The Joyce Foundation supports the development of policies that both improve the quality of life for people in the Great Lakes region and serve as models for the rest of the country. We invest in and focus on today's most pressing problems while also informing the public policy decisions critical to creating opportunity and achieving long-term solutions. The work is based on sound research and is focused on where we can add the most value. We partner with others and encourage innovative and collaborative approaches with a regional focus and the potential for a national reach.
Why We Do It
Built on the resources of an Iowa family and located for the last 60 years in Chicago, The Joyce Foundation is proud to support the hard work, innovation, and community spirit of people in the Great Lakes region. The region faces the challenges that are epitomized in the "Rust Belt" label. But it is also home to America's largest freshwater resource, its most fertile farmland, an energetic and diverse population, dozens of Fortune 500 companies along with thousands of smaller enterprises, and a cultural heritage ranging from Motown and the Cleveland Symphony to Frank Lloyd Wright and Oprah Winfrey. The Joyce Foundation seeks to ensure the continuing vitality of the Great Lakes region and to make sure that benefits are widely shared among its people.
EDUCATION: The Joyce Foundation is committed to improving education in Midwest cities, especially by eliminating the barriers that prevent low-income students and children of color from reaching their full educational potential. Because research shows that having a first-rate teacher has an enormous impact on student achievement, the Foundation concentrates the bulk of its grant making on improving teacher quality. It also supports other strategies for addressing the achievement gap, including making sure children learn to read by third grade and supporting high quality charter schools and other educational innovations. The Foundation has been a long-time supporter of Chicago school reform, and has also worked in Milwaukee, Detroit, Cleveland, and currently in Indianapolis and Minneapolis. Over the years, Joyce has explored a variety of strategies, including school finance, parent organizing, educational technology, charter schools, and early childhood education. The Foundation has also consistently supported research identifying and evaluating promising new strategies.
EMPLOYMENT: The Joyce Foundation believes that equipping workers to succeed in good-paying jobs benefits individuals, their families and communities, and the Midwest economy as a whole. Current priorities include promoting training partnerships with major industries and improving community colleges through the Aspen Prize. At the state level, the Foundation's five-year Shifting Gears initiative has dramatically increased access to credentials for low-income adults by streamlining postsecondary, adult basic education, and skills-development systems in five Midwest states. Over the last two decades, the Foundation has tested a variety of strategies to boost workers' skills and help low-skilled workers, women on welfare, ex-offenders, and others who face significant barriers to joining the workforce. Through it all, Joyce has consistently funded research to evaluate promising strategies and learn from the results; Joyce-supported research on welfare-to-work and transitional jobs were major contributions to the field. Amid current economic and fiscal challenges, the Foundation continues to seek innovative strategies that expand access to successful training models and control costs.
ENVIRONMENT: The Joyce Foundation is committed to protecting and restoring the Great Lakes and developing cleaner energy for the Midwest region, especially through investments in energy efficiency. Its Great Lakes priorities include reducing polluted runoff into the Lakes through restoration of watersheds in the Milwaukee and Toledo areas and preventing invasive species from devastating the Lakes' ecosystem; a recent Joyce-funded study analyzed the feasibility of breaking the connection between the Lakes and the Mississippi River system, through which many invasives come. Over the decades Joyce has supported a network of advocacy groups that have won major policy advances, including the federally funded Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the binational commitments embodied in Great Lakes Compact. The Foundation has also sought improvements in broader national policies that affect the Lakes, including transportation, agriculture, industrial pollution, and climate change. Its work on energy has included funding on the human health effects of coal and shifts toward high speed rail.
CULTURE: Nurturing a diverse and thriving culture is an important part of the Joyce Foundation's dedication to improving the quality of life in the Midwest. The Foundation supports community-based arts groups in Chicago and encourages mainstream arts groups to expand their audiences, boards and staffs to reflect the city's diversity. Joyce grant making also supports expanding opportunities for individual artists through fellowships, residencies and commissions. Since 2003, The Joyce Awards have enabled Midwest arts groups (and, beginning in 2013, other groups) to commission new works by artists of color. Recognizing that technology creates new possibilities for art-making and community building, in 2012 the Foundation began seeking projects that engage audiences through new media and link the arts to community revitalization efforts. The Joyce Foundation has been a longtime funder of such Chicago groups as Black Ensemble Theater, the Cambodian Heritage Museum, and Luna Negra Dance Theater.
DEMOCRACY: The Joyce Foundation seeks to ensure the vibrancy of American democracy through its grant making on campaign finance reform, fair and open redistricting, voting rights, governmental ethics, and judicial independence. Joyce has a long history in this area, from funding presidential debates to supporting work on voter registration and full participation in the U.S Census. Beginning in the mid-1990s, the Foundation focused its efforts on combatting the overwhelming influence of big money on political campaigns. It has supported the growth of a strong network of public interest groups in Midwest states, which collaborate through the Midwest Democracy Network; and it has also funded policy development and research by national groups ranging from the Brookings Institution to the Cato Institute.
GUN VIOLENCE PREVENTION: Each year nearly 100,000 people are shot in the U.S., and nearly 30,000 of them die. The Joyce Foundation seeks effective public policies to reduce this toll. Polls show that most Americans, including most gun-owners, favor reasonable laws to keep firearms away from criminals, domestic abusers, and people with mental illness, but the "gun rights" drumbeat has drowned out such common-sense approaches. The Foundation is embarking on efforts to educate the public, policy makers and the media about the toll of gun violence in American communities and potential solutions that honor American traditions while protecting the public safety. Since beginning its work on gun violence in 1993, Joyce has supported policy development and advocacy by state-based groups, physicians, universities, and law enforcement. It has also supported development of legal strategies to defend existing gun laws in the wake of the Supreme Court Heller decision. As in its other program areas, the Foundation seeks approaches based on sound data and research. Starting with a prototype at the Medical College of Wisconsin in the 1990s, the Foundation helped establish the National Violent Death Reporting System, a central database that is now maintained by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Joyce has also funded research exploring the relationship between guns and such problems as suicide, domestic violence, and risks to children.