Deindustrialization hit the Rust Belt hard. Many communities confronting endemic poverty, crime, and an opioid crisis. Despite common challenges, the response of communities has varied: some have rebounded, such as Pittsburgh, others have made progress before falling behind. Some seem trapped in a vicious cycle of unemployment, addiction, and crime. Even in success cases, there are importance challenges arising from dislocations and displacement, in particular in lower-income communities experiencing increasing investment. The Rust Belt Initiative hypothesizes that governance contributes to the response of communities and the ability to overcome the despair associated with large-scale economic change, including challenges arising from migration to new communities for groups seeking new opportunities. With this hypothesis in mind, the initiative seeks to develop measures of governance using both quantitative and qualitative measures, combining large-scale surveys with ethnographic and case studies, to understand what policies and institutions are more closely associated with successful recovery from challenges arising from changing economic conditions.