Urban October at University of Chicago to focus on urgent challenges facing global cities

Events include 10th anniversary of Crime Lab and UN-sponsored gathering of international leaders

The University of Chicago is preparing to host Urban October at UChicago in collaboration with UN-Habitat. The monthlong initiative brings together policy leaders, public officials, community members and leading researchers from Chicago and around the world to focus on some of the most profound challenges facing global cities.

Today, 4.3 billion people live in urban areas. That number is projected to expand to 5.1 billion within 10 years and 6.6 billion within 30 years. Already challenging urban issues are exacerbated by climate change contributing to extreme weather and water shortages; pollution impacting health and life expectancy; and violence and political instability threatening the futures of cities around the world.

Urban October at UChicago is an initiative of the University of Chicago Urban Network—research institutes, policy labs, centers and academic units at the University focused on pioneering urban science and practice. Week by week, University scholars will convene key stakeholders and present new research and collaborations that will confront global urban challenges and identify emerging opportunities.

The University of Chicago will tackle these topics and more through the following key events:

  • On Oct. 15, the University of Chicago Crime Lab marks its 10th anniversary and looks to the future with THE NEXT TEN, a gathering that includes a conversation with government and non-profit leaders, including Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot, Chicago Public Schools CEO Dr. Janice K. Jackson and Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie T. Johnson. Crime Lab has been at the vanguard of a model of collaborative social science research focused on solving the most pressing policy problems in cities by working in partnership with policymakers and practitioners.
  • On Oct. 23-25, officials from the United Nations, as well as leaders and community organizers from Africa, Europe and Latin America, will gather at the University of Chicago for the Global Symposium on Sustainable Cities and Neighborhoods. Hosted by the Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation and led by ecology and evolution professor Luis Bettencourt, the symposium will help set a shared agenda toward empowering millions of neighborhoods to tackle such issues as human development, infrastructure and climate resilience.
  • The Air Quality Life Index (AQLI)®, created by economics professor Michael Greenstone and the Energy Policy Institute at UChicago, marks its first anniversary in measuring the impact of particulate air pollution on life expectancy at a local scale. The index finds that particulate air pollution is the single greatest threat to human health globally—making it of critical importance as heating season begins in many of the world’s largest cities.

“We set up the Crime Lab 10 years ago to work closely with government and non-profits to generate more actionable research and development on the most pressing criminal justice and education challenges of our time,” said Jens Ludwig, Edwin A. and Betty L. Bergman Distinguished Service Professor at Harris Public Policy and director of the Crime Lab. “We’ve seen signs of progress, but there’s the potential—and the need—to do much more.”

“Data, urban science and technology hold enormous promise as we work to advance sustainable human development in the fight against poverty, inequity and climate change,” said Luis Bettencourt, inaugural director of the Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation at UChicago. “It’s critical that we move quickly to leverage those tools and fundamental ideas to meet the challenges of our time.”

“Groundbreaking innovation is needed to foster new knowledge and new practices that can improve conditions for all cities and communities,” said Maimunah Mohd Sharif, executive director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat). “Urban October aims to meet this challenge, and expand peace and prosperity to communities across the globe.”

The Urban October concept was created by the UN and is part of an annual October initiative, wherein UN-Habitat organizes activities and events on urban issues and sustainable development, marked by World Habitat Day on Oct. 7 and World Cities Day on Oct. 31.

The University of Chicago Urban Network brings together research institutes, policy labs, centers and academic units from across the University that are working in urban science, practice and civic engagement. As leaders in urban research and policy, University of Chicago Urban Network members are confronting challenges in cities around the globe through rigorous testing and analysis, development of fundamental ideas, application of emerging technologies, and partnerships with global and community leaders.

For more information on Urban October at UChicago, the UChicago Crime Lab, or the Mansueto Institute, please contact Adrienne Gibbs, Media Relations Manager/University of Chicago Urban Network, at adrienneg@uchicago.edu or visit urban.uchicago.edu.