Recommended Reading

Supporting Trenton’s Master Plan in time for the City’s 250th Anniversary

 The City of Trenton is looking ahead to a new chapter as a leading 21st-century city. In time for the 250th anniversary of its incorporation in 2042, the City envisions playing a role as a key economic and cultural hub in the region, built on education, arts, and industry. To chart its course forward, Trenton recently released Trenton 250, a comprehensive master plan reflecting a community-informed vision that will drive opportunities for citizens, businesses, and government. Through this stakeholder-driven process, Trenton has laid the groundwork for becoming a model capital city through investments in civic institutions and the construction of inclusive public spaces. We had the incredible opportunity to be on the team of consultants, led by Group Melvin Design, that supported the City of Trenton in designing this long-range plan that will drive economic development, education, housing, land use, and transit policies.

Our role focused on developing workforce and educational strategies, and helping Trenton plan for its goals of creating a vibrant economy and improving social mobility for its residents. We applied our extensive experience working within the workforce system to engage multiple local stakeholders, including the school district and the Workforce Investment Board, to determine priorities and explore opportunities to increase education levels and career trajectories for residents of all ages and backgrounds. We took a collaborative approach to our work, interviewing multiple participants and participating in brainstorming sessions with Trenton City officials and the rest of the consultant team. Also equipped with important labor market information, we delved deep into understanding what the issues were and what opportunities could be present.

Our programmatic recommendations included bolstering Pre-K to secondary education to improve graduation rates and student performance; opening new opportunities for adults to continue their education and explore relevant workforce opportunities; and encouraging lifelong learning. Specifically, we found that expanding school programs to teach more critical thinking and technology skills would drive positive employment outcomes in the future. For those beyond secondary school, we relied on our workforce expertise to identify an array of strategies that will prepare residents from a diverse range of backgrounds to attain and succeed in jobs that are and will be in high-demand.

Ultimately, we developed the education report, which outlines over 20 initiatives that came from engaging the right array of people and highlighting best practices from all over the country. Implementing these initiatives will enhance access to learning opportunities for all Trenton residents, enabling the city’s residents to access short-term job opportunities while simultaneously being prepared to take advantage of new opportunities in an ever-shifting economy.

Read the full Trenton250 plan to learn more about its vision for the future and blueprint for getting there.

November Newsletter: Things We’re Thankful For

It’s nearly Thanksgiving and we’re grateful for fun projects, amazing partners, and the opportunity to help strengthen communities. We’ve had the privilege to work on two recent program evaluations to help nonprofit clients assess service outcomes, refine strategy, and identify opportunities to increase programmatic impact. We’re also glad to be partnering with Public School to offer strategic planning training for City agencies, and to have participated in the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund’s Summer Jobs Connect Convening to discuss strategies for helping youth in summer employment programs build financial habits to prepare for long-term financial success.

We evaluate programs and strategies to drive organizational health and increased impact.

We recently completed an effort with the Osborne Association, to update their workforce organizational structure and develop new programmatic tools for a sector-based strategy. Osborne has served currently and formerly incarcerated individuals and their families for over 80 years, and sought to enhance its sectoral employment strategy to connect more clients with meaningful, sustainable employment. We conducted an assessment and provided a set of recommendations to support employer engagement and improve the coordination of job seeker supports across different programs within Osborne. We applied design thinking methods and worked closely with various levels of staff to develop program workflows, standard operating procedures for front-line staff, a resourcing structure, and other tools to position the Osborne team to manage employer relationships and serve clients in a sector-based strategy.

We’ve just begun working with Lincoln Center Education to evaluate its Scholars Program, a teacher training model that educates and places art teachers in New York City public schools. We’re working closely with current Scholars and alumni, program partners, and public school stakeholders to gain a nuanced understanding of the program components that drive success. By pairing quantitative and qualitative analysis, we are supporting LCE to measure outcomes and identify strategies for enhancing Scholars’ training as well as the impact they have through their school placements and ongoing careers in arts education.

We had a blast at the first-ever Summer Jobs Connect Convening, exploring best practices for incorporating financial empowerment into youth programming.

Last week, we joined our colleagues from the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund and youth-focused service providers from across the country for the Summer Jobs Connect Convening. Summer Jobs Connect is a national initiative that integrates safe banking products, services, and education for young adults participating in municipally-led summer employment programs. Principal Celeste Frye had the opportunity to present our research on how SJC participants perceive mainstream financial services and plan to use them, including findings from surveying 3,200 program participants and conducting focus groups in eight partner cities. The results of our analysis are also featured in CFE’s newly released report Summer Jobs Connect: Where Strong Financial Futures Begin. Take a look to learn more about ways service providers and government agencies can most effectively make banking products available through summer youth employment programming to help youth learn how to budget and save, and start on a path for long-term financial stability.

We’re offering a new strategic planning training for City agencies.
Been thinking about starting the new year with a fresh strategic plan, but not sure where to get started? We’ve recently launched a training with Public School that will give your team the tools to set a vision, align activities to achieve that vision, and establish an implementation plan. Learn more and contact us to see how our training could support your agency.

 

October 2017 Newsletter: Risks of Rent-to-Own Purchases | New CUF Report | What We’re Reading

This month found us conducting a secret-shopper survey and launching new trainings, plus participating on civic communication panels and bringing on new communications staff. We’re also very excited to see recent releases from our colleagues at the Center for an Urban Future and the HOPE program that drive innovative solutions to workforce training and growing job opportunities. Take a look at a few things on our plate, and our reading list.

We learned a few things about Rent-to-Own practices that might be useful for the communities you serve.

Did you know that purchasing household goods or appliances through a rent-to-own agreement might result in paying over twice the retail value of the product? We recently conducted a survey of the RTO industry in New York City – in which retailers allow consumers to pay off large purchases in recurring installments – to understand how rental agreements are structured and ways in which consumers can identify potential risks. Read our full blog post for more findings on RTO business practices and how you can raise awareness about these issues in your own work.

 

We supported the newest CUF Report, Making the Connection: Aligning Small Businesses and the Workforce Development System.

We were grateful for the opportunity to contribute to CUF’s latest report covering the importance of small businesses in workforce development. The piece lays out how the city’s thousands of established small businesses are arguably one of the city’s greatest opportunities for future job growth, yet do not have easy access to job trainings and placement programs. Many thanks to CUF for this thoughtful analysis and including some perspective from Celeste, “Most of the jobs in New York City are in small businesses. We are leaving a lot of jobs on the table.” Recommendations are made on how to align small businesses with the city’s workforce development system. Read more here.

 Congratulations to the HOPE Program on receiving a Criminal Justice Investment Initiative grant to build its social enterprise.

The HOPE Program received $1.9 million in funding for its Intervine program, which provides participants skills training and job opportunities in the green sector. This will undoubtedly increase job opportunities for at-risk youth and formerly incarcerated New Yorkers. We look forward to supporting them in designing and implementing this new initiative through project planning and performance management.

Please join us in welcoming our new Marketing and Communications Coordinator.

We’re excited to have Jiwon Kim on board supporting our content and outreach efforts. Jiwon is currently pursuing a graduate degree at NYU Wagner’s School of Public Service, focusing on public and nonprofit management. She brings significant experience in programs and communications strategy, not to mention that she’s a beat-writer on innovation and tech in her spare time. We know that her passion for social issues and cross-sector collaboration will advance our work in-house and in building new partnerships.

It was also a great month of events and engaging around strategies to address complex civic issues.

During the Municipal Art Society 2017 summit, Principal Celeste Frye moderated a panel – “New Tools for Equitable Engagement” – on opportunities to improve traditional outreach and engagement methods so community-members can actively participate in decisions that shape their neighborhoods. The discussion covered the potential of new technology to drive democratic practices and included insights from panelists Story Bellows, Chief Innovation and Performance Officer from the Brooklyn Public Library; Gabe Klein, Co-Founder at CityFI & Special Venture Partners at Fontinalis Partners; and Damon Rich, Partner of Hector.

Director Allison Quigney participated in a panel at NYU Wagner to discuss how management can be used to improve public policy. NYU Wagner’s Management and Leadership Organization invited professionals to discuss their experiences on how they leverage management skills and tools to shape public policy. The diverse group of panelists shared their unique stories and shared their insights on how coursework in management can help public service leaders create effective change in every policy area.

What We’re Reading:

Sam Facas: A Brookings piece on the vital importance of a fully-funded 2020 Census to ensure our communities are properly studied and counted.

 

 

Favio German: A report exploring racial disparities in nonprofit leadership and opportunities to address this gap.

 

 

Julia Deutsch: This NYT piece outlining the current federal debate on how to expand apprenticeship programming.

 

 

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