Crime Lab announces design competition for new ways to reduce Chicago’s youth violence

University of Chicago Crime Lab and supporters, the MacArthur Foundation, Get In Chicago

Steve Koppes
Associate News DirectorUniversity Communications

The University of Chicago Crime Lab is looking for the next great program aimed at reducing youth violence in Chicago. The Crime Lab, with support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and Get In Chicago, has launched the design challenge to fund promising ideas to improve the lives of youth at elevated risk for violence. One or more winning entries will receive up to $1 million each in funding support.

Youth violence is a chronic problem across the country and is the leading cause of death for African-American males ages 10 to 24, responsible for more deaths than the next nine leading causes combined. Nationally, one-third of homicide victims are under age 25; in Chicago it’s 46 percent.

With the launch of this new design competition, Roseanna Ander, executive director of the Crime Lab and the University’s Urban Education Lab, notes, “There is no shortage of innovation among people in Chicago who are working to find solutions to the problem of youth violence. What is in short supply is rigorous evidence about what works and for whom. We are eager to partner with non-profit service providers who work to keep youth in our city out of harm’s way, to give them access to opportunities that can enrich their lives and to create a safer and more vibrant Chicago.”

The approach to evaluate the programs will be similar to what the Crime Lab has successfully used with Youth Guidance’s Becoming a Man program and the Match Education intensive math tutoring program. By subjecting the programs to scientific evaluation, the Crime Lab has been able to generate objective outcomes data about what works to reduce youth violence and improves academic achievements. That evidence resulted in those programs being significantly expanded to include more youth at numerous high schools across the city of Chicago. It has also attracted the interest of policymakers from across the United States.

The design challenge guidelines request a letter of interest by March 2 from nonprofit organizations that have programs focusing on youth ages 13- to 18-years-old who live in communities with high levels of violence, and/or focusing on the parents of these youth. Applicants will need to present a clear description of the problem the intervention seeks to address, and how they envision the program will work to improve the life chances of young people at risk of violence or victimization.

The organizations must also be willing to work with the UChicago Crime Lab to structure the intervention so that it can be rigorously evaluated. Complete details on all required criteria can be found at www.chicagodesigncompetition.org.

The most promising ideas will be selected in late March and those applicants will be invited to submit a full proposal. The awards will be announced later this spring, and the funded programs could begin to support at-risk youth in the summer or fall of 2015.

Since its launch in 2008, the UChicago Crime Lab has worked to test innovative approaches to reducing crime and violence by partnering with government agencies and nonprofits to carry out randomized, controlled trials of promising policies and interventions. The MacArthur Foundation, among many other priorities, supports efforts to reduce and prevent youth violence as part of a strategy to shut down the pipeline of adolescents who become involved in gun violence. Get In Chicago is a public-private partnership focused on violence prevention and intervention.