Timothy Knowles, the Pritzker Director of Urban Labs, announced on Oct. 12 the winners of $2.15 million in Innovation Challenge grants from the UChicago Health, Poverty and Energy & Environment Labs. The winners have proposed innovative solutions to challenging urban policy problems. Each grantee’s proposal presents a compelling opportunity for a randomized controlled trial, with the potential to inform evidence-based policies with significant impact in Chicago and beyond.

The project grant recipients are:

  • The Chicago Jobs Council will receive a $500,000 grant from the Poverty Lab to implement “Transforming Impossible into Possible,” a workforce development program that will help long-term unemployed adults identify and address psychological barriers that have prevented them from obtaining full-time employment.
  • Elevate Energy, in partnership with ComEd, will receive $650,000 from the Energy & Environment Lab to use financial incentives and insights from behavioral economics to help low-income households increase their energy efficiency and improve on-time bill payment to save money on monthly bills.
  • Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities, in partnership with the Heartland Alliance and the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, will receive a $1 million grant from the Health Lab to create a “Supportive Release Center” to help individuals with mental illness transition to services in their communities following their release from the Cook County Jail.

Three advisory committees of civic leaders, practitioners, funders and academic experts chose the grant winners from a pool of more than 100 applicants. In the final round of the competition, finalists designed their proposals in close partnership with researchers from Urban Labs to create projects that ultimately would allow the respective labs to rigorously evaluate the programs selected. The data-driven analysis that will take place over the coming months will provide valuable insight into the effectiveness of these promising programs and demonstrate Urban Labs’ distinct approach to improving social policy. It will also give policymakers in Chicago and beyond blueprints for tackling some of the most daunting and seemingly intractable urban challenges of the 21st century…

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