Our Initiatives

Nurturing innovative ideas about cities from innovative urban scholars

The Mansueto Institute provides a platform for researchers and scholars to create initiatives that embody our vision of developing bold new ideas and innovative solutions that are poised to help cities succeed. We look for innovators across the university who have ideas with the potential for local and global impact. We help nurture their ideas into initiatives through our annual Urban Innovation Grants, which can include funding, as well as support with data science, communications, event, and operations. Each initiative affiliated with the Mansueto Institute is led by one or more University of Chicago faculty members, working with colleagues, postdoctoral and graduate fellows, students, and other collaborators. Our initiatives share a commitment to the highest level of scholarship in the realms of science, the arts, humanistic inquiry, and practice. Initiatives may focus on research, training, convening, and more, with the hope that they may ultimately become self-sustaining.

chicago neighborhood survey

Chicago Neighborhood Project

Chicago prides itself as “The City of Neighborhoods” but where are they? The purpose of the Chicago Neighborhood Project is to better understand — and support — Chicago’s neighborhoods, and provide an update, or complement, to the 77 community areas mapped in the 1920s. The project created a short survey asking current Chicago residents to use an interactive map to draw their neighborhood boundaries. With over 4,500 responses, the survey will help to create a new map of Chicago by neighborhood, the average definition of which is around 5,000 people, rather than just the community area, which average about 35,000 people. 

Community Research on Climate and Urban Science CROCUS logo

The Community Research on Climate and Urban Science (CROCUS) is a flagship project from the U.S. Department of Energy to create a network of Urban Integrated Field Laboratories for the study of climate change in local urban communities across the U.S. The project is led by Argonne National Laboratory with the University of Chicago and other higher education institutions in the greater Chicago area, as well as four community partners. The Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation heads the University of Chicago’s affiliation with CROCUS.

environmental frontiers

Environmental Frontiers

Environmental Frontiers, a partnership with the Committee on Environment, Geography and Urbanization (CEGU), the Center for Robust Decision-making on Climate and Energy Policy (RDCEP), the Office of the Provost, and Facilities Services‘ Office of Sustainability, gives University of Chicago students a scientific and practical understanding of urban sustainable development, starting with projects on campus. Students work under the guidance of faculty to develop research and applied projects that explore and enhance campus sustainability, with an eye toward broader impact into whole urban areas and their neighborhoods.

Kreisman Fellows Chicago Department of Housing visit

The Kreisman Initiative for Housing Law and Policy brings together multiple fields of inquiry – including policy, social services, business, law, social and data sciences – to advance housing scholarship and generate new ideas about cities and housing. The Kreisman Initiative is the only effort at the University of Chicago dedicated to housing scholarship and practice, with the mission of bringing Chicago ideas to bear on housing policy debates, policy making, and legal and business decision making through scholarly research, external engagement, and educational programming. The Initiative includes a graduate fellowship program that accommodates as many as ten scholars each year, as well as a robust series of convenings, bringing together housing thought leaders from academia, policy and industry.

Data Visualzation cropped local data journalism initiative

Local Data Journalism Initiative

The Local Data Journalism Initiative establishes partnerships between news organizations and university-led data science teams to conduct ambitious investigative journalism on issues affecting cities, using the highest caliber data science and artificial intelligence tools and methodologies. The initiative is run in partnership with the Data Science Institute and the Mansueto Institute and supports investigative journalism on topics such as real estate, municipal finance, policing, and transportation.

Lagos Million Neighborhoods

The Million Neighborhoods initiative is a collaborative network of diverse organizations working locally in Chicago and in neighborhoods throughout the world towards more sustainable and equitable human development. The network builds a common framework, tools, and data for mapping, planning, and coordinating solutions towards fulfilling the UN’s Agenda 2030 for Global Sustainable Development.

residential aerial view

Property Tax Fairness

The Property Tax Fairness project is a partnership between the Mansueto Institute and the Center for Municipal Finance at the Harris School of Public Policy presenting evaluations of property taxes in cities across the country. As the single largest source of local taxes for cities, counties, school districts, and special districts, totaling $500 billion per year, property taxes impact everyone. In many cities, however, property taxes are also inequitable: low-value properties face higher tax assessments, relative to their actual market values, than do high-value properties. This tax regressivity disproportionately burdens lower-income residents. To better understand these issues, the Property Tax Fairness project has reviewed millions of sales records for properties throughout the country to present the results of these evaluations.

Trauma Interest Work Group

The Trauma Interest Work Group (TIWG), is a partnership with faculty from the Biological Sciences and Social Sciences Divisions that promotes the scientific, interdisciplinary understanding of trauma and works to improve equity and justice on the South Side of Chicago and beyond. TIWG does this through education, scholarship, clinical care, community engagement, and advocacy.​ TIWG pursues this vision by establishing a multidisciplinary dialogue and taking an ecological approach to the complexities of trauma at the individual, relational, community and institutional levels. By communicating and strategizing across disciplines—including clinical work, social work, public health policy, sociology, community advocacy, and more—TIWG advances a rigorous, scientific, and compassionate approach to the understanding, treatment, and prevention of trauma. TIWG regularly hosts speaker series on topics such as forced migration, community perspectives on safety, and gun violence.

Urban Cognition Lab

The Urban Cognition Lab investigates how the design of the physical environment affects an individual’s brain and behavior. Scientists develop experiments, methodologies, and instrumentation for discovering how people respond, physically and cognitively, to different kinds of places.  Their findings help spatial designers, policymakers, and planners build urban spaces that better foster human well-being and social life.

Past Initiatives

Array of Things

Array of Things

The Array of Things is a network of interactive, modular sensors that collect real-time data on a city’s environment, infrastructure, and activity for research and public use. The initiative enables anyone to access data about climate, air quality, noise, and other factors that affect the livability of our built and natural environments.


Urban Architecture and Design

Urban Architecture and Design seeks to transform how we envision the future of the built environment. The initiative brings together UChicago faculty and the world’s leading design practitioners to pursue research, programs, and pedagogy that face the challenge of today’s environmental, social, and economic imperatives.