Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, William T. Grant Foundation, American Institutes for Research, and Spencer Foundation Award Grants to Four Partnerships Addressing Social Issues

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, William T. Grant Foundation, American Institutes for Research, and Spencer Foundation Award Grants to Four Partnerships Addressing Social Issues

With the Spencer Foundation, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and the American Institutes for Research (AIR), we are proud to announce the winners of the 2021 Institutional Challenge Grant competition. The Institutional Challenge Grant encourages university-based research institutes, schools, and centers to build sustained research-practice partnerships with public agencies or nonprofit organizations in order to reduce inequality in youth outcomes. Equally important, grantee institutions must shift their policies and incentives to value collaborative work and help build the capacity of the partner organization to use evidence from research in its decision-making.

The newest grants, amounting to nearly $2,000,000, are being awarded to Johns Hopkins University, Northeastern University, and the University of California Santa Cruz. These institutions will work in partnership with local nonprofits or public agencies to address challenges such as youth suicide, youth employment, and educational inequality. The William T. Grant Foundation will also supplement a grant to Cornell University’s College of Human Ecology, the Foundation’s first-ever Institutional Challenge Grantee (2018), to sustain their ongoing efforts to reduce racial and ethnic inequality in access to effective opioid treatments and services, and to continue fostering institutional changes that foster community engaged research.

Adam Gamoran, president of the William T. Grant Foundation, stated: “Even as vaccines bring hope for an end to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is much to be done to address the social problems it has laid bare. Both research institutions and nonprofit organizations will have key roles to play in rebuilding society in the years to come. Innovative universities that support partnerships between researchers, policymakers, service providers, and communities will go a long way toward enhancing their public impact.”

Institutional Challenge Grantees conduct rigorous research on strategies to reduce inequalities in youth outcomes, take steps to create an institutional infrastructure for supporting and rewarding community-engaged research, and strengthen the capacity of partner agencies to use research in their practice. The program’s six previously funded partnerships are demonstrating success in all three areas. In one project, research uncovered a gap in culturally-relevant parenting programs available to the community, leading to collaborative work with the partner organization address the shortage. Other projects have demonstrated the potential for significant institutional change, including new university leadership positions focused on encouraging and supporting community engaged research and new criteria for evaluating faculty that conduct community engaged research.

“The coronavirus pandemic and the racial reckoning taking places across our country have highlighted the deep inequities that have persisted for generations in the United States and have made it even harder for African American and Latino people, and those living in poverty, to thrive in the workplace,” said David Myers, president and CEO of AIR, which is co-funding one of the grants through its Equity Initiative. “By collaborating directly with those in the field, we can identify effective strategies focused on summer youth employment opportunities and advancement for young people and make sure those practices and programs are implemented effectively and equitably.”

Lola Adedokun, program director for child well-being at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation said: “This locally relevant research holds the powerful potential to inform how institutions, researchers, practitioners, and systems leaders can apply evidence-based interventions to equitably transform social sector systems. We are proud to make this investment at a time when the pandemic and social justice movements have made the need for this work ever more apparent.”

Na’ilah Suad Nasir, president of the Spencer Foundation stated: “There are many so many positive aspects to this grant: cultivating research-practice partnerships, reducing inequality, and encouraging institutional change. Research-practice partnerships, in which researchers, schools, and community partners work together, have the potential to be transformative for young people. We couldn’t be more excited about this important work...