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PR- 173-13
May 22, 2013


First Place Awarded to Clean Energy Corps, a Youth Job Training Program Bringing Green Initiatives to NYCHA Communities

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Linda I. Gibbs and Center for Economic Opportunity Executive Director Kristin Morse today announced the winners of the first ever NYC Innovative Nonprofit Awards, which support pioneering local nonprofits that exhibit creative approaches and exemplary program implementation.  First place was awarded to Green City Force’s Clean Energy Corps, a program that propels young New York City Housing Authority residents toward employment or college by combining a national service model with job training. Second Place went to Center for Family Life in Sunset Park’s Cooperative Development Project, which organizes worker-run cooperatives to help immigrant residents launch and grow competitive small businesses. More than 50 organizations submitted proposals for the award, which are funded by Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.  The Mayor made the announcement at Gracie Mansion.

“These organizations have proven records of improving lives in their communities, helping set New Yorkers on a path toward greater economic mobility,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “New York City continues to invest in innovative solutions to difficult challenges, and we are committed to supporting nonprofits that are doing the same.”

“Today we celebrate the work of true pioneers among New York City’s local nonprofits,” said Deputy Mayor Gibbs. “These organizations have data-driven results and their recognition is well deserved.”

“CEO launched this competition to source new ideas as we continue to innovate in the fight against poverty,” said CEO Executive Director Kristin Morse. “We are delighted to honor Green City Force as the first ever recipient of this award, as they demonstrated a creative combination of education, employment and community service to develop a dynamic program for NYCHA youth.”

“The NYC Innovative Awards are a wonderful way to highlight the brilliant work happening in our communities by nonprofit organizations,” said Immigrant Affairs Commissioner Fatima Shama. “I’m delighted that Center for Family Life’s Cooperative Development Project has been recognized for energizing and growing the immigrant entrepreneurial spirit through their cooperative project.” 

A total of $30,000 in cash prizes, funded by Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and awarded by the Center for Economic Opportunity, went to first and second place winners to expand successful programs, improve data infrastructure and evaluation analytics, foster new collaborations or enhance promotional and enrollment materials.  The Center for Economic Opportunity supports new and more effective approaches to reducing poverty and the first ever Innovation Award was designed to identify new ideas. The Center for Economic Opportunity CEO will work with City partners to explore additional ways to support the evaluation or expansion of these effective programs.  The winners were chosen after 10 finalists were reviewed by the 2013 NYC Innovative Nonprofit Awards Selection Committee. Chaired by Center for Economic Opportunity Executive Director Morse, the Selection Committee was composed of academics, City officials, and national nonprofit and philanthropic leaders. 

First Prize ($20,000) – Green City Force’s Clean Energy Corps             

Clean Energy Corps engages NYCHA residents between the ages of 18 and 24 on six-month environmental projects to educate on sustainability issues and provide critical work experience. Clean Energy Corps teams led the construction of Planters Grove at Lillian Wald Houses in 2011, an 8,000 square foot green space featuring a stormwater irrigation system.

Green City Force has produced a 78 percent graduation rate and a 65 percent job placement rate. On average, participants have achieved a full grade point increase in math or English. Following a two-week orientation, participant teams mobilize on community projects focused on energy efficiency, green infrastructure or urban agriculture. Each Friday is devoted to Green City Academy, a classroom component where participants learn environmental science, intensive math, career development, and technical skills. The program offers intensive follow-up over two years after graduation. 

Located in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, Green City Force serves NYCHA youth who hold a GED or high school diploma but may lack the job skills, work experience or academic performance to secure career-track employment. Launched in 2009, Green City Force supports some of the key goals of PlaNYC—New York City’s sustainability blueprint. Clean Energy Corps has served as a model for Americorps’s national Clean Energy Service Corps, and has presented at the Clinton Global Initiative.

Second Prize ($10,000) – Center for Family Life in Sunset Park’s Cooperative Development Project

Cooperative Development Project organizes worker-run cooperatives to support immigrant residents of Sunset Park as they launch competitive small businesses in their community. Co-op members work with Project staff to develop a business plan and manage their enterprise. During training, participants learn the fundamentals of business administration, workers’ rights, customer service training and workplace safety. After launch, projects offer member businesses ongoing training in back office support, recordkeeping, and bilingual communication.            

One co-op project named “We Can Do It!” earned total revenues of $958,726 in 2012, with the average member earning over $22 per hour. Center for Family Life, a program of SCO Family of Services, has presented the program to the United Nations and developed trainings for other organizations to replicate the model in immigrant communities citywide.

Eight programs were semifinalists in the competition:

  • Center for Court Innovation – Red Hook Community Justice Center is the nation’s first community court that addresses the underlying factors that can lead to criminal behavior. It has reduced recidivism for adult and juvenile participants by 10 percent and 20 percent, respectively.
  • FEGS Health and Human Services – The Academy provides young people aging out of foster care with holistic services, combining education, employment and housing assistance with mentoring support and guidance. Nearly 70 percent of participants have made education gains or career progress, or remain in the program working toward these goals.
  • Food Bank for New York City – Virtual Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) installs remote tax preparation services to community-based organizations, providing off-site VITA services at additional locations low-income communities. The remote program has helped to generate more than $1.9 million in tax refunds for clients.
  • Neighborhood Trust Financial Partners – Credit Union Extension embeds trusted financial advisers in community development credit unions to provide financial counseling to members. Over 60 percent of participants substantially increase their credit scores.
  • Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow – Youth Education and Training Program provides disconnected youth with innovative education and employment programs, while fostering partnerships with employers and corporate volunteers. The program has secured job placements for over 70 percent of participants.
  • Project Renewal – Culinary Arts Training provides job training for the formerly homeless to prepare for employment in corporate or institutional food preparation. The program has created its own catering business, and 80 percent of graduates are placed in a job.
  • Public Health Solutions – Touchscreen App to Improve Contraceptive Choice helps women at healthcare facilities make more informed contraception choices through an interactive computer module. Over a two-year evaluation, the application demonstrated a 74 percent success rate in helping women choose the most effective mode of contraception, compared to a 61 percent rate within a control group.
  • Youth Represent – Community-Based Lawyering Project ensures individualized, comprehensive legal services for court-involved young people and has helped clean up hundreds of rap sheets. In 2012, the program corrected nearly 200 errors in criminal records.

About the Center for Economic Opportunity

The NYC Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO) fights the cycle of poverty in New York City through innovative programs that build human capital and improve financial security. Launched by Mayor Bloomberg in 2006, CEO works with both City agencies and the federal government to implement successful anti-poverty initiatives in New York and partner cities across the United States. Located in the Office of the Mayor, among CEO’s greatest successes have been the Office of Financial Empowerment, SaveUSA, CUNY ASAP, Jobs-Plus, and a more accurate statistical measure of poverty.  Several CEO initiatives have been incorporated into the Young Men’s Initiative, a comprehensive and expansive program designed to address disparities between young African-American and Latino men and their peers. CEO oversees rigorous evaluations of each program to determine their effectiveness in reducing poverty, encouraging savings, and empowering low income workers to advance in their careers. Follow CEO on Twitter at @NYCOpportunity, or visit the NYC Opportunity page on Facebook.


Marc La Vorgna / Samantha Levine   (212) 788-2958

Corey Chambliss (CEO)   (212) 788-0030


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