Urban Wire A new effort to move Americans out of poverty
Sarah Rosen Wartell
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Today, the Urban Institute is launching a collaborative of extraordinary partners with an audacious ambition: building stronger and more effective ladders of economic and social mobility out of poverty.

This independent effort, the US Partnership on Mobility from Poverty, is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and will be staffed and supported by Urban Institute.

The partnership is made up of a group of 24 leading experts, advocates and academics from across the country. Harvard Professor David Ellwood, former Dean of the Kennedy School of Government and noted poverty expert, is Chair. Over the next two years, these remarkable minds will work to determine what it would take to increase dramatically upward mobility for those in poverty. They will situate the challenge in the broader global economy and US context; they will explore structural barriers to opportunity. And they will uncover the country’s most successful programs; collaborate with outside innovative organizations to test promising new models; and identify new approaches.

The diversity of experience, discipline, and domain knowledge of the group is unusual but offers the potential for true innovation. To succeed, this partnership cannot operate from an ivory tower or a Washington conference room. The members will learn about communities firsthand, gaining fresh ideas from advocates and practitioners who work on behalf of the most vulnerable. They will hear directly from families at the heart of these issues—those locked in poverty and struggling to build a better life, and those who have successfully climbed the ladder to economic success. And they will seek solutions at the local, regional, and national levels.

Transparency is critical to the partnership’s success, and members will share what they learn throughout the process. Rather than just producing a single consensus report or a white paper, the partners will utilize a range of tools to translate their findings—from analyses to convenings, research products to blog posts. The public will be invited to be part of the dialogue; and the partnership will collaborate with other institutions and experts; in turn, the group aims to discover insights important to philanthropy, business, policymakers, and community practice.

As with any Urban Institute initiative, this partnership will be independent and data-driven. It will ask hard questions and go where the evidence and the partners’ insights lead without constraint.

The mission of the US Partnership on Mobility from Poverty is central to Urban’s long-held commitment to expanding opportunity, reducing hardship, and strengthening the effectiveness of the public sector. We believe research and evidence hold the power to change communities and transform lives. 

We are grateful to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for their investment and vision, David Ellwood for his leadership, and the partners for their commitment to the work ahead. We hope you will share your ideas, insights, and reactions along the way.


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The Urban Institute podcast, Evidence in Action, inspires changemakers to lead with evidence and act with equity. Cohosted by Urban President Sarah Rosen Wartell and Executive Vice President Kimberlyn Leary, every episode features in-depth discussions with experts and leaders on topics ranging from how to advance equity, to designing innovative solutions that achieve community impact, to what it means to practice evidence-based leadership.


Tags Inequality and mobility