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Hopkins initiative aims to solve entrenched problems in Baltimore, other cities

The Blatimore Sun

July 5, 2017


A sociologist studying whether involving immigrants in neighborhood groups can ease crime, an education professor using housing data to predict school enrollment and an astronomer applying his expertise in big data to the city's vacant problems are all part of a new program at the Johns Hopkins University designed to help Baltimore confront its intractable problems.

he 21st Century Cities Initiative is pairing Hopkins researchers with organizations and government agencies on short-term projects to dissect data, test solutions, develop new policies and ultimately give Baltimore and other urban areas a path toward revitalization.

"Twenty-first century cities are bastions of innovation and diversity, but they also suffer from concentrated poverty and deep economic and racial inequities," said Kathryn Edin, a Hopkins sociologist and the initiative's faculty director. "We are committed to closing the opportunity gaps in urban communities by working side-by-side with city partners, using the latest research techniques from various disciplines to inform public policy and practice."

Founded about three years ago with an annual budget of $1 million, the initiative is part of broader effort under Hopkins President Ronald Daniels to find solutions to global problems by raising money to pay for professors and fund financial aid and fellowships.

Daniels said "the power of data, evidence and partnership" can shape the trajectories of Baltimore and cities around the world.

"The initiative is integral to our commitment to build a better future for our communities and our neighbors, one policy, one program and one life at a time," he said.

The intiative funds multple projects at any given time through grants it makes. Some of the projects are conducted in-house by Hopkins students and professors, while others come about through seed grants given to university researchers who partner with outside groups. Projects take six to 18 months to complete and focus on improving economic inclusion, closing disparities for disadvantaged communities and making people healthier and safer.

Much of the focus is on Baltimore, but some projects are looking at dilemmas in other cities.

In Southeast Baltimore, Christine Eith, a Hopkins sociologist who specializes in criminology, is leading a project to look at how encouraging Hispanics to become involved in neighborhood associations can help address violence. The project received a $24,000 grant, one of six grants worth a combined $204,000 awarded by a steering committee to 21st Century projects in May.