Johns Hopkins University today announced a four-year, $6 million commitment to support local initiatives and pilot projects that address the root causes of violence in Baltimore, a significant and sustained investment in community-led innovations and interventions designed to reduce violent crime and make the city safer.
The JHU Innovation Fund for Community Safety will augment the university's existing work in Baltimore—financial investments, technical assistance, and legislative advocacy—that supports education, job training and creation, and public safety efforts. It will also spark and strengthen partnerships between the university and the community with a shared goal of bolstering safety across the city.
"Through the Innovation Fund for Community Safety, we hope to help advance the community's own ideas for improving public safety—ideas that are rooted in community partnerships and will be implemented by community residents—with Johns Hopkins as an active partner," JHU President Ronald J. Daniels and Ellen MacKenzie, dean of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, wrote in a message to the Hopkins community and neighbors today.
The fund will support initiatives and projects led by community members and community organizations designed to reduce violence in the near term, as well as research in partnership with community organizations to inform these efforts. Initially, the fund will support efforts near the university's campuses in Mount Vernon, Charles Village, and East Baltimore, with the hope that successful endeavors can be replicated across the city by other community programs and/or institutions.
The JHU Innovation Fund for Community Safety will be led by MacKenzie; Josh Sharfstein, vice dean for public health practice and community engagement at the Bloomberg School; and Alicia Wilson, vice president for economic development for the university and health system. They will host a series of listening sessions beginning Oct. 12 to introduce the fund to the Hopkins community and solicit applications.
The hope, Sharfstein said, is to attract an array of creative, community-led proposals and to support selected proposals by providing financial resources, technical assistance, data collection and analysis, and research. A project may be entirely new or an expansion of existing work, he added.
"This effort opens the doors to a variety of innovative approaches," Sharfstein said. "This a great moment for local residents and community organizations to have support from Johns Hopkins to reduce violence and advance well-being."
No idea is too small or too complicated to be considered for funding and support, Sharfstein added. Some examples of potential project topics are:
- Actions to change norms and expectations about violence in the community
- Community mediation
- Support for individuals at high risk of committing or being a victim of violence, such as jobs programs, mental health services, mental health support teams/partnerships, and other services
- Environmental changes, such as cleaning up or redesigning community common areas
- Collaboration with the public sector to advance policies that support effective, sustainable, community-engaged solutions for reducing community violence
- An analysis of violent incidents to inform community interventions to prevent violence
The size of awards will vary depending on the scope and promise of the activity proposed. Project teams are strongly encouraged to seek matching funds or in-kind support from public and/or private agencies when possible.
Proposals will be evaluated by a panel of faculty, staff, administrators, community residents, and students with experience and/or expertise in violence prevention and a demonstrated interest in community-led and public health solutions for public safety. The initial round of grantees is expected to be announced in mid-January.
"As an institution, we intrinsically know the value of innovation, and this fund represents an opportunity to innovate, with the Baltimore community taking the lead," Wilson said. "One of the most critical issues of our time is achieving community safety, and we are excited to collaborate and learn from our partners throughout this process. Bringing together these great minds will lead to a better outcome for all."
Added Daniels and MacKenzie: "Even as we continue to invest in health care, education, housing, and economic opportunity for our city's residents, we believe the Innovation Fund for Community Safety can play an important role in supporting local solutions—some big and complex, others targeted and straightforward—to spark immediate or near-term improvements in public safety, explore what will work at scale across our city, and build momentum for change."