Areas of Focus

Criminal Justice

LJAF’s Criminal Justice initiative aims to reduce crime, increase public safety, and ensure the criminal justice system operates as fairly and cost-effectively as possible. In order to achieve these goals, we work to develop, incubate, and spread innovative approaches to criminal justice challenges. We build teams of experts from both inside and outside the criminal justice field to develop research projects, create tools for practitioners, and partner with local jurisdictions to pilot and test new policies and practices. Our projects use data and technology as a means to drive innovation and accelerate the adoption of proven reforms.

Currently, we focus our efforts on two targeted areas: the front end of the system, which runs from arrest through sentencing, and forensic science. We selected these areas because we believe that reforms in these areas can significantly improve safety, cost, and fairness. We also believe these areas are likely to benefit from our collaborative, data- and technology-driven approach to transforming the criminal justice system.

Evidence-Based Policy and Innovation

LJAF’s Evidence-Based Policy and Innovation division works to develop and support initiatives that encourage policy leaders to consider reliable evidence and data as the primary factor in their decisions. These efforts will help to ensure that government rigorously evaluates existing programs and designs new programs with the use of credible evidence. We bring policymakers, researchers, data experts, and other key stakeholders from the public and private sectors together to strengthen the infrastructure and processes needed to support evidence-based decision making. We promote the rigorous evaluation of public programs, new government and philanthropic funding models that emphasize the use of evidence, and strategic partnerships to accelerate progress. In addition, we invest in rigorous evaluations and evidence reviews that can help to identify promising and proven programs. This focus on measurable results will help to ensure that taxpayer dollars are allocated in an efficient and impactful way to produce meaningful improvements in people’s lives.

K-12 Education

LJAF supports a range of interventions that advance the portfolio model school management structure, an innovative governance system that separates the authorization and oversight of public schools from their day-to-day operations. Unlike many traditional school systems where school leaders must follow a specific instructional program and adhere to district mandates, operators in the portfolio model have a great deal of flexibility in their decision making. They select their own curriculum and materials, hire teachers and staff, and control the campus budget. Operators work to provide a high-quality education and are evaluated by authorizers who are focused on replicating and expanding effective school models. The portfolio model is currently being used as part of a multifaceted strategy to turn around low-performing schools in New Orleans, Louisiana. LJAF has committed more than $40 million to that effort, and the early results are promising. We believe widespread implementation of this unique governance structure in cities across the nation would help to address systemic inequities and improve educational outcomes.  

Public Accountability

LJAF’s Public Accountability initiative is focused on improving the efficiency and efficacy of the public sector. We are committed to promoting transparency and data-sharing, innovative financing mechanisms for social problem solving, and efforts that support fiscal sustainability and the effective oversight of public funds. In order to deliver critical government services and promote future economic prosperity, governments must adopt responsible fiscal policies. We fund projects that are analyzing the impact of tax policies designed to spur economic development as well as efforts to evaluate local budgeting and financial reporting standards. In addition, we help governments address one of their most pressing fiscal issues—the unsustainable state of their public pension systems.

Pension debt has more than quintupled in the past decade. In an attempt to keep up with the rising costs, governments are directing funding away from services such as schools, policing, and public libraries. The issue is affecting taxpayers and those who rely on public services, but it is having the greatest impact on public workers themselves. LJAF believes all workers who have dedicated their lives to public service deserve to be part of a system that provides a path to a secure retirement. We work with cities and states to help them recognize the true nature of their pension problems and to develop structural reforms that are comprehensive, lasting, and fair to all parties.

Research Integrity

LJAF’s Research Integrity initiative aims to improve the reliability and validity of scientific evidence across fields that inform governmental policy, philanthropic endeavors, and individual decision making. As a society, we often rely on published scientific research to guide our policy, health, and lifestyle choices. Although some published research is rigorous and reliable, some is not. Worse, the unreliability of research is often difficult or impossible to ascertain. LJAF is currently working to address this problem by supporting organizations that are committed to improving the openness, transparency, and quality of research. All research projects sponsored in full or in part by LJAF must follow the Guidelines for Investments in Research