The Institute for Urban Policy Research is rooted in a deep tradition of service to the community. From our roots as the research unit of the Foundation for Community Empowerment, the Institute has grown in breadth and depth in its studies of quality of life and social justice issues. A brief glimpse into our past is depicted below.
Beginning of a Vision...
In 1995, J. McDonald “Don” Williams retired as chairman emeritus of Trammell Crow Company. Don wanted to give back to communities in Dallas that had missed out on urban revitalization, education reform, and other waves of progress, resulting in significant disparities in quality of life for residents of those communities. After researching nonprofit organizations around the country, he created the Foundation for Community Empowerment, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, as a catalyst for comprehensive efforts to transform low-income neighborhoods in southern Dallas and to build a replicable model for urban revitalization. The FCE team began building a network of caring, dedicated organizations that would one day become a network of partners that are the backbone of true community change in Dallas.
The First Research Team
In 2003, Don Williams and the FCE team realized there was a need for structured inquiry into the changing community conditions in Dallas, so they formed a research unit. Dr. Marcus Martin was hired as Director of Research, and began working with a small group of graduate students from the University of North Texas Health Science Center. This small research team was successful in building partnerships with faculty from other local universities, colleagues in similar nonprofit agencies, and policy makers. The information they developed about the South Dallas neighborhood (FCE's geographic focus) provided a stable platform from which to begin many community empowerment projects.
Creation of the Williams Institute
In 2005, it became clear that the true nature of disparities in Dallas could not be fully understood without an appreciation for the context of disparities affecting urban communities across the country. Recognizing the need for an objective voice for public policy change in Dallas and around the nation, FCE established the J. McDonald Williams Institute as a source of objective research and policy recommendations relevant to urban revitalization and quality of life. During this time, the Institute developed the Wholeness Index, began modifications to its data democratization tools, and experienced explosive growth in the demand for it's services. Attendance at the Institute's annual conference doubled in just two short years.
Arrival of the Institute for Urban Policy Research
Recognizing the explosive growth the Williams Institute had seen, FCE advanced its original plans to migrate the Institute to a stand alone organization. The University of Texas at Dallas came along side the Institute and provided an academic home, with access to advanced technologies, cutting edge tools, sharp minds, and eager students. Known now as the Institute for Urban Policy Research, IUPR resides in the School of Economic, Political, and Policy Sciences.
The Institute’s roots in a community-building organization give its research a spirit unique among its peers. While many institutes engage in “research for the sake of research,” the Institute truly believes the fruits of its research must serve the underserved by motivating the caliber of sustainable change necessary to improve quality of life and build a better city, nation, and world. Today, the Williams Institute assists FCE and many other clients in setting strategic direction and areas of focus, while continuing its commitment to work directly with and for the communities most in need of help.