Grants address poverty, COVID-19 impact across Midwest


The Midwest Mobility from Poverty Network, led by Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan, has awarded six grants totaling $150,000 for projects to improve economic mobility and address the impact of COVID-19 throughout the Midwest.

The grant program aims to accelerate collaborative community-university projects that will leverage data and apply research to have real-world impact on economic mobility. Projects include:

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  • A collaboration among the University of Chicago, the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and the City Clerk of Chicago to determine how Chicago’s nonprofit organizations can better support marginalized communities amid COVID-19.
  • A Lansing-based initiative that seeks to enhance economic mobility through job training and community partnership for service industry and restaurant workers led by Michigan State University, the Allen Neighborhood Center and the Restaurant Opportunities Center of Michigan.
  • A collaboration between Wayne State University researchers and the Urban Neighborhoods Initiative to alleviate poverty-related barriers to school attendance in Detroit’s Springwells neighborhood.
  • A randomized control trial evaluation of participation in a tech skills training program for youth in Milwaukee and Chicago by the University of Notre Dame and i.c.stars, a workforce training organization.
  • A collaboration among Wichita State University, the Greater Wichita YMCA, Opportunity Wichita: Project Wichita and the city of Wichita, Kansas, that seeks to help remove barriers to student success, such as technology and internet access, in the wake of the educational impacts of COVID-19.
  • Ongoing work by the U-M Center for Health and Research Transformation to COVID-19 response analysis for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and Council of Michigan Foundations, as well as other health-related organizations.

Grant recipient Sarah Lenhoff, assistant professor of educational leadership and policy studies at Wayne State University, said she hopes her partnership project will help increase student attendance for families in the Springwells neighborhood in Detroit, and be a useful template for other university-community partnerships to address systemic barriers to student success and economic mobility.

“Grant opportunities like this are critical to supporting research and evaluation of community-led initiatives,” she said. “Programs that require partnerships create opportunities for researchers and community members to collaborate, understand community needs and design research studies that will inform improvement in community practice and generate rigorous research evidence.”

“We know that improving economic mobility requires action-based partnerships across the nonprofit and for-profit sectors, government and universities,” said H. Luke Shaefer, director of Poverty Solutions and the Hermann and Amalie Kohn Professor of Social Justice and Social Policy. “The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a bright spotlight on economic inequality, and we need to support these strategic partnerships to improve economic mobility more than ever.”

The Midwest Mobility from Poverty Network is a collaborative of universities engaged in data and analysis to improve economic mobility and reduce poverty across the Midwest and is supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.


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