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Harlem Community & Academic Partnership, Inc Historical Timeline and Background
HCAP Timeline 


Established as Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) New York Urban Research Center, with a Community Advisory Board at the New York Academy of Medicine's Center for Urban Epidemiologic Studies


Changed name to Harlem Urban Research Center, with a Community Action Board to emphasize a Harlem focus and the action oriented work of the group


Defunded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with six month notice due to change in funding priorities

 2003 - 2006

Reinvention #1; Evolved into the Harlem Community & Academic Partnership

 2006 - 2010

Projects funded through Intervention Work Group model; continue to function with no core funding; HCAP relationship begins to change with primary academic partner institution


Key academic member leaves institution; HCAP begins departure from "home" institution to establish an independent identity as a community-based research and policy organization for East and Central Harlem; the second reinvention begins


HCAP begins the process of becoming a 501c3 independent organization which was successfully granted in 2013

An In-depth Look: Staying Alive!  Reinventing and Sustaining a Community and Academic Partnership in Harlem, New York 


In 1999, The Harlem Urban Research Center (HURC), a community and academic partnership, was the last of three CDC-funded Urban Research Centers (URCs) established.
The HURC focused on examining social determinants of substance use through a CBPR approach. For five years, the HURC worked to build a shared vision, establish a structure, and manage a stream of national funding to engage in health promotion and disease prevention activities for the Harlem community. In early 2004, however, core funding for the URCs ceased due to a priority shift of the CDC. 

The HURC was forced to reexamine itself as a group.  Out of a commitment to its mission and existing projects, members led the group through three major transitional phases of reinvention: (1) Reaction and prioritization, (2) Weathering through temporary funding, and (3) Sustaining a community and academic partnership.  Losing major funding could have meant the end of the partnership.  Instead, the process led to a new and broader-reaching partnership: the Harlem Community and Academic Partnership (HCAP). 

The news that core funding had been discontinued came as a surprise to the group.  In its five-year existence, the group had sustained many of the growing pains that community-academic partnerships often go through.  Community partners had struggled with academic investigators to mutually define the terms of CBPR and of what constitutes an authentic partnership and shared power.  

This process helped to build trust among community partners and within the community-academic partnership. Following the announcement that they no longer had funding, the group’s first task was to revisit its existence and whether everyone still believed in the mission.  In doing so, members reaffirmed their commitment to the group, and also figured out next steps.  Short and long term priorities were set, including setting up a subcommittee to form funding strategies, addressing group morale, figuring out how to approach current and future projects, and finding a way to communicate information with communities. The group was successful in getting agreement and commitment from CUES researchers, which was vital to sustaining the group.  The ability to get this sign-on was due in large part to the group’s success in building trust during the course of their work together.  Without an authentic, accountable relationship, the mutual value of each partner may not have been recognized.  CUES provided resources and support needed resources, such as a home-base and office space from which to work.  A process was initiated to mobilize with other URCs to lobby internally to secure funding and maintain a connection with the CDC.  Within this phase, multiple options for funding were explored while the group figured out ways to sustain itself without funding. 

Particular areas of concern in this process of weathering and reinvention were group identity, mission, bylaws, and the function of the community academic partnership.  In clarifying mission, bylaws and principles, an ad hoc committee was established to redefine purpose, vision and structure.  The mission statement was rewritten and objectives were broadened.  Instead of focusing solely on social determinants of substance use, the group decided to focus on social determinants of health.  The committee also decided that five years of being successful CBPR practitioners had set them up to be a resource to other organizations interested in conducting CBPR.  A consulting and advising facet was added to the mission and activities.  This move from needing resources to being a resource was a central aspect of reinvention. 

Based on the new mission statement and principles, the group changed their name to Harlem Community & Academic Partnership.  The group structure was changed such that the HCAPBoard directly oversees Intervention Work Groups, or IWGs, which are project-specific and built into funding proposals.   
Due to their ability to regroup and respond to this unexpected setback, HCAP was able to accomplish its 2005 goals despite being in the midst of a major reorganizing effort.  Since HCAP’s reinvention, both IWGs and membership in the partnership have grown.  There has been an increase in proposals and a general renewal of commitment and energy.  HCAP has acted as a resource to newer groups conducting CBPR. Having realized the importance of early CBPR training for future academics, it is also piloting a student internship program in CBPR.  Despite the obstacles it has encountered, HCAP has successfully reinvented itself and its mission. In doing so, the group was able to draw on their ability to have a meaningful process and to keep connected to one another.  In addition to trust, HCAP used creativity and flexibility to turn the funding setback into an opportunity to think freely and initiate change.


In between the time between the completion of the first reinvention and the second, HCAP had worked to reignite and reaffirm our work by conceptualizing and planning for a community-wide event. 

In October 2010, HCAP successfully held the Faces of Urban Health Forum, representing the our first community-wide event since 2001 when we held the “Breaking The Barriers” a symposium on substance use for consumers, policymakers, and service providers.  Two months later, our primary academic partner shared that he would be leaving CUES/NYAM to pursue a new professional opportunity on the West Coast beginning in April 2011.  This announcement immediately triggered the partnership to examine several questions that specifically had to do with our relationship with our host institution and our ability to become a stand-alone entity. 

In reflecting on resilience through the first reinvention, we engaged in a process of reflection and inquiry between December (2010) and February (2011) about the future of HCAP. By February 2011, we had our first retreat as a partnership wherein fact representatives from the host institution were not invited to attend. This decision was based on having the safe space to comment and share our experiences and thoughts freely and openly.  Members contributed food, space, and identified a facilitator to moderate our meeting pro-bono.

The major result from our retreat was the decision to officially depart from the New York Academy of Medicine and a commitment to become a stand-alone independent community-based research and policy organization for East and Central Harlem.  HCAP members agreed to contribute to ongoing progress and future development of HCAP by offering meeting space and when possible sponsoring food for our meetings.  Our last meeting at NYAM after 12 years was in February 2011. We then rotated our meetings among HCAP member organizations and everyone has “chipped in” with regard to managing the “administrative” aspect of the partnership. 

To date, the following milestones have been achieved as we work towards becoming an independent community-based research and policy organization-- this list will be updated periodically:

  • Conducted HCAP Retreat
  • Departed from NYAM
  • Secured a fiscal conduit with a community partner coalition
  • Secured technical assistance and legal support from the Legal Aid Society/Community Law Office to become both incorporated and a 501c3 organization 
  • Became an incorporated organization
  • Continue to meet on a monthly basis thanks to HCAP Community Partner member Boriken Neighborhood Health Center which hosts our monthly meetings 
  • Secured approval for HCAP to serve as a site placement for a Social Work Student Intern to assist in building our web-presence, policy work group projects, and some administrative tasks related to the management of the partnership 
In April 2013, HCAP filed its 501c3 application and it was granted in August 2013. With our infrastructure in place, we are now working towards rebuilding the "C"ommunity and "A"cademic partners in our Partnership and continue to fulfill the mission of HCAP.