What is Mobility Learning and Action Bets (LABs)?

Mobility Learning and Action Bets—or Mobility LABs—is a pioneering $25 million, four-year initiative to spur the development of new solutions to sustainably lift families out of poverty, and to promote dynamic leaders who will aim to change the national conversation around social and economic mobility.

Mobility LABs will build 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.


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.

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 poor. Mobility LABs will explore these dynamics and others in a bold effort to find and test models that address this challenge.

How will we go about our work?

In collaboration with our philanthropic partners, Robin Hood will identify local anchor partners for investment as part of Mobility LABs. Through this initiative, 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. We are keen to support action at the community level in diverse urban, suburban, and rural geographies. While we will make investments driven by data and grounded in the perspectives of people experiencing poverty, we recognize that we are embarking on a new area of work and will need to make some bets in order to learn. We will mitigate the risk by working together with partners who bring solid track records and significant expertise. Learning from these investments will inform and influence Robin Hood’s core grantmaking, as well as our philanthropic partners’ efforts, going forward.

Who is leading the work of Mobility LABs at Robin Hood?

Mobility LABs is led by Nisha Patel, Managing Director for Narrative Change & National Initiatives at Robin Hood. Patel is a nationally renowned expert in helping families move sustainably out of poverty. She served as the director of President Obama’s Office of Family Assistance at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services where she led the investment strategy for a $17 billion portfolio of federal grants. Patel also served as the Executive Director of the U.S. Partnership on Mobility from Poverty, where she partnered with other experts to identify ideas for investment to dramatically increase mobility from poverty.

Who are the funding partners?

Mobility LABs is a new partnership of major donors, including:

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


In which communities will Mobility LABs focus?

Mobility LABs will support action at the community level in five diverse geographies where Robin Hood and our philanthropic partners have deep roots and long-term commitments:

  • New York City
  • Baltimore
  • Rural northeast Pennsylvania
  • Suburban Chicago (the balance of Cook County minus the city of Chicago)
  • The Bay Area (with initial exploration in Pittsburg, Bayview, and East San Jose).


Are you accepting proposals?

We are not accepting unsolicited proposals. Rather, we will identify local anchor partners to lead a planning 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).

Local anchor partners will receive planning grants for a 9-month period to develop targeted interventions 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) specific to their local contexts.

What is the timeline?

We plan to award planning grants to local anchor partners by the fall of 2019. Implementation grants will be awarded beginning in 2020.

Read the Mobility LABs press release

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

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