Michael G. Mueller-Smith

Mobility from Poverty Center and National Criminal Justice Data Expansion

Research Project Description

Dramatically increasing mobility from poverty in the United States will require concerted action-based partnerships across the nonprofit and for-profit sectors, government, and universities. Access to high-quality data and timely analysis that can help decision makers at every level identify, implement and continuously improve innovative and evidence-based strategies will be critical for success. Research universities can play a vital role in making data accessible to decision makers and partnering on analysis, but predominant academic structures for conducting research on poverty often do not prioritize such engagement, focusing instead on basic research and academic publications.
We propose to shift the balance toward timely, engaged, accessible, and policy relevant analysis by assisting the Gates Foundation in piloting a network of university-based Mobility from Poverty Centers, initially in Midwest and Rustbelt communities.
The Mobility from Poverty Centers will situate themselves as the ?first responders? to the data needs of local decision makers who seek to enhance mobility and reduce poverty in their communities. The centers will serve as a conduit for community stake holders and policy makers to access data and analysis to inform community strategies to enhance economic mobility and reduce poverty. This means prioritizing timely and accessible community-level analysis that is responsive to community needs and interests. Thus, the primary mission of the centers will be engagement with local decision makers through data, research, analysis and interpretation.
In phase one of this project, the University of Michigan Poverty Solutions initiative and Ford School of Public Policy, led by professors H. Luke Shaefer and Elisabeth Gerber, will work with the Gates Foundation to form and convene a network of Midwest and Rustbelt university partners that together will develop an evidence-based model and roadmap for the Mobility from Poverty Centers. The model will build upon the systems put in place by Poverty Solutions and others engaged in related work. The Network will covene partners to ask critical questions and utilize research on how to most effectively engage communities and shape decision making on strategies to enhance mobility and reduce poverty. Based on this work, the network will publish a white paper that lays out best practices and offers a roadmap and evaluative criteria for the new centers going forward.
In phase two, each university-based Mobility from Poverty Center will begin to implement a program drawing from this roadmap, prioritizing service provision to community partners - nonprofit, for-profit, and government - in a defined geographic region, in addition to collaborating on projects of national scope. We propose that centers define their service provision region to include areas of high need where center staff can engage regularly. Centers would also prioritize responsive community partners within that region. For example, The University of Michigan's region could be defined as southeastern Michigan - which has multiple high poverty cities, suburbs, and rural communities - with a signature partner being the City of Detroit. As described below, the Centers will be evaluated based on their success in proactively engaging stake holders in their region and producing accessible analysis that shapes decision making.
This project will build on the models being developed at Poverty Solutions, a university wide initiative at the University of Michigan, and the Program in Practical Policy Engagement at UM's Gerald Ford School of Public Policy. Poverty Solutions has demonstrated success in engaging local decision makers with timely and accessible analysis, and in so doing informing and shaping new strategies to enhance mobility and reduce poverty in served communities.
In conjunction with these efforts, we request funds to continue development of the Criminal Justice Administrative Records System (CJARS).

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Funding Period: 11/20/2018 to 12/31/2020

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