Executive Director of CoLab
Ready for Takeoff:
Introducing Constellation Lab
In the Constellation Fund’s efforts to build the kind of rocket ship that can reach for the stars of poverty impact, this past year, it added a critical component – the Constellation Lab, or “CoLab.” A partnership with the Foundation for Educational Research and Development (FERD), CoLab aims to reduce poverty by producing actionable data through funding and supporting high-quality, long-term research on programs, practices, and their effects.
The underlying rationale for CoLab is simple: we can’t fight poverty in the dark. We can’t rely on good intentions, trends, or positive anecdotes to guide necessary investments to drive down poverty. As community organizations and public agencies work to improve programs and practices in the field, philanthropy can help improve outcomes by investing in reliable evidence: what’s working, who is and isn’t benefiting, and whether and how short-term results disrupt intergenerational cycles of poverty.
Constellation’s uniquely sophisticated model uses the best available evidence to identify and fund some of the most effective programs in the Twin Cities. Yet, limiting our work to the best available current evidence from prior research would mean limiting the bounds of our potential for long-term poverty impact.
Imagine how the world might be different if the software industry took the best available technology of the 1980s and never advanced beyond the once dominant Microsoft Disk Operating System (MS-DOS). If companies like Apple and Microsoft had never invested in the science to continuously update and iterate on that technology, we’d never have seen the rise of game-changers like Windows or Mac OS, and the better results they delivered for global consumers.
We can’t rely on good intentions, trends, or positive anecdotes to guide necessary investments to drive down poverty.
When it comes to fighting poverty and disparities, the stakes are even higher. Building and using continuously better evidence to inform poverty-fighting investments and practices brings us closer to enabling all young people to imagine a similar future, fostering thriving communities, and preventing avoidable early deaths and disease connected to known health consequences of poverty.
We started CoLab by listening. In my first few months on the job as CoLab’s inaugural Executive Director, I engaged in listening conversations with over 100 people representing government, nonprofit and community leadership, the private sector, philanthropy, and research. In the months ahead, we will launch our early projects through collaborative processes, including engaging with community and learning from people with lived expertise.
We’re in the final countdown now, and can’t wait to get this rocket ship in the air. I hope you’ll join us on this journey — to explore the spaces where CoLab-funded research and evaluation can best help fight poverty in Minnesota, and ensure all Minnesotans have equal opportunities to thrive. I am so excited about the unique contribution that we can make together.