2018 Impact Report

2018 Impact Report

Welcome to the 2018 Poverty Solutions Impact Report.
Our work aims to address the most pressing economic mobility challenges of our time, and progress is only possible because we do it together — through partnerships with university units, community, policymakers and practitioners across the state and nation. We invite you to learn more and to join us in these efforts.


faculty affiliates from across U–M’s three campuses

specializing in economic growth, health, housing and more


projects supported in the city of Detroit through the partnership on economic mobility

Supported more than


projects across campus


Students involved through:

  • Research assistant opportunities providing technical assistance on more than 20 projects.
  • The CASC Certificate program
  • The Speaker Series course

Attracted an additional

$8+ million

in external funding for important work happening
across U-M

Mark Schlissel image

Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan has made tremendous progress in tackling one of the great challenges we face in our society.

The initiative has become a central component of how we fulfill our mission as a public university to produce the very best in research, education, and service of value to society. Poverty Solutions is making a difference by deepening important community relationships, contributing to a broader and more insightful national conversation on poverty and economic mobility, and informing important policies and programs.

We know that effectively addressing the complex causes and consequences of poverty cannot be done by any one group or organization, so we have collaborated to launch bold partnerships to bring the best solutions to the table.

Our Detroit Partnership on Economic Mobility, a collaboration between Poverty Solutions and the city of Detroit, is off to a fast start, with projects pairing dozens of U-M experts with city departments and community groups.

This past October, we enhanced our efforts by launching a new collaboration with Harvard University’s Opportunity Insights initiative. Together, we are applying knowledge from big data on a neighborhood level in Detroit, providing insight on successes and failures in serving children within the city, helping to identify needed supports, and gaining a better understanding of what interventions are productive.

In Ann Arbor, the Summer Youth Employment Program has significantly expanded in size, giving more young adults access to enriching summer work and exposure to our campus. Tyisha Thompson (p.15), who worked as an office assistant at the Institute for Social Research, found the program to be so beneficial she returned the following year to U-M’s Athletic Department. There, she worked alongside the department’s career counselors who assist our student-athletes — and in the process, she developed job skills and learned about college life. Beyond providing opportunities to individual youth, this program is the core of a research study to explore the lifelong impact of this approach to poverty amelioration.

We have also expanded our grant program to include all three U-M campuses, and we continue to support community-academic connections that we know are essential to effectively addressing poverty.

I thank Luke Shaefer, his many colleagues, and our passionate students across the breadth of U-M for their outstanding work to make Poverty Solutions so impactful. I also appreciate the many individuals and organizations that support this initiative either through collaboration or philanthropy, enhancing its inspiring work.

Poverty Solutions brings together U-M’s academic excellence and the commitment of the Michigan family to address some of society’s biggest challenges. The depth and breadth of our academic excellence ensure that the University of Michigan is uniquely positioned — and therefore uniquely obligated — to address complex issues such as poverty and inequality.

Mark Schlissel
President, University of Michigan

Luke Shaefer image

Poverty Solutions has come a long way since it was formally announced in fall 2016. We have supported nearly 30 projects in 15 of U-M’s 19 schools and colleges.

We’ve formed new partnerships and deepened existing ones, and developed systems, a theory of change, and modes of work.

Our collective accomplishments, many of them highlighted in the pages that follow, are enabled by what we do with our partners — both here at U-M and across the state and nation.

We collaborate whenever possible, both with internal partners at U-M and with external policymakers and community stakeholders. We work toward being responsive to the needs and interests of our partners, rather than allowing our own priorities to drive the work. And we seek to address concrete challenges faced by disadvantaged families across systems such as housing, transportation, employment, and health.

Building on this progress, we’re looking forward to deepening our impact this year, especially in Detroit.

We know Detroit is a city with a proud history. The city is blessed with rich cultural institutions and natural assets. Yet for too long, Detroit has ranked as the poorest large city in America. But today there is significant reason for optimism. A revitalized city government means that core services are back on track, and the city is engaged in numerous efforts to improve the lives of its residents. Parts of the city are unrecognizable from two decades prior. Midtown and downtown are vibrant; businesses are moving in and rents have skyrocketed.

The true test of a recovery, however, is whether it can lift up everyone. Can we, collectively, do something transformational to radically bolster economic mobility and reduce poverty? How does a major city even do such a thing?

First and foremost, action is required across all systems and sectors. Government can’t do it alone, nor can community-based groups. Employers, universities, and decision-makers from the broader region must be a part of the solution. Collective impact means identifying common goals and organizing the actions of actors to achieve those goals. (Read more about our partnership efforts in Detroit beginning on p. 4.)

As we continue to deepen our engagement with Detroit, we have also focused on service to the state, through our work on homelessness and housing instability instability (p. 18), early childhood education, and partnership efforts underway in Washtenaw County (p. 14). We’ve also made strides to extend our work by attracting an additional $8 million in external funding for important projects happening across the university. This includes a new program to pilot a “Mobility from Poverty Network” with other universities in Midwest communities.

Thank you for your interest in Poverty Solutions. I invite you to learn more about our efforts in the pages that follow. We look forward to deepening our partnerships with policymakers and communities to prevent and alleviate poverty in Michigan, the nation, and the world.

H. Luke Shaefer
Director, Poverty Solutions

The Partnership on Economic Mobility
Through the Partnership on Economic Mobility between Poverty Solutions and the City of Detroit Mayor’s Office, we have committed to making our work in Detroit a signature effort of our initiative. With staff members embedded at City Hall, others active in the community, and deeply engaged faculty from across U-M’s campus, we aim to be a backbone organization for working in partnership with Detroit communities and the city to catalyze an anti-poverty agenda, build capacity to implement key elements of that agenda, and pursue an effort to radically bolster economic mobility and reduce poverty citywide.

Areas of focus

Handshake icon

Jobs: A thriving workforce

House icon

Housing: A stable place to
call home

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Education: A path to
educational excellence

Accelerating Training

Opportunities for Student Engagement

Poverty Solutions engages students across the university through a diverse range of programs and opportunities. We host social and networking events, offer expertise and background as guest lecturers in U-M courses, and work with university and community partners to offer interactive simulations and other learning opportunities, engaging hundreds of students. Since 2017, more than 100 students have had a formal sustained relationship with Poverty Solutions through the course, certificate program, or research assistant opportunities, and hundreds more have participated in a Poverty Solutions event or outreach opportunity. In 2019, students will begin to contribute to shaping future academic offerings through a Student Advisory Board.

This certificate has helped me to learn and apply poverty alleviation theories and approaches to respectful community interaction. I believe that its impact goes beyond students involved in the program. The opportunities for research, networking and direct impact give us the tools to fight systemic oppression of the poor.

Payton Watt (pictured above right)

In 2017, Poverty Solutions engaged
students from

schools and colleges across campus to work directly with poverty related research and programs.