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COMMON PURPOSE by Lisbeth B. Schorr

COMMON PURPOSE

Strengthening Families and Neighborhoods to Rebuild America

By Lisbeth B. Schorr

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-385-47532-2
Publisher: Doubleday

 Tough, cerebral, informed--and sanguine but not quixotic about the possibilities of injecting flexibility and imagination into the policies that govern welfare, child protection, and education. In an earlier work (Within Our Reach, 1988), Schorr (director of the Harvard Project on Effective Intervention) examined small, experimental social programs that successfully made a dent in seemingly intractable problems like teen pregnancy, school dropouts, and unemployment. A decade later, she finds many of the innovations strangled by bureaucracy or still limited to the neighborhoods where they began. But all is not lost, says Schorr. Leading from crowded classrooms and the cubicles that house children's-services and public-assistance workers are threads of insight and ingenuity that can be woven into a tapestry of programs that will serve the poor, the undereducated, and the overwhelmed. With new techniques of measurement, these programs can be realistically evaluated and propagated. What works, she says, are programs that are close enough to their communities to be ``comprehensive, flexible, responsive, and persevering.'' But good intentions are not enough. Such programs must also have clearly defined goals, competent, well-trained staffs--and government money. A chapter titled ``Taming Bureaucracies . . .'' is one of the most effective in the book, partly because Schorr does not abandon government employees, or even politicians, to the usual charges of apathy and selfishness. Other chapters look closely at productive partnerships among schools, families, and community and government agencies that have effectively reduced child abuse and neglect, drug abuse, illiteracy and unemployment. ``I have tried to paint a picture of the possible,'' says Schorr--and she has. But the picture also demands hard work, an open mind, and, yes, faith from every citizen who views it. (Author tour)