New UChicago Urban Labs Initiative Expands Urban Education Institute's Partnerships and Reach

March 9, 2015

CHICAGO—MARCH 9, 2015—The University of Chicago is creating a new institution, UChicago Urban Labs, to address daunting urban problems and help realize the promise of cities in an era of global urbanization. Launched today with $15 million in seed funding, including a $10 million donation from the Pritzker Foundation, UChicago Urban Labs will design and test the most promising urban policies and programs across five key areas: crime, education, energy and the environment, health, and poverty.

Building on the successful examples of the UChicago Education Lab and Crime Lab, the University will establish three new entities — the Health Lab, Energy and Environment Lab, and Poverty Lab. Each Lab will be led by a distinguished University of Chicago faculty member.

UEI’s Timothy Knowles has been appointed Pritzker Director of UChicago Urban Labs. As Director of Urban Labs, he will establish the new institution, building its reach in Chicago and across the country and the globe. Knowles will assume a new role at UEI, serving as Chairman, providing continued oversight and ensuring UEI's momentum and success. He will retain his role as John Dewey Clinical Professor in the Committee on Education.

“The launch of Urban Labs creates a remarkable opportunity to take what we’ve learned at UEI and the existing labs and amplify those successes," said Knowles. “I expect the Labs to do three things. We will bring gold standard evidence to bear to improve public policy. We will work in close partnership with civic leaders to implement the policies and programs that matter most. And we will measure our success based on the impact we have, at scale. It is an exciting opportunity to work with colleagues at the University and in cities globally to improve the quality of human life."

The existing labs have received national attention for guiding programs shown to reduce violence and improve academic skills among young men in Chicago Public Schools. Two of the initial interventions it has tested are the Becoming a Man (B.A.M.) counseling/mentoring program from Youth Guidance Chicago and World Sport Chicago and the Match Education intensive math tutoring program. Randomized, controlled studies conducted by the Labs have found dramatic improvement in high school performance and reduction of arrests among students in the programs.

Using the model pioneered by the Crime Lab and Education Lab to test promising programs, Urban Labs will partner with civic leaders and practitioners in Chicago and around the world. The Pritzker gift will fund pilot projects by community groups, to be selected through an Urban Labs innovation challenge. These projects will help propel research findings into tangible community improvements. After a competitive application process, one or more community partners will receive funding of up to $1 million for up to two years.  

“The Pritzker Foundation sees giving as an opportunity to make a difference in our community and in society. In the case of Urban Labs, we have an opportunity to do both,” said Tom Pritzker, chairman and CEO of the Pritzker Foundation and a member of the University of Chicago Board of Trustees.

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