For almost five decades, the Urban Institute has worked with government agencies and philanthropic foundations to ask and answer hard questions about social and economic challenges facing our country. Today we begin working with a new funding collaborator—one that might come as a surprise to some. JPMorgan Chase will commit $10 million over five years for Urban Institute to inform and assess its philanthropic investments aimed at expanding pathways to opportunity for people and communities.
The funding partner is new but the fundamental role we'll be playing in this relationship is not. We often engage in big, multi-year research initiatives (though this marks our largest contribution to date from a corporate funder). Urban’s scholars will help identify and analyze challenges that may prevent JPMorgan Chase’s philanthropic programs from achieving their goals, something we’ve done with other foundations for years. And we’ll assess how well these programs are working and how they can be continuously improved, just as we do for many public-sector initiatives.
I’m excited about this partnership because it offers the Urban Institute new opportunities to learn and contribute to the outcomes we care most about. Take Detroit for example. JPMorgan Chase has made a sizable commitment to revitalization efforts there. But we all know that major challenges stand in the way of rehabbing abandoned properties and redeveloping blighted land. Working with JPMorgan Chase to help diagnose and tackle these challenges gives Urban the opportunity to bring our expertise in housing finance and community development to bear and contribute to effective solutions, not only for the benefit of Detroit, but also for other cities facing population loss and economic distress.
We’ll have many such opportunities for knowledge building and influence in our work with JPMorgan Chase. Their focus on pathways to opportunity in the 21st century economy aligns with our core commitment to expanding opportunities and promoting more equitable access to mobility and prosperity. Their investments in workforce development, financial capability, and community development align with some of our strongest areas of expertise and experience. And their on-the-ground presence in major urban markets across the United States aligns with our understanding that place matters and that interventions must be tailored to local economic, demographic, and social realities.
Perhaps most important, a hallmark of this collaboration is the commitment to continuous learning and improvement that aligns with Urban’s central mission: finding the facts, sharing them openly, and using them to make policy and practice work better. As in all the Urban Institute’s work, we’ll be reporting publicly on our data, analysis, and findings to inform the larger fields of practice and policy—on issues of workforce training, community development, and financial capacity building.
Increasingly, corporate foundations are joining prominent national foundations as major philanthropic players. The Urban Institute stands ready to work with those that are willing to ask themselves the hard questions: are their programs drawing upon the best evidence available? Are they working as intended? And are lives and communities improving as a result?
Photo: Abandoned homes in Detroit; (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)