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About L.I.F.E.

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Harvard Leadership About The Institute for Faith & Education - Boy writing in notebook

"It's time to face up to the fact that the school system is just too weak an engine to drive the results America needs if we are to remain prosperous. "

Former Massachusetts State Education Secretary

Harvard Leadership Institute for Faith & Education

Across America students in rural, suburban, and urban areas experience the daily effects of inequity on their educational journeys. From under-resourced schools and communities to a lack of teachers and staff to properly train students, our children in America are suffering from academic and emotional outcomes that make navigating their futures very challenging.

At the same time, we know that faith provides stability, support and guidance to millions of young people, families and communities across the United States, and specifically is pivotal for vulnerable communities (i.e. Black, Latinx, immigrant, other marginalized communities). 

Churches, mosques, temples, and other religious centers often take the lead in giving at-risk children academic assistance, mentorship, and lessons in resilience and self-control.

Harvard Leadership Institute for Faith & Education

"As many scholars and practitioners have observed, schools, as now constituted, are, on average, too weak an intervention in the lives of children to overcome the many disadvantages of poverty."

As parents, educators, and community members seek new and effective approaches to improve student outcomes and close persistent performance gaps in America, evidence highlights the importance of faith-based organizations as a viable and important community partner, especially in historically marginalized communities. 


While both the education sector and Faith-based organizations are critical to the “building-up” of students and families in their communities, there is still a need for more evidence, knowledge capture and sharing to close achievement gaps and improve the lives of our most vulnerable youth.

Harvard Leadership Institute for Faith & Education Different Faiths
Harvard Leadership Institute for Faith &

At the Leadership Institute for Faith and Education (LIFE), we believe that schools have the opportunity to leverage the support these institutions provide to enhance, empower, and raise achievement levels of all kinds for children across America. 


Historically, communities across the country have created the change they want to see locally through reaching across divides and building relationships, programs, and advocacy together and we believe the same is true of faith and educational communities coming together.

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Our Purpose

The Leadership Institute for Faith and Education (L.I.F.E.) offers educators, faith-based organization leaders, and community officials the opportunity to explore research and best practices around the issue of education and faith-based partnerships.

As part of L.I.F.E.'s impact considerations, we have developed a community cohort model to drive the most meaningful impact. This model best supports design, implementation, and sustainability measures beyond institute attendance.

Harvard Leadership Institute for Faith & Education 2019 Event

In October 2017, LIFE launched a Pilot Institute with a Design Cohort of 20 individuals from faith-based institutions, schools, local political offices, and community-based organizations. The Institute was successful in bringing these individuals together, sharing learnings, designing what LIFE will become, and staying connected post-convening.


We imagine bringing even more communities into the fold and staying with these communities over a number of years to be able to contribute to learnings and ultimately to our collective Research Agenda.

Church Interior

When most people describe their communities in America, they talk about the school and the church – so there is a logic in bringing them together because when you look at communities these are the most prevalent organizations.

They are the most meaningful organizations to people in America.

Director, Program for Religion and Social Policy
at University of Pennsylvania

Harvard Leadership Institute for Faith & Education

Our Vision

We imagine the Leadership Institute for Faith and Education as a catalyst for igniting a national movement that is inclusive of faith-based institutions, schools and their administrative teams, and communities including students and parents. 


In order to achieve disproportionate positive impact in schools throughout underserved regions of the country, we need to collaborate directly with communities to respond to their most pressing unmet needs; using tools and resources beyond the walls of Harvard University.

Harvard Leadership Institute for Faith & Education

“There is an incredible opportunity to build a movement across the country. I imagine one day having LIFE institutes and convenings that exist in cities and towns across America. We want the LIFE model to move beyond the walls of Harvard and have real, tangible impact in communities."


Founder of  L.I.F.E. and HGSE Faculty Chair and Senior Lecturer

Children in Library

As LIFE continues to learn from communities and explores the possibilities of these partnerships for student achievement, we envision co-creating an evolving set of tools, programming, and resources that LIFE can provide communities at scale. We imagine this becoming a LIFE “cycle” of cross-community knowledge sharing, funding opportunities, and storytelling that will create a dynamic ripple effect of successful student outcomes, positive community involvement, and policy advancements in support of postive change for underserved communities. 


Eventually, we imagine communities around the country scaling the LIFE model to their own towns and cities, creating their own versions of the LIFE ecosystem with access to funding, convenings and events, and training and tools for their local communities.

Who We Serve

LIFE primarily serves the following key constituents:

1. Public school educators (teachers, principals and superintendents) working in under-resourced urban schools with significant African American, Hispanic and low income populations;


2. Leaders from a diverse range of faith-based communities (Christian, Muslim, Jewish) found in urban communities in close proximity to under-resourced public schools;

3. Faith-based and education individuals/teams from under-served rural communities foundation officials interested in understanding and funding faith-based and education partnerships and;

4. Public policy makers interested in the role of religion in civic life.

Faith-based communities
Faith Leaders
Pubic Policy Makers

L.I.F.E. Aims To Answer The Questions:

The Role

What role is there for faith communities to become more engaged partners in the work of improving student outcomes?

The Alliance

What can strong alliances between faith leaders, schools, communities, and advocates look like? 

The Impact

What impact might these partnerships have?

For more information on the Leadership for Faith and Education pilot initiative , download here.

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