A New Rapid Response Research Grant to Support the Work of Oakland’s “Reimagining Public Safety” Taskforce

The William T. Grant and Spencer Foundations have awarded a Rapid Response Research grant to the University of California, Berkeley in partnership with James Burch, policy director of the Anti Police-Terror Project (APTP) and a member of the City of Oakland’s Reimaginging Public Safety Task Force. The R3 program supports reviews of existing research, conducted by researchers in collaboration with policy partners, with the central goal of reducing inequality in youth outcomes in the United States.

The work will be led by sociologist Nikki Jones, a professor of African American Studies, and James Burch, policy director of APTP and a member of the Task Force. Under their leadership, a working group of Berkeley researchers will provide research-based recommendations on alternative responses to community safety and programs that address the root causes of violence. The Anti Police-Terror Project has led the work to reimagine public safety in Oakland, and their work and organizing over the past half decade resulted in the creation of the task force last summer.

The group will synthesize and share findings on the impacts of and alternatives to policing published within the past decade; research reports and evaluations of violence prevention and law enforcement alternatives, including Oakland-based efforts; early-stage findings on promising transformative justice solutions; and interviews with local experts in mental and public health.

Describing this work, William T. Grant Foundation President Adam Gamoran stated “This is about identifying evidence-based approaches to reallocate public funds toward social services instead of surveillance and punishment. It is intended to increase public safety in ways that support rather than undermine Black communities.”

Separately, the William T. Grant Foundation will continue its support for current R3 grantees at the Migration Policy Institute, in partnership with American Public Human Services Association, and at Duke University, in partnership with World Relief Durham.

Gamoran added, “In contrast to our larger portfolio of research grants, the R3 grants are designed for quick progress from research to action. They call for synthesizing existing research rather than conducting new studies, and the researchers collaborate with a policy partner who is eager to learn the results and who is poised to act as soon as the findings are presented.”

As a longtime funder of high-quality, empirical research, the Foundation developed the Rapid Response awards in 2017 to foster agile uses of research to respond to the needs of young people growing up in an uncertain and turbulent social climate. The cornerstone of the program is collaboration: On the front end of each funded project, the research and policy partners co-construct the goals and contours of swift, systematic reviews of existing research to ensure that the questions guiding the syntheses are ones that policymakers or practitioners need answered. Grantees commit to synthesizing the relevant literature rapidly, as well as mobilizing that knowledge for policy change.

New Rapid Response Research Grant

Research for Reimagining Community Safety
PI: Nikki Jones, University of California, Berkeley
Partner organizations: James Burch, Policy Director, Anti Police-Terror Project, Member, City of Oakland Reimagining Public Safety Taskforce

In 2016, the Anti Police-Terror Project launched their campaign to reinvest 50% of the police budget in alternative responses to public safety and investments that address root causes of violence and harm. In 2020, amid increasing calls both locally and nationally to reimagine public safety and reallocate funding from law enforcement to other social service departments, the City Council of Oakland, California approved the formation of the Reimagining Public Safety Taskforce, to develop and propose a plan to redirect 50% of the current police budget. This divest/invest strategy would potentially reduce targeted policing in Black and Latinx communities, which especially affects adolescents and young adults, in favor of non-criminalizing responses to violence. With this grant, the APTP will partner with an interdisciplinary working group at UC Berkeley, led by Nikki Jones to identify alternatives to law enforcement that are informed by research, responsive to community needs and address the root causes of violence and crime

Continuing Rapid Response Research Grants

Immigration, Deportation, and Child Welfare: Advancing Knowledge to Improve Practice
PI: Mark Greenberg, Migration Policy Institute
Partner organization: American Public Human Services Association

In 2018, the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) and the American Public Human Services Association (APHSA) received a Rapid Response Research Grant to develop research-based state and local child welfare policies to mitigate the harm that children and youth experienced as a result of heightened immigration enforcement under the Trump administration. This continuation grant extends the initial grant’s engagement activities in light of new leadership at the federal, state, and local levels. By engaging new officials with the findings from the initial R3 project, MPI and APHSA will leverage the changing political context to promote the design of child welfare policies that can mitigate the impacts of immigration enforcement on children and youth.

Thriving after Surviving: Strategies for Improving Muslim Refugee Student Outcomes
PI: Jen’nan Read, Duke University
Partner Organizations: Durham Public School District; World Relief Durham

World Relief Durham will respond to the educational and social-emotional needs of refugee and immigrant youth that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic in the Durham, North Carolina area. This grant serves as a continuation of a 2018 Rapid Response Research grant conducted in partnership with Jen’nan Read of Duke University and Durham Public Schools: Findings from that project were used to support the development of World Relief Durham’s Refugee and Immigrant Youth Services program. This program is intended to respond to the academic and social-emotional needs of refugee and immigrant youth, especially those whose native languages are not English or Spanish, in a culturally- and trauma-informed format. The pandemic has exacerbated challenges for meeting the educational needs of refugee and immigrant youth, as these students and their families face linguistic barriers to accessing public health and school communications, a digital divide, and an increased risk of learning loss and poor social-emotional outcomes.