Houston Endowment Awards $7 Million Grant to Kinder Institute


It marks the largest contribution the Kinder Institute has received since 2010, when Rich and Nancy Kinder provided a permanent endowment gift of $15 million.

It marks the largest contribution the Kinder Institute has received since 2010, when Rich and Nancy Kinder provided a permanent endowment gift of $15 million.

William Fulton is the director of the Kinder Institute for Urban Research, based at Rice University in Houston.

When I came to Houston to lead the Kinder Institute nearly a year and a half ago, one of the first things we did was outline a couple of ambitious goals for our organization. We wanted to become the preeminent urban think tank serving cities across the U.S. Sun Belt and use our research and knowledge to help tackle tough urban problems here in Houston.

It was a bold plan, but I was confident we’d eventually achieve those goals. And now, thanks to a generous grant from Houston Endowment, we’ve moved closer to doing so much faster than I could have ever imagined.

Houston Endowment has agreed to provide the Kinder Institute with a three-year, $7.0 million grant. It marks the largest contribution the Kinder Institute has received since 2010, when Rich and Nancy Kinder provided a permanent endowment gift of $15 million.

First, I’d like to thank Houston Endowment for its support. We worked closely with the Houston Endowment team for many months to get to this point, and we look forward to showing them the fruits of their investment in the coming years.

Second, I’d like to explain what we intend to do with this funding and share why we believe it will help the entire Houston region to flourish as never before.

The funding will be used to support five key initiatives.

First, it will allow us to build Rice’s “Urban Data Platform,” which will be used by all of the Kinder Institute’s programs, as well as researchers from Rice and across the country. This initiative, to be led by Rice Statistics Professor Kathy Ensor, will organize complex data within a single access point. In particular, it will focus on datasets that have geographic components in order to reveal trends not readily apparent in traditional analyses.

This project is actually part of Rice’s much larger data sciences initiative, taking advantage of our university’s traditional strength in computing. It also builds on our recently signed agreement with the City of Houston that will grant the university’s researchers access to many of the 2,000 datasets maintained by the city. Ultimately, the Urban Data Platform will contribute to new types of research that have never been conducted in the Houston area, and we believe it will serve as a model for communities across the nation.

Second, the funding will allow us to expand our outreach and convening efforts. Already, the Kinder Institute has a robust editorial operation that produces research reports and the popular Urban Edge blog. We also host dozens of events, workshops, and lectures each year. The grant will enable the Kinder Institute to ramp up in both these areas. That means more blogging, more research reports, and more events for the general public, civic leaders, and other experts. It also means that, on many critical public issues, the Kinder Institute will serve as a “neutral convener” — a safe place for people to come and talk about how to tackle our city’s biggest problems. At the Kinder Institute, we believe it’s critical that our message reach those who are in a position to implement policy. We also seek to engage them in a discussion about how to implement those policies. By expanding our outreach and convening capabilities, we’ll be in a better position to do just that.

Finally, the grant will allow us to launch three new program areas: Urban Disparity and Opportunity; Urban Development, Transportation, and Placemaking; and Urban and Metropolitan Governance.

Our Urban Disparity and Opportunity (UD&O) program will address issues of equity in the Houston region by combining research across disciplines including health, education, and demographics — all of which are traditional Kinder Institute strengths. The goal is to improve urban life for the less fortunate in Houston by developing evidence-based strategies that address the root causes of disparity.

The Urban Development, Transportation, and Placemaking (DT&P) program will study challenges associated with the rapid growth and development of the Houston region. We’ll focus on examining ways we can ensure the most quickly urbanizing portions of Houston can develop in ways that benefit the region and its residents.

And the Urban and Metropolitan Governance (U&MG) program will address a slew of governance issues associated with both Harris County and the City of Houston. We might take on such issues as the role of cities, counties, and municipal utility districts; pension reform; and the impact of special districts on governance.

Rice University has long sought to be a partner in solving Houston’s most intractable problems, and in the Kinder Institute’s five years, we’ve made great strides in that effort. Houston Endowment’s support will allow the Kinder Institute to enter its next critical phase in that journey.

But it’s also important to remember that the grant isn’t really about helping the Kinder Institute. It’s about helping to ensure that Houston – and cities across the country – continue to find ways to thrive.

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6100 Main St. MS-208
Houston, TX 77005-1892


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Houston, TX 77005-1892

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