Urban’s Next 50: What are your ideas for harnessing the forces of change?

March 14, 2018

Dear Changemakers,
 
The Urban Institute wants to know what you think as we shape our future work: What critical problems will our country face in the decades ahead that will require rich knowledge building to tackle? How can our society harness powerful forces of change to expand opportunity and support upward mobility in a dramatically changing world?  
 
Urban was created 50 years ago at the behest of President Lyndon B. Johnson “to give us the power through knowledge to help solve the problem that weighs heavily on the hearts and minds of us all—the problem of the American city and its people.” As Urban readies for its next 50 years, we’re refocusing that mission on the most pressing work ahead for people in all America’s communities. 
 
Recently, Urban hosted a discussion at Arena Stage in Washington, DC, and a viewing of “The Great Society,” a play by Robert Schenkkan about President Johnson. I was joined by Peter Edelman, Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Law and Public Policy and faculty director of the Center on Poverty and Inequality at Georgetown University, and Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League, for a rich conversation about the challenges of that time. Of course, we reflected that many barriers continue to prevent too many Americans from reaching their full potential, and new obstacles have emerged.

Still, Urban remains profoundly optimistic, innovation offers new possibilities, and facts, data, and evidence will help us find and bring solutions to life. But we must evolve as the world around us shifts—tackling new questions and embracing new research technologies and tools to find insight that makes a difference to millions of lives.

Data and technology, shifting global economic forces, an evolving climate, longer life expectancies, and demographic shifts all will shape the future of our communities—and our nation. Some people will benefit, while others are at risk of being left behind. But one can imagine that these disruptive forces of change could be harnessed to expand opportunities and support upward mobility. That’s why throughout 2018, Urban will investigate challenges, develop an agenda, and incubate programs that focus on how communities respond to forces of change over the coming decades.
 
And we are looking to you—our friends, partners, and supporters—to help Urban incubate innovative ideas for addressing the major forces of change that will affect communities and people’s lives in the years to come.
 
So please share your thoughts with me about opportunities, big ideas, and ways for Urban to make a difference.
 
I look forward to sharing our discoveries and thoughts as these ideas and initiatives take shape throughout the year.
 
Warmly,
Sarah


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