Current Grants

Through our Urban Innovation Grants, the Mansueto Institute supports research at the University of Chicago focused on critical issues and topics impacting cities.

Learn more about how to apply for Urban Innovations Grants, and read below about currently supported grants.


Safer Cities for Kids: Using In-Vehicle Telematics Data to Evaluate How Urban Policies and the Built Environment Affect Road Traffic Injuries

Project lead Kavi Bhalla, Associate Professor, Department of Public Health Sciences, the University of Chicago
Collaborators Eric Polley, Associate Professor and Director, Biostatistics Laboratory, Department of Public Health Sciences, the University of Chicago

This project aims to assess the potential of using in-vehicle telematics data to evaluate how urban policies and the built environment affect road traffic injuries. Vehicular telematics is an emerging source of big data, which includes time-stamped information on vehicle location, aggressive driving — such as harsh braking/acceleration, high acceleration cornering, and speeding — and crash events. While it is increasingly common for insurance companies to use telematics data for “rate making,” such as, identifying safe/risky drivers for deciding who to keep in the insurance pool, there have been few applications of telematics data to public policy analysis. Therefore, we will conduct two evaluations as case studies: (1) Effects of Chicago’s red-light camera system on harsh braking and crashes; and (2) Effect of reduced lane widths on aggressive driving behaviors, like speeding and harsh braking/acceleration. The findings of this pilot project will support an application for a federal grant to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development focused on developing and applying analytical methods that use telematics data for a wide range of evaluations focused on the safety of children in cities.


Planetary Urbanization, Energy Landscapes, and Environmental Sustainability

Project lead Neil Brenner, Lucy Flower Professor of Urban Sociology and Director, Urban Theory Lab, Department of Sociology and Committee on Environment, Geography and Urbanization (CEGU)

Collaborators Alexander Arroyo, Senior Research Associate in Global Political Ecology, Urban Theory Lab and Faculty Affiliate, CEGU; Grga Bašić, Senior Research Associate in Cartography and Spatial Media, Urban Theory Lab and Faculty Affiliate, CEGU

In the face of proliferating environmental emergencies, the question of urban sustainability has gained unprecedented urgency. However, the dominant paradigm of urban sustainability research focuses on city-based activities, and renders invisible a key environmental dimension of urbanization — cities’ exchange of energy, materials, and waste with non-city spaces. In contrast, this research project aims to explore (a) how the world’s major metropolitan regions have secured their energy supplies over the longue durée of capitalist development, and (b) how such energy landscapes have been restructured and relocated since the consolidation of a fossil fuel-based formation of capitalism in the 1850s. This investigation will, in turn, (c) provide a basis on which to reconsider contemporary debates on sustainable urbanism with reference to the massive hinterland footprints associated with renewable energy systems. Through these interconnected inquiries, the project will advance a new conception of sustainable urbanization that grants equal weight to city-based consumption and hinterland energy landscapes. Given the immense practical import of the issues under investigation, this research will contribute not only to scholarship, but to ongoing public conversations about the future of cities in our crisis-riven planetary environment.

Defining Chicago’s Neighborhoods: A Crowdsourced Approach

Project lead Emily Talen, Professor of Urbanism, Division of Social Sciences, The University of Chicago

Collaborators Crystal Bae, Assistant Instructional Professor of GIScience, University of Chicago; Lydia Wileden, Postdoctoral Scholar, Mansueto Institute and Division of Social Sciences, the University of Chicago

Chicago is often described as a “city of neighborhoods,” but it has no official neighborhood designations in use. Instead, the city relies on the 77 “community areas” created by Chicago School sociologists over a century ago. Meanwhile, hundreds of spatial proxies for neighborhoods blanket the city, including wards, neighborhood association boundaries, school districts, and census tracts. What is not known is how these myriad geographies resemble residents’ own conceptions of, and lived experiences in, neighborhoods, and what is obscured by an over-reliance on administrative boundaries defined long ago in a different sociodemographic context. The motivation for this study is to gain a better understanding of resident definitions of Chicago neighborhoods via crowd-sourced neighborhood boundary drawings. To that end, we build on related research that asks respondents to draw the boundaries of their neighborhoods, and then assess similarities and differences in residents’ mental representations of local geography. Our goal is to answer two research questions: First, how do resident-generated neighborhood boundaries compare with other definitions of neighborhoods, such as community areas and neighborhood association boundaries)? Second, how do perceived neighborhood boundaries vary with respect to respondent location and respondent identity, such as race, socioeconomic status, and length of tenure? The survey is now available at the Chicago Neighborhood Project.