2014 - 2015. Austin Compact

[UPDATE JUNE 2017] Circumstances to date have prevented consideration of the Austin Compact in Austin and the visit to Austin that Professor Earls (see right) had hoped to make. Recently, two Sun-Times articles have abundantly confirmed Austin's precipitous population decline: 23.1% in from 2000 to 2015, according to the U. S. Census Bureau. 
  • 5/29/17 Here is the text, without image, of this article: As Chicago’s black population plunges, whites flock to near downtown Missing from this piece is the graphic that appeared in the print edition of the paper. So Here is the legible full size graphic giving the numbers of Austin's precipitous population decline. After viewing, click your upper left back arrow to return to the page are reading now. 

These trends in Austin can be seen in the larger context of the loss of population in Chicago's suburbs and Illinois as well. But their precipitous nature suggests that other forces are in play besides those that are affecting Chicago, Cook County and Illinois. 

Here is one recent account of these forces:
[2015] THE AUSTIN COMPACT is a proposal to use media to connect, inform and empower Austinites to transform Austin over a ten-year period to a community that’s a safe, attractive place to live, work, visit and raise a family in. 


  • Dec 31 2013 Austin Compact I: Informal three-page Email to Harvard Club President Ked Fairbank and Harvard Sociologist Felton Earls proposing the Austin Compact:
  • Jun 17 2014 Austin Compact II: Five-page "Future History", "The Austin Compact: Looking Back from 2025" that gives a sunny account from the year 2525 of the ten-year progress of the The Austin Compact following its implementation by Austin residents and leaders in 2015.
    • The Professor Earls commented that "the Austin Compact makes it both visionary and concrete". However, Brad Cummings, Associate Editor of the Austin Voice, dismissed the same piece of writing as "Just words". The challenge ahead is to narrow the gap between these two verdicts.
    • The Austin Compact was formulated with the idea of children as change agents that Felton Earls had successfully implemented in two multi-year projects in Tanzania and Costa Rica.
    • Earls drew inspiration from the United Nations Convention on the Right of Children in advancing the concept of children as change agents.
  • Jun 17 2014 This account describes June 17 meeting at The Austin Voice at which I presented The Austin Compact to a group of community leaders and challenged them to launch a transformative project much more ambitious than the Austin Drug Area Shutdown Project of the late 1990's and early 2000's.
    • The outcome so far of this meeting was the creation of Parents Political University, whose creation in Austin was informed by Rep. Ford's suggestkion that Austin begin to transform itself by first reaching out to Austin parents.

In December 2013,
Ked Fairbank, then President of the Harvard Club of Chicago, challenged me to create a strategy to transform a single Chicago neighborhood (I chose Austin) and offered me $25 million (in Monopoly dollars) to complete the transformation.  I rose to the bait, and the result was The Austin Compact I and II.

Austin Compact I was a long email written to two people. "Ked" is Harvard Club president Ked Fairbank. “Tony” is New Orleans-born Harvard Sociology Professor
Felton Earls, who from 1995 to 2005 served as the Lead Investigator of the $51 million Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods (PHDCN), an exhaustive study - the most exhaustive of its kind ever undertaken - about which Earls gave a presentation at a September, 2013 meeting of the Harvard Club of Chicago. Although replicated in other cities worldwide, the findings of PHDCN were never advanced in Chicago.

I was struck, as I heard Earls give his Harvard Club presentation, at his visible dismay with this non-outcome. $51 million down the drain, I thought to myself - and later told Ked so much. Hence Ked’s challenge to me.

To learn more about the origins, progress and outcomes of PHDCN, see the meticulous account of them in
Great American City: Chicago and the Enduring Neighborhood Effect, by Professor Robert Sampson, who served as the Project’s Scientific Director. PHDCN’s chief finding centers on the concept of collective efficacy, which is defined in Wikipedia as “the ability of members of a community to control the behavior of individuals and groups in the community.” Another key finding was that it was not always properous, politically connected neighborhoods that enjoy high levels of collective efficacy (CE): CE was sometimes strong in poor neighborhoods where residents were skilled in responding appropriately and effectively to things going wrong in their communities: things like kids truant from school, gunshots fired, trash in the streets or a fire station scheduled to be closed.

Harvard Sociology Professor Felton Earls

Robert Sampson's book about the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods:

Past Harvard Club president Ked Fairbank