem Children’s Zone
Other preventive services
Total Program Services:
Supporting Services:
Management and general
Total Expenses:
Change in net assets
Net assets, beginning of year
Net assets, end of year
aGrants—temporarily restricted
HCZ documents.
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Exhibit 2 (continued)
Statem ents of Financial Position
Year Ended June 30
Current assets
Cash and cas equivalents
Investm ents
Grants and contributions receivable
Other receivables
Prepaid expenses
Due from advocacy agency
Total current assets
Grants and contributions receivable
Security Deposits and other assets
Property and equipment at cost, net
Accounts payable and accrued expenses
Refundable advances


Total assets
Current liabilities
Due to advocacy agency
Bank loans payable current portion


Total current liabilities

Board designated endowm ent
Total unrestricted net assets
Tem porarily restricted
Total net assets
Total liabilities and net assets
Long-term debt – Bank loans payable
Total liabilities
Contingencies and comm itm ents
Net assts
HCZ documents.
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The Harlem Children’s Zone
Exhibit 3
Maps of the Harlem Children’s Zone
HCZ document.
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The Harlem Children’s Zone
Exhibit 3 (continued)
HCZ document.
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The Harlem Children’s Zone
Exhibit 4
Elements of the HCZ 2000 Business Growth Plan
Mission Statement
The HCZ Project’s mission is to create significant, positive opportunities and outcomes for all
children living in a 24-block area by helping parents, residents, teachers and other key stakeholders
create a safe learning environment for youth.
Imperative #1: Penetrating the Zone
The agency’s focus is on families with children aged 0 to 18, with particular concentration on
those living in the Harlem Children’s Zone Project. Seven of the 16 programs were either designed
specifically for the HCZ Project or have directed a significant part of their work to that area in the
past three years. All but two, however, still serve mostly people from outside this area. (Roughly 70%
of those touched by Community Pride and the Baby College are from the HCZ Project; the other
programs are still running below 50%.)
Given Harlem Children’s Zone’s emphasis on early intervention, the most ambitious marketpenetration target is for children age 0-5: The agency intends to reach 80% of HCZ Project residents in
this age group. The targets decline thereafter: 70% for children age 3-4; 60% for those age 5-11; 40%
for ages 12 to 13; and 30% for ages 14 to 18. Success with the earliest age groups makes the declining
percentages at later stages both appropriate and easier to achieve. Concurrently, to ensure that
programs reinforce one another and address the multiple needs of families and the community,
Harlem Children’s Zone aims to boost cross-enrollment in its programs.
Imperative #2: Tracking Performance
The Harlem Children’s Zone is now concluding the first year of a three-year project to design and
pilot an evaluation system for the Harlem Children’s Zone Project. Information sources will include
demographic data, participant surveys, and participant information that Harlem Children’s Zone
already collects for administrative purposes. For the Baby College, a parallel research project will
examine the long-term difference the program has made in participants’ lives, compared to a control
group in a similar community in Brooklyn. Meanwhile, two other projects will track the physical
changes in the HCZ Project over time. In 2001, Harlem Children’s Zone will start developing an
information-tracking system for programs that operate outside the Harlem Children’s Zone Project.
Imperative #3: Building the Organization
Harlem Children’s Zone’s rapid growth in recent years, combined with the growth and
diversification called for in this business plan, will demand a significant strengthening of Harlem
Children’s Zone’s core management, staff, and operating systems. In particular, over the next five
years Harlem Children’s Zone will need to:
Bolster management with at least three new positions: a Chief Operating Officer and two
Senior Program Managers;
Develop new in-house units for functions that were previously out-sourced or handled parttime, particularly Evaluation, Facilities Management, and Human Resources;
Enlarge existing administrative units, particularly in Development, Fiscal Management,
Information Technology, and Administration; and invest in appropriate new information
technology applications.
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The Harlem Children’s Zone
By 2004, Harlem Children’s Zone will also develop and occupy a new headquarters facility that
will include space for a charter school and new Beacon program, the Baby College and Head Start,
the new Medical and Dental Clinic, and a planned Practitioner’s Institute.
Imperative #4: Expanding the Boundaries
Beginning in 2004, as Harlem Children’s Zone completes its planned refinements to the Harlem
Children’s Zone Project programs, and when its performance-tracking system is fully in place, it will
next move to expand the boundaries of the HCZ Project in two phases. The first will be a northward
expansion, adding 36 more blocks and 3,800 more children. The next, beginning in 2007, will be a
similar expansion to the south, adding 31 blocks and 8,000 more children:
Northern Expansion Zone
Incremental % of current HCZ project
participants captured
# of households
Median household income
# of children under 18 Years
% of these children that are
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