Program Design and Implementation Projects

NYC Human Resources Administration and MDRC
Jobs-Plus Implementation and Technical Assistance

The NYC Human Resource Administration (HRA) partnered with NYCHA and other City agencies to expand the portfolio of NYC Jobs-Plus programs from two to eight. While Jobs-Plus is a nationally recognized evidenced-based model, research shows it has maximum impact only when the program’s three core components (employment services, community support for work, and financial incentives that make work pay) are well implemented. HRA recognized that this approach was significantly different from that used by most employment programs, and that service providers would benefit from technical assistance that reinforced the Jobs-Plus model.

To provide this support, HRA engaged a technical assistance team consisting of MDRC, Public Works Partners and WPTI—each of which has deep experience with the Jobs-Plus model. Public Works Partners also brings its experience creating successful engagement strategies for public housing residents, engaging participants through social media, integrating financial counseling and employment services, and establishing strong program operations. Working collectively, the technical assistance team is helping program staff to achieve their performance goals by internalizing key components of the Jobs-Plus model, enabling staff to learn from the experience of earlier Jobs-Plus programs, and continuing the process of identifying and disseminating promising practices.

New York City Housing Authority
Resident Economic Opportunity Zone Coordination Strategy

NYCHA’s Office of Resident Economic Empowerment and Sustainability (REES) transitioned from providing direct workforce development to a partnership model in which NYCHA connects residents to community-based services. REES believed they could serve residents more effectively by partnering with local service providers but they did not have a structure for creating, implementing or monitoring the effectiveness of these partnerships. Working closely with REES staff, we developed a systematic approach for managing the full lifecycle of partnerships. We identified a structure for targeting, engaging and assessing potential partners. We created processes for tracking referrals to providers, collaborating with them on service approach, and evaluating each partnership’s success. Finally, we recommended strategies for expanding the scale of the zone coordination model. Using these strategies, REES has launched four zones and is working with dozens of partners to provide services to NYCHA residents citywide.

US Department of Labor
Evaluation of the Workforce Investment Act’s (WIA) Adult and Dislocated Workers Programs

In this engagement, we collaborated with Mathematica Policy Research and Social Policy Research Associates to design a random assignment study to measure the nationwide effectiveness of federally funded job training and placement programs. We presented evaluation proposals to a group of Workforce Investment Boards (WIB) chosen through random assignment and worked to establish their buy-in to the research project. We consulted on the development of a design that would address research goals, would be consistent with the WIB’s program models, established evaluation protocols for specific pilot sites and identified the point of random assignment. With an eye towards customer service, we created appropriate messaging for One Stop customers and developed protocols for serving customers assigned to each of the evaluation groups.

CUNY LaGuardia Community College
10,000 Small Businesses

After being named the first community college in the nation to launch the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses initiative, LaGuardia Community College engaged our team to design and launch an education program for small business owners. We began by articulating a theory of change—that a classroom-based curriculum focused on the fundamentals of business operations paired with a suite of business services that helped chief executives to surmount their everyday challenges—was critical to helping firms unlock their potential for growth. We developed consensus around this approach with stakeholders at the college, in the business community, and at Goldman Sachs. We then organized and managed a multi-partner project team to bring pedagogy, business services, and program infrastructure (staffing, recruitment, and selection) into line—all in five months from concept to enrollment of the inaugural class. Three months later, 10,000 Small Businesses graduated that first class.


We worked with MDRC and the New America Foundation to design, pilot, and analyze an employer-based savings plan that applies insights from behavioral economics to influence savings decisions. This model uses payroll deductions to divert a portion of post-tax wages into a savings account, providing fully liquid savings to meet short-term needs or become the basis for longer-term asset accumulation. It also provides opportunities to increase attachment to mainstream financial services offered by banks and credit unions. After the implementation, we facilitated a convening of national policy experts from academia, research, and policy organizations; the funder community; government; and financial services companies to assess findings and propose directions for further research. We are currently engaged with MDRC and New America to explore the feasibility of an opt-out program design that will default employees into the plan in an effort to improve savings rates.

MDRC and Hostos Community College
Jobs-Plus Replication at the NYC Housing Authority

We were engaged to facilitate the replication of the successful, evidence-based Jobs-Plus employment initiative at Jefferson Houses in East Harlem. We helped both to design and implement the initiative, which connects clients to job opportunities and supports that will enable them to maintain employment. In the first phase of the engagement, we analyzed NYCHA rent policies and public assistance rules to model families’ take-home pay from earnings increases. This informed a key component of the initiative: income counseling and the development of service strategies for combining earnings increases, work supports, and the NYCHA Earned Income Disallowance to increase residents’ income and self-sufficiency. In the second phase, we worked with government and nonprofit stakeholders to propose packages of rent incentives and income supports that would eliminate the disincentive to employment and “make work pay.” In the final project phase, we facilitated efforts to tailor the program design to the local community and managed the program implementation.

Family Rewards Conditional Cash Transfer Program

From 2007 to 2010, MDRC partnered with the NYC Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO) to test the ability of a conditional cash transfer program, Opportunity NYC-Family Rewards, to break the cycle of poverty. The program made temporary cash payments to reduce immediate hardship, but conditioned the payments on efforts to build human capital that could reduce susceptibility to multi-generational poverty. Based on promising early results of this demonstration, MDRC and CEO won a grant from the national Social Innovation Fund to test a second generation program that would build on lessons learned and explore how a common program model could be applied while accommodating different local contexts. After program operators were selected for the second generation Family Rewards program, we were engaged to facilitate a planning process that included MDRC, CEO, and multiple service providers; monitor program implementation; and provide technical assistance to the Neighborhood Partner Organizations that are operating the program in Bronx, New York and Memphis, Tennessee.

New York University (NYU)
Center for Urban Science & Progress

In response to a challenge by the mayor to the world’s leading research universities to propose a new, transformative applied science and engineering campus for New York City, NYU engaged Public Works Partners to help them generate a compelling submission. In less than four months, we worked with a consortium of seven global research institutions, led by NYU, to conceptualize, organize and author a proposal to turn a vacant office building in Downtown Brooklyn into a public-private center of research on how cities can leverage technology to be more responsive, equitable and resilient. The result was over $60 million in support and in-kind funding to help underwrite the cost of converting the building and to stand up the new graduate program in urban informatics.

Economic Development Programs

Public Works Partners worked with NYU-Poly to successfully win $7 million in multi-year funding from city and state government for two important entrepreneurship development programs. In both cases, we brought into high relief Poly’s successful track record of commercializing and bringing to wider application the innovative ideas of its faculty and students in the digital media and cleantech sectors. The result was an expansion of Poly’s NYC Media Lab with funding from the NYC Economic Development Corporation, and its launching of a cleantech proof-of-concept center with funding from the NYS Energy Research & Development Authority.

Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC) & Los Angeles Southwest Community College
10,000 Small Businesses

Capitalizing on our experience with developing the 10,000 Small Businesses program in New York City, ICIC tapped our team to assess the needs of small business owners in South-Central Los Angeles in order to inform the suite of business services that might be provided as part of that instance of the program. We worked with leading economic and workforce development organizations in the community to establish relationships with business owners; collect market information through interviews, surveys and focus groups; and provide recommendations to ICIC, Goldman Sachs and LA Southwest College on the services that would be most useful in helping businesses to grow their revenues, increase their profitability, and provide more job opportunities.

Employer Engagement Study and Report

JobsFirstNYC, a coalition of nonprofits providing employment services to young adults, engaged us to help its members work with one of their most important customers: the employers that hire their young adult clients. We conducted a study that combined qualitative and quantitative data from focus groups, interviews and surveys to help inform youth workforce development organizations on how best to prepare young adults for available employment. In the process, we were able to paint a comprehensive picture of employers’ perceptions of both young workers and the service provider community. This important market research led to recommendations for the field that were synthesized in Going Beyond the Bottom Line: Employer Perspectives on the Young Adult Workforce System in New York City, a report we developed that was released by JobsFirstNYC in June 2012.

The Door
Retail Sector Job Retention

The Door is a unique organization providing a comprehensive range of services to 11,000 young adults annually, including healthcare, job training, education, arts and recreation, legal help, and housing assistance. The agency recently received a planning grant to create a new job training program that helps young adults to land and retain jobs in the retail sector—long one of the most challenging sectors in which to retain workers despite its growth and the opportunities it provides young adults. Looking to capitalize on proven strategies used in sector-based workforce programs that serve adults, The Door tapped the expertise of Public Works Partners to design the program. We facilitated sessions with The Door’s staff to examine the full participant experience and to tailor the organization’s current workforce programs to the retail sector. We helped create an advisory council of retail employers to get their perspectives on the skills required to be a successful employee, understand advancement potential, and clarify typical hiring practices. We developed a full program model that enabled The Door to attract young adults and prepare them to have successful retail careers. The program stands to become a national model in combining deep industry engagement and the benefits of a sector approach to retail.

NYC Center for Economic Opportunity
Qualifying Quarters Initiative

A significant number of NYC’s senior citizens live in poverty but do not qualify for Social Security retirement benefits because they lack just one year’s worth of work credits or less. The NYC Center for Economic Opportunity engaged us to conduct a feasibility analysis and design a program that would help lift these seniors—potentially more than 10,000—out of poverty through a combination of earned income from work and, ultimately, Social Security retirement benefits. We retrieved and analyzed data sets from several governmental agencies to identify neighborhoods where this population of seniors was likely to live, and demographic information about the target population. We then designed two alternative programs that leveraged different aspects of the city’s existing expertise in subsidized job development to connect this population with employment opportunities and, ultimately, greater federal benefits.

Per Scholas
Expansion Study

Principal Scott Zucker worked with the Economic Mobility Corporation to prepare Per Scholas, the Bronx-based workforce development and training organization, for their successful expansion into new cities and their evolution into a national organization. We began this holistic engagement by articulating a service model, rooted in best practices, which would be the basis for replication in new locations. We established executive consensus for this model by engaging staff in working sessions to determine which elements of the Per Scholas model were critical success factors that should be at the core of any replication. We also identified context driven success factors that should be applied when appropriate to the needs of a particular community.

In a second component of our engagement we evaluated the Per Scholas organizational design, administrative infrastructure and management processes to determine whether they were sufficiently robust to support a larger organization that would be geographically dispersed. We recommended enhancements that would enable Per Scholas to strengthen its management, better facilitate program success, and establish the capacity to manage expansion without compromising attention paid to program quality. In the final component of the engagement, we performed a market analysis of Cleveland, Ohio, to determine whether the Per Scholas model might succeed there. The assessment examined the demand for IT support professionals, the hiring practices of key employers, the competitiveness within the employment and training sector, and the likely availability of local government and philanthropic funding.

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