Center for an Urban Future

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.



March 2017 Newsletter: Sharing and Building Our Skills

Sharing our skills:

Director Allison Quigney and Manager Moe Magali facilitated a two-part session at NYATEP’s Youth Academy on integrating design thinking into youth workforce programs. Participants explored how design thinking – in laymen’s terms, a problem-solving process – could help develop new programs or enhance existing services. They also had hands-on practice conducting their own customer journey mapping sessions to better understand the experiences of clients and opportunities, with the goal to adjust service delivery to align with those experiences.  Journey maps illustrate what people do and feel when interacting with a service. The inclusion of human behavior in the mapping – motivations, interests, and pain points – helps programs ensure clients have a consistently high level of satisfaction when receiving services. We had a great time at the session and throughout the conference discussing youth workforce strategies with colleagues across the field.


Building our skills:


Public Works CEO Celeste Frye is grateful to join the current cohort of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program at LaGuardia Community College. This development program helps entrepreneurs create jobs and economic growth by providing access to education, capital, and support services. We see this as an unparalleled opportunity to enhance the ways we manage and grow our business offerings, and are looking forward to learning from other participants and program sponsors.

We’re also excited to announce that Analyst Julia Deutsch is participating in NYU Wagner’s Fellowship for Emerging Leaders in Public Service. Known as FELPS, the program brings together young professionals across nonprofit, philanthropic, and government entities to explore ways to collectively address challenges facing the public sector, and identify opportunities to optimize their individual impact in the areas they are most passionate about. We know this leadership opportunity will position Julia to continue advancing positive change through our work and beyond.

And everything in between:


Earlier this month, we also:

Joined the Center for an Urban Future’s panel on preparing NYC’s economy and workforce for the next wave of automation. The group explored problem-solving skills needed for 21stcentury jobs and strategies for adjusting the social safety net for the new economy. The conversation certainly left us contemplating strategies for creating flexible frameworks to get ahead of rapidly changing workplaces.


Took time to recognize International Women’s Day with colleagues at Civic Hall, hearing from female leaders in NYC government on ways the City is advancing gender equality and access. We also brainstormed ways our woman-owned business can create positive change through our work and beyond. We look forward to working with our many partners and colleagues to advance these issues in all the days to come.

PWP Projects: Manufacturing Spaces, Neighborhood Parks and Citywide Jobs Strategy

career-pathways-logoIn November we wrapped up a tremendously gratifying engagement with the Jobs for New Yorkers Task Force, the Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development and NYCEDC. The result, Career Pathways: One City Working Together, outlined a comprehensive set of new workforce development policies that emphasize training investments that will enable New Yorkers to secure quality jobs in growing sectors, advance in their careers and earn family-supporting wages.

The strategy recognizes—and builds on—the greatest strengths of the existing system. On the public side, it will continue to engage employers as a key stakeholder and maintain a strong focus on outcomes. It also will leverage the important role played by private workforce funders, especially their successful training investments. Even more exciting, it creates opportunities for greater collaboration between the public and private systems.

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