MacArthur is exploring new ways of understanding the complex and interconnected challenges faced by cities around the world, from violence to climate change, and new ways to plan, manage, and govern to address them. The Foundation’s preliminary investment in this area, which has reached more than $3.5 million to date, aims to help identify new research, institutions, and interventions that may help urban practitioners and policymakers make better-informed decisions to improve the lives of urban residents, reduce environmental harm, and address other social issues. The Foundation’s exploration of the merits of a potential investment strategy focused on cities builds on decades of grantmaking in urban strategy and community and economic development in the United States.

Currently 3.6 billion people live in cities, a number likely to grow to more than six billion by 2050. Planning, managing, and governing cities in ways that maximize economic opportunity and minimize environmental harm will be one of the central challenges that nearly all countries will face over the next century. As metropolitan areas are increasingly viewed as complex systems with connections between environment and individual well-being, the importance of making urban planning and policy decisions that account for this complexity grows. At this stage of the Foundation’s exploration, grants are intended to learn more about what it takes to help inform and improve decision-making by the public and private institutions that plan, manage, and govern cities.

The following grants have been made to date as part of this exploratory effort:

  • American Institute of Architects (Washington, D.C.): $50,000 in support of a 2014 convening of urban experts and related disciplines from North America and Europe to assess what has worked in revitalizing post-industrial cities on both sides of the Atlantic while exploring new urban development strategies.
  • The City of Chicago (Chicago, IL): $300,000 in support of the Data Warehouse, an interdisciplinary research and policy center that manages a comprehensive data dictionary and warehouse for the City of Chicago.
  • Harvard University (Cambridge, MA): $350,000 in support of the Mayoral Performance Analytics Initiative, which connects local officials to relevant research and best practices for using new and existing urban data to achieve specific outcomes and effectively target resources.
  • Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study (Cambridge, MA):  $300,000 to support the Boston Area Research Initiative in its efforts to identify ways to bring new information resources, methods, and interdisciplinary expertise to bear on city challenges.
  • The Funders’ Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities (Coral Gables, FL): $200,000 to support the exploration of urban sustainability and climate adaptation and mitigation strategies.
  • The London School of Economics and Political Science (London, UK): $300,000 to examine and document the most pervasive urban governance challenges around the world and prepare case studies of successful innovations and institutional reforms to address them.
  • National Academy of Sciences (Washington, D.C.): $200,000 in support of a study of how sustainability principles in select urban regions can inform economic growth and regeneration practices in other major metropolitan areas.
  • New York University’s Center for Urban Science and Progress (New York, NY): $400,000 to convene urban science centers to pool knowledge and outline elements of a common research agenda; to launch an urban science fellowship; and toplan for the launch of the Urban Data Review, a journal to support the management and long-term resilience of cities.
  • Next City (Philadelphia, PA): $100,000 in support of journalistic investigations into urban issues, including a column on the science of cities.
  • RAND Corporation (Washington, D.C.): $300,000 in support of the Framework for Gauging Urban Climate Change Preparedness, including the development of standard metrics for gauging local preparedness to climate change in cities across the world.
  • The Santa Fe Institute (Santa Fe, NM): $185,000 to examine the dynamics of cities as engines of economic growth and development, with a focus on the relationship between individual residents, their social networks, and patterns of advancement and inequality in cities.
  • The University of Chicago (Chicago, IL) and Harvard University (Cambridge, MA): $350,000 in support of the joint research initiative Neighborhood, Organization, and the Future of the City, which seeks to better understand urban governance and neighborhood dynamics, the role of technology in the city setting, and the future of place-based interventions.  
  • The University of Chicago’s Urban Center for Computation and Data (Urban CCD) (Chicago, IL) $500,000 in support of the Urban Center for Computation and Data’s research involving the use of computational science to improve the way cities are planned, governed, and experienced by their citizens.

Community & Economic Development, What We’re Exploring: Cities, Information, and Governance, Chicago, Community Development

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