LEO, founded in 2012 by Evans and colleague James Sullivan, the Rev. Thomas J. McDonagh, C.S.C., Associate Professor of Economics, aims to evaluate the impact of domestic anti-poverty programs, improve services by determining what truly works, and inform national policy by spreading its evidence-based research. Among the current areas of focus are early childhood development, community college persistence, job readiness, juvenile justice diversion and homelessness prevention.
Notre Dame has the unique advantage of partnering with Catholic Charities, one of the nation’s largest private providers of services to the poor.
Panelist Heather Reynolds, president and CEO of Catholic Charities Fort Worth in Texas, said LEO is helping the service provider evaluate its strategy of intensive case management to move people out of poverty and improve community college graduation rates.
If we really want to win the war on poverty, we need to try new ways,” she said. “What the service sector is missing is R&D (research and development), but LEO allows nonprofits access to this expertise.”
“There was some skepticism from those in the justice system,” Baker said.
That’s where the Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities (LEO) at the University of Notre Dame could help. A research center in the economics department, LEO aims to identify innovative, effective and scalable programs that help people move out of poverty, working directly with Catholic Charities and other nonprofit organizations.