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.

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 is committed to supporting evidence-based decision making by governments, promoting transparency and data-sharing, exploring innovative financing mechanisms for social problem solving, and maximizing overall government performance and efficiencies.

We work actively in the area of public employee benefits reform. State and local budgets across the nation continue to face considerable financial strain, and the structure of public employee benefits in most states and communities is unsustainable. The economic and social costs of governments failing to pay for their promises are not only harmful to future generations of workers and taxpayers, but also potentially crippling to the nation. We seek to remedy this untenable situation by promoting transparency and concrete structural solutions that address the problem in a manner that is comprehensive, lasting, and fair to all parties.

Our additional areas of focus in the Public Accountability initiative include promoting the effective use of social innovation financing and supporting efforts that encourage and facilitate government decision making based on rigorous research and evaluation. We support pilot testing of innovative solutions to difficult problems, and are currently exploring other opportunities to improve public accountability through reforms of the electoral system and various initiatives relating to information transparency.

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