What is Mobility Learning and Action Bets (LABs)?

Mobility Learning and Action Bets—or Mobility LABs—is a pioneering, four-year initiative to spur the development of new solutions to sustainably lift families out of poverty, and to promote dynamic leaders to change the conversation around social and economic mobility. Mobility LABs builds on Robin Hood’s work to identify and invest in effective models developed in New York City that can be exported and replicated in other communities. In addition, the work will identify innovative new models from other communities that can be replicated in New York City and beyond.

A deeply embedded feature of Mobility LABs is the idea that people who are closest to the challenge are closest to the solution. Rather than Robin Hood dictating the specific levers for communities to pull (e.g., early childhood, job training, or health), we are taking a “community up” approach. We are asking our local anchor partners to embark on a data-driven, heart-led process to identify solutions and produce a plan to pilot, test, and implement those solutions.

Another important feature of Mobility LABs is that the initiative is designed as a cohort model with a key focus on peer learning across diverse urban, suburban, and rural communities. As such, the work in each community will move forward on the same timeline, with built-in opportunities (virtual and in-person) for shared learning

Why is Robin Hood launching Mobility LABs?

New data clearly underscore the need to prioritize investments in mobility from poverty. Nationally, the work of Opportunity Insights shows that the American Dream — rising up from poverty to economic opportunity — is now less likely to happen in the United States than it is in Canada, Denmark, or the United Kingdom. Local New York City data from Robin Hood’s Poverty Tracker reveal a similar story: from year to year, more New Yorkers move in and out of poverty than remain persistently in poverty. Mobility LABs will explore these dynamics and others in a bold effort to find and test models that address this challenge.

Through Mobility LABs, we hope to learn about what it takes to increase mobility from poverty—to provide a springboard up, rather than just a safety net—and about effective measures of short-term predictors of mobility. For purposes of the initiative, mobility is defined as including three components—economic success, agency, and belonging—and we hope to identify and measure indicators across all three components.

How are we going about our work?

In September 2019, Robin Hood awarded $125,000 planning grants to each of nine local anchor partners to lead a process to develop solutions that are both data-driven (i.e., informed by the latest national and local data on mobility outcomes) and heart-led (i.e., informed by the perspectives of community residents who are experiencing poverty). The 9-month planning process is expected to yield plans for pilot approaches to address gaps in mobility from poverty (e.g., among different demographic groups or within geographic areas) and “loss points” (i.e., points during the life cycle where low-income children and youth and their households are experiencing obstacles to mobility). Community-based organizations will receive implementation funding to test and implement the pilot approaches over a 3-year period beginning in late 2020.

In which communities does Mobility LABs focus, and who are the local anchor partners?

Mobility LABs is supporting local anchor partners to lead planning work in nine demographically and geographically diverse local communities where Robin Hood and our philanthropic partners have commitments:

  • Brownsville, Brooklyn (New York): JobsFirst NYC
  • South Bronx (New York): Bronx Defenders
  • Flushing, Queens (New York): Chinese American Planning Council
  • Baltimore (Maryland): Baltimore Community Foundation
  • Suburban Cook County (Illinois): CEDA
  • Northeast Pennsylvania: Commission for Economic Opportunity
  • Bayview (California): Young Community Developers
  • East San Jose (California): SOMOS Mayfair
  • East Contra Costa County (California): Richmond Community Foundation


Who are the funding partners?

Mobility LABs is a partnership of major donors, including:

  • Robin Hood
  • The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation
  • Tipping Point Community
  • Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Whom can I contact for more information about Mobility LABs?

Nisha Patel

Managing Director, Narrative Change and National Initiatives

Nisha Patel founded and leads Mobility LABs. She is responsible for the overall vision and strategy of the initiative. She serves as the lead external spokesperson.

Lori Boozer

Senior Program Officer, Mobility LABs

Manages partnerships in New York City and the Bay Area.

Cathy Garcia

Program Officer, Mobility LABs

Manages partnerships in Baltimore, Cook County, and Northeast Pennsylvania.

Stephanie Rameau

Program Associate, Mobility LABs

Provides project management, logistical, and administrative support for the initiative.

For more information, please email mobilitylabs@robinhood.org. For media inquiries, please email press@robinhood.org.


WATCH: Mobility LABs launch at No City Limits 2019


Wes Moore, CEO of Robin Hood; Nisha Patel, Managing Director for Narrative Change and National Initiatives at Robin Hood; Daniel Lurie, CEO and Founder of Tipping Point Community; and Rachel Garbow Monroe, President and CEO of the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, announce the launch of Mobility LABs at Robin Hood’s 2019 No City Limits Conference.

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