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Vera Institute: Winner's Statement

Social Capitalists

Vera Institute

The Vera Institute was founded in 1961 to solve problems of discrimination, unfairness, and ineffectiveness in the administration of justice. After more than 40 years, dozens of Vera's evidence-based justice reforms have had impact and influence across the United States and around the world. Vera is funded through local, state and federal government, institutional funders such as the Ford Foundation, Open Society Institute, the JEHT Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Bloomberg LP and the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and a base of individual donors through Vera's annual fund.

Vera conducts research and publishes reports like the best think tanks, it tests its ideas through demonstration projects like an innovative service agency, and it provides consulting services like a private firm. But unlike these other institutions, Vera plays all three of its roles in close partnership with government. As a result, our researchers get access to more data, our demonstration projects are principally funded by government rather than by foundations alone, and the consultants we deploy are often themselves elected officials consulting to their peers. At its best, Vera's work not only improves individual lives, but also allows our government partners to improve public services -- such as police and courts -- on which thousands of people depend for safety and justice.

This multi-method approach to reform is what distinguishes Vera from its peers in the justice field -- and from many other nonprofits.

Vera operates demonstration projects just long enough to refine them and document their impact, usually between 2-7 years. When they succeed, we spin them off so that they operate and grow independent of Vera. Sometimes our government partner absorbs the service into its own operations... more often, we help the demonstration project become a freestanding nonprofit. The spin-off process ensures that organizations leave Vera with clarity of purpose, sound business plans, active boards, and the ability to measure their performance. As a result, we have created 15 such non-profit organizations since 1967, all of which continue to operate with annual budgets ranging from about $3 million to more than $70 million.

Research is a critical, deeply rooted discipline at Vera. Vera's research has actively engaged commissioners of New York City agencies, Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, officials of the World Bank, and thousands of concerned citizens across the U.S. and around the world. In recent years our researchers not only found ways to measure the bias against foster children in New York's juvenile justice system, but they showed that efforts to eliminate that bias could succeed, leading to reforms in New York and other cities that have kept more foster children out of jail. Current research projects include examining policing in Arab-American communities, testing efforts to prevent sexual assault "revictimization," and improving risk assessment of adolescents arrested for juvenile delinquency. Our researchers also evaluate current Vera demonstration projects, combining rigorous program evaluation with continuous performance measurement to assess the strengths and weaknesses of our innovations and improve them as they grow.

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The above information was provided by the profiled organization.