February 2017 Newsletter: What We’re Reading and What We’re Up To

What We’re Reading

Doneliza Joaquin

About a high-school program that intersects mathematics, data analysis, mapmaking, and understanding of the urban landscape currently on exhibit at Cooper Hewitt for its use of inclusive community design.



Julia Deutsch

The Furman Center’s straightforward economic analysis of the latest reform proposal for the 421-a Program, focusing on how new wage requirements could impact city tax payers and developers alike.



Moe Magali

The business case for companies to invest in re-skilling their workforce, with or without incentives from the public sector, and clearly communicating the purpose of new training to get the best results out of employees and for business interests.



Diana Petty

A match-making app that connects M/WBE businesses with City and State business opportunities.




What We’re Up To:

We love that our work takes us across all five boroughs. We travel from our Manhattan office to the Bronx to support Lincoln Center Education as they increase their programming in Community School District 7 and think about how to most effectively meet the needs of parents, teachers, and students. We’re also in Queens on a team led by HR&A working with the Queens Borough President’s Office and Queens Chamber of Commerce on the Jamaica Downtown Revitalization Initiative, helping the local planning committee identify workforce projects that will best fit future growth in the area. In Brooklyn, we’re in our third year providing technical assistance and performance management support for the Change Capital Fund grantees, including Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation, St. Nicks Alliance, Bronx-based New Settlement and Stronger Together, to track common outcomes and understand effective strategies for collectively combating povertyThen, we hop the ferry to get to the Staten Island Economic Development Corporation where we’re working to understand the needs of small industrial businesses and design a program model to connect local residents to training and job opportunities ahead. And, touching all boroughs plus other parts of New York and New Jersey, we’re supporting Goodwill to develop a strategic plan that will harness the organization’s strengths to focus on its core mission.

Next month, we hit the road to NYATEP’s Youth Academy. We’ll be facilitating a practice building workshop on how to use design thinking to address youth workforce challenges. We’ll ground participants in how to integrate design thinking principles into program development, and provide hands-on opportunities to practice this for your work!

Recipe for Metrics Success

Across our work, we aim to strengthen organizations that strengthen communities. But, to know if we are strengthening an organization or it is in turn strengthening a community, there has to be a clearly defined method for measuring impact. When thinking about how to design and implement effective performance management practices at your organization, we recommend focusing on three key elements: culture, systems, and reporting. Specifically, we mean:

  1. Establishing a culture that is data-driven and performance-oriented
  2. Developing systems and data-collection processes that are scalable and sustainable
  3. Designing reporting tools that are targeted for specific audiences and inform actions

The activities that feed these three elements include the development of new or refined KPIs and metrics, systems for collecting data, tools for reporting progress, and processes for incorporating findings to improve future work. We’re often asked, and rightfully so, “What is the difference between a KPI and a metric?” KPIs, Key Performance Indicators, show how effective a program or project is at achieving its goals. A metric measures ongoing performance of a program or project, but may not be tied to a specific goal or goals. Rule of thumb: all KPIs are metrics, but not all metrics are KPIs. For example, a workforce services provider might track the number of walk-ins that inquire about services, but might not have a target number of walk-ins (here, walk-ins are a metric). On the other hand, they might track the placement rate for graduates of a training program, and be driving toward an identified placement percentage (here, the placement rate is a KPI).

Culture that is data-driven and performance-oriented
The first place to start is building a culture that embraces the power of data-collection and performance management so that these practices take hold and thrive at your organization. This can only happen successfully if a clear understanding of goals, accountability, and necessity are integrated at all levels of staff, not just those designated as a “data” team. In our work with Change Capital Fund, a collaborative of 16 funders, which invests in community organizations to increase economic mobility in persistently low-income neighborhoods, four local development organizations are working on a collective effort to alleviate poverty through affordable housing, workforce, youth, and adult education programs. We’ve worked with these organizations to develop a set of common metrics to measure individual and collective impact and also discussed best practices for engaging executive, program, and front-line staff in the metrics process. A recent op-ed by Eileen Auld at Citi, one of the Change Capital Fund funders, demonstrates how this culture has taken root and driven results across the grantees.

Systems and processes that are scalable and sustainable
With a data-driven culture in place, you then want to make sure you are focused on measuring ongoing performance, not just completing a one-off process that’s difficult to repeat on a recurring basis. This requires processes and responsibilities that are clearly defined, realistic, and integrated into day-to-day work. You will need to be able to answer questions such as when and how is data going to be collected and who is responsible? For example, the Change Capital Fund organizations are utilizing existing touchpoints with program participants, including at intake and program completion, to collect data. The organizations have also worked on building or refining their data-tracking systems to more seamlessly track participant progress across programs. So, even as the number of program participants grew from 5,400 to over 8,600 in the course of a year, data collection processes were positioned to scale with that growth.

Reporting tools that are targeted and inform actions
Successful metrics reports will have a clearly defined user and provide key information necessary for that user to adjust. An easy analogy is a speedometer in a car: the defined user is the driver and displaying the speed of the vehicle allows the driver to adjust and be accountable with changing speed limits. In the Change Capital Fund example, individual organizations have detailed internal reports for staff and a separate report for the Change Capital funders themselves with higher-level information and a summary across organizations. Having tailored reports for different levels of staff or stakeholders allows unique groups to inform their decision-making in a way that’s most relevant to their area of responsibility.

We love data, but numbers are only part of the recipe for success. Incorporating performance management into your organization positions you to evaluate the current state, identify where you want to be in the future, and build tools and processes to track progress towards goals. Culture, systems, and reporting are ingredients that will help you set up an infrastructure that is conducive for successful performance management and measuring your organization’s impact.

New Year, New Status: Public Works is a certified WBE

We’re excited to announce that Public Works Partners is now a certified Woman-owned Business Enterprise (WBE).

Why are we excited? Because we’re taking this opportunity to build new partnerships that increase impact. Our dedicated team of consultants, led by Celeste Frye as CEO and with strategic advising from co-founders Scott Zucker and Mark Foggin, is continuing to design solutions that enhance organizational performance and enable leaders to realize their visions. We’re also expanding our focus on community development, design, and engagement to serve engineering and planning firms in creating actionable, sustainable plans. We’re looking forward to applying our hands-on experience with partners old and new to drive transformative change in the nonprofit, public, and private sectors.

What’s happening in the near term: we want to collaborate. We welcome the opportunity to discuss how we might work with your organization.

Special thanks to the dedicated staff at the NYC Department of Small Business Services who supported us through the certification process.

To kick off 2017, we focused on strategic planning:

pic1Earlier this month, we had an energizing experience at New York Nonprofit Media’s first annual Nonprofit BoardCon. The event brought together board members and senior leaders from New York City nonprofits to discuss strategies for collaboration. Celeste Frye participated on a panel with Orr Associates,, and the Thrive Network to explore how strategic planning can build dynamic partnerships between board and staff, leading to more effective visioning and approaches for making vision a reality.

We’ve got a post on the blog about our strategy for creating collaborative, actionable and measurable strategic plans. Spoiler alert: we emphasize functionality so that, once you’ve dreamed big, your goals can be implemented instead of collecting dust on the shelf.

It’s also been our pleasure to put this thinking to use supporting Goodwill of NY/NJ to develop a strategic plan that will harness the organization’s strengths to focus on its core mission.

To close the month, we’ll be joining friends and colleagues across the workforce development community for the NYCETC Policy Forum.

Displaying Our team members will be facilitating interactive strategy sessions to discuss opportunities and ways to collaborate that drive innovation and better coordinated service delivery.

Contact Us

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(347) 619-2892