UChicago Crime Lab’s community violence intervention initiative honored at White House

Event highlights first graduates of Community Violence Intervention Leadership Academy, focused on reducing gun violence

Vice President Kamala Harris joined community leaders from across the country Feb. 9 at the White House to honor the first graduates of the University of Chicago Crime Lab’s Community Violence Intervention Leadership Academy—a pioneering, six-month program that trains leaders to prevent and reduce gun violence in their communities.

In her remarks, Harris recognized the work of the Academy and its graduates, which include 31 leaders from 21 U.S. cities—many of which are from communities of color disproportionately harmed by the consequences of gun violence.

“The brilliance of this inaugural class and its leaders is the ability to see what can be, unburdened by what has been, and then to make it real in a way that will be replicated around our country,” Harris said. “I congratulate everyone here and the graduates for all you have put into this and all you do for your communities.”

Maryland Governor Wes Moore and Assistant Attorney General Amy L. Solomon also provided remarks at the event, which was the culmination of a week of events focused on community violence awareness hosted by the White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention. The efforts build upon President Biden’s Safer America Plan, which set forth an agenda to invest in public safety strategies including mental health services; victim services; and after-school, educational, and employment programs for youth.

Community violence intervention programs are an effective approach to preventing gun violence, with some behavioral science-informed CVI programs proven to reduce violence by close to 50%. The Biden-Harris Administration has stated that community violence intervention is one of the best practices to make Americans safer, and the CVILA, in particular, can serve as a model for other initiatives related to community violence reduction.

To address America’s critical public safety challenges, the work of saving lives falls primarily to community violence intervention organizations and police departments—two sectors which have historically lacked investment in human capital. In response, the Crime Lab established the Community Safety Leadership Academies—an initiative focused on bringing the leadership and management practices of community violence intervention and policing into the 21st century. These academies include the Community Violence Intervention Leadership Academy and the Policing Leadership Academy.

“Today, we celebrate a milestone at the University of Chicago with the graduation of the first cohort from this Academy,” said University of Chicago President Paul Alivisatos. “We stand as the nation’s first university to spearhead such an initiative, directly translating our research into action to combat community violence nationwide. Our graduates are living proof that academic rigor and community leadership can converge to forge significant, life-saving change. This program is a proud example of our commitment to creating safer communities through scholarly excellence and practical application.”

The CVILA is the only management and leadership program in the country designed to help the next generation of leaders strengthen their programs and scale their impact. It offers emerging leaders hands-on training on staff management and retention, data use, violence prevention and reduction, and community engagement—ensuring community violence programs turn new funding into on-the-ground impact. As part of the program, students participated in immersive learning labs in Chicago, New York and Oakland that integrated their classroom experiences with community-based experiences.

“We celebrate the increased support for CVI from officials at all government levels, with a special thanks to the Biden-Harris Administration,” said CVILA Executive Director Chico Tillmon. “Today’s White House graduation, hosted by the new Office of Gun Violence Prevention, highlights the critical need to address the persistent safety gap in our country and enhance public safety in Black and Brown communities across the nation. Thanks to CVILA’s leadership education, our graduates are primed to implement sustainable CVI solutions, paving the way for healthy, thriving communities.”

The Community Safety Leadership Academies were launched with a leadership gift from Ken Griffin, founder and CEO of Citadel and founder of Griffin Catalyst; and a gift from Michael Sacks, chairman and chief executive officer of GCM Grosvenor. The CSLA is also supported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Keegan Bonebrake, Bulls Community Assist Fund, and White Sox Community Fund, which are both funds of the Robert R. McCormick Foundation (support for the CVILA), Dalio Education, John DeBlasio/DeBlasio Family Foundation, Thomas and Susan Dunn, Matt Hinerfeld and Nora Jaskowiak, IMC, Ken O’Keefe, Motorola Solutions Foundation (support for the PLA), Neubauer Family Foundation, Options Clearing Corporation, RJ Melman and Lettuce Entertain You, Jeff and Maggie Shapack and Shapack Partners, and United Airlines.

The Community Violence Intervention Leadership Academy’s graduation is supported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Crown Family Philanthropies, Everytown Community Safety Fund, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Center for Gun Violence Solutions, RJ Melman and Lettuce Entertain You, Steans Family Foundation, and United Airlines.

Learn more about the CVILA and its inaugural graduates at the Academy website.

Adapted from a story first published on the Crime Lab website