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Common Purpose: Strengthening Families and Neighborhoods to Rebuild America Paperback – July 13, 1998


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor (July 13, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385475330
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385475334
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 7.9 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #714,049 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Kirkus Reviews

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) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

Most readers probably won't get through all 484 pages (including notes), of Common Purpose, and Schorr's arguments, which occasionally fall into wonk-like jargon, are unlikely to convince those who insist that poverty is the result of moral failing and are determined to dismantle rather than reform ineffective government. The book's biggest contribution may lie in Schorr's compilation of 22 pioneering reforms, already well underway but rarely reported because of their typically low drama and high complexity. Fellow reformers will find support in the scope of experiments--from home visiting to school-community collaborations and literacy programs--that embody many of her practical solutions. -- Los Angeles Times Sunday Book Review, Lynn Smith --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By sturaust@bigpond.com on January 31, 1999
Format: Paperback
Schorr documents some of the success stories in our attempts to overcome economic and social disadvantage and fight the dissolution of real world communities. But almost all of these are small-scale and depend for their success on unique individuals. The difficulty, she says, is that we don't know how to scale up these micro-social experiences. Almost invariably, successful models are bureaucratised when they are expanded and government funding spread so thin that the intensive effort applied at the micro-scale is incapable of reproduction society-wide.
Schorr's analysis is telling, but her solutions are unconvincing. She is unable to extract general lessons from the few exceptions she has been able to locate.
There is one outstanding lesson here and it is that successful social welfare schemes depend on an intensive effort and a huge injection of funds. What Schorr never tells us is where government will find the huge sums of money necessary to correct for early family breakdown.
The challenge is to discover how we can correct for poor socialisation in these early years when family and community fail. The effort is so intensive and time-consuming the first time around, that it is difficult to think how society could afford to reproduce it later, after the first attempt has failed.
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6 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 23, 2001
Format: Paperback
Disjointed collection of policy ideas for strengthening community. Contradicts herself far too often (as where she calls for greater commuinity control over what and how social services are provided, but then later says the Federal Government must control the process since state and local governments can't be trusted to provide specific services).
Another glaring flaw is her tendency to cite marginal writings by fringe academics in support of her proposals. Most of those proposals, by the way, call for a massive new infusion of taxpayer money.
The first two chapters are a very good concise analysis of current social service provision. After that the book peters out in a mish-mash of muddled thinking.
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0 of 5 people found the following review helpful By J. Trombley on October 3, 2005
Format: Paperback
The item I ordered was in better condition than described for a used book.
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