Having worked with the Harlem Children’s Zone® for more than 30 years, Geoffrey Canada is renowned around the world for his pioneering work helping children and families in Harlem, and as a thought leader and passionate advocate for education reform.
From 1990 to 2014, Mr. Canada served as the President and Chief Executive Officer for the Harlem Children’s Zone, which The New York Times called “one of the most ambitious social-policy experiments of our time.” In 2011, Mr. Canada was named to the TIME 100 list of most influential people in the world and, in March 2014, was named one of Fortune’s 50 greatest leaders in the world. As of July 1, 2014, Mr. Canada stepped down as CEO, handing the reins to COO Anne Williams-Isom. He continues to serve as President of the HCZ and Promise Academy Boards.
Under Mr. Canada’s visionary leadership, HCZ has become a national model and the subject of significant media attention. Mr. Canada and HCZ have been featured in the documentary Waiting for “Superman,” as well as on 60 Minutes, The Oprah Winfrey Show, Anderson Cooper 360°, Black in America 2, The Charlie Rose Show, This American Life, and in articles in The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and The Associated Press. In 2008, Houghton Mifflin published Whatever It Takes, by Paul Tough, a detailed look at the work of Mr. Canada and HCZ.
Mr. Canada grew up in the South Bronx in a poor, sometimes violent neighborhood. Despite his troubled surroundings, he achieved great academic success, receiving a bachelor’s degree from Bowdoin College and a master’s degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. After graduating, Mr. Canada began his life’s work helping children who, like himself, grew up in poor, distressed neighborhoods.
Mr. Canada has written two books: Fist Stick Knife Gun: A Personal History of Violence in America (1995; reissued as a graphic novel in 2010) and Reaching Up for Manhood: Transforming the Lives of Boys in America (1998). A strong voice in public debates on education, he also has written for a number of publications, including op-eds for The New York Times and Daily News; gave a TED Talk on our failing schools and the need for innovation that was broadcast on PBS; and has spoken to audiences around the world about what it takes to help children succeed, from evaluation to early childhood education and beyond.
In 2006, Mr. Canada was selected by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to serve as co-chair of the Commission on Economic Opportunity, responsible for formulating a plan to significantly reduce poverty. In 2011, he was appointed to the New York State Governor’s Council of Economic and Fiscal Advisors. He is also an advisor to and board member of several nonprofit organizations.
Geoffrey Canada was the recipient of the 2009 John W. Gardner Leadership Award.