The Mayor’s Office for Economic Opportunity (NYC Opportunity) helps New York City apply evidence and innovation to reduce poverty and increase equity. We work to improve the systems of government by advancing the use of research, data and design in program and policy development, service delivery and budget decisions.
What does that mean in practice? This retrospective provides a look at the range of ways our multidisciplinary team works across City government, partnering with agencies to initiate new approaches and enhance existing practices. The projects listed in this retrospective, while not comprehensive, highlight key areas of focus for the NYC Opportunity team between 2014 and 2021.
Three mutually reinforcing priorities have driven NYC Opportunity’ efforts over the past eight years:
First, we promote what works to reduce poverty. This can include testing new ideas to build evidence about effective practice, scaling models with proven impact, assessing individual initiatives or the City’s range of interventions in a given area, or identifying evidence-based solutions to fill gaps in services.
Second, we work to improve how residents access and experience social services. We focus on results, and help agencies use data and insights from clients and staff to achieve better outcomes. We also facilitate coordination among agencies so they can deliver more holistic support, particularly drawing on digital tools and data integration capabilities.
Third, we generate research to inform the City’s approach to poverty and equity. This analysis is anchored by our annual Poverty Measure report and Social Indicators and Equity Report, but includes myriad other quantitative and qualitative research projects.
In this retrospective, we’ve listed projects by year, and grouped them into six categories reflecting important themes in our work:
- New Program Models & Digital Products. We design, manage, and assess new anti-poverty interventions. This portfolio of work spans a wide variety of disciplines, from early childhood to college persistence and workforce development, and increasingly includes new digital tools that support residents directly or help City staff be more effective in the delivery of services. When a new model proves effective, we help the City scale it up; what it doesn’t, we wind it down and reapply dollars from our Innovation Fund to try something else.
- Research & Evaluations. The research which our office conducts and sponsors takes a variety of forms. We work with external evaluation firms to rigorously analyze specific interventions, and also assess how residents, providers and front-line staff experience City services. We conduct evidence reviews to align City practices with what works, and advise on best practices related to performance management and using technology to achieve anti-poverty outcomes.
- Data Integration & Tools. To help the City make the most of its administrative data – for analytics, performance management, service coordination, or its other anti-poverty uses – our office serves as a citywide data integration resource. We help link individual case records so agencies can better coordinate, and build data platforms to enable insights that individual agencies can not gain on their own. Our office’s subject matter expertise in social services, as well as our experience with legal and data governance strategies, are just as relevant as our technical capacity in making data valuable.
- Poverty and Equity Analysis. Our team tracks and aggregates key data on social conditions in New York City. Our Poverty Measure is a best in class analysis of local poverty, and we launched EquityNYC in order to identify disparities by disaggregating data for citywide Social Indicators as well as agency-specific performance metrics. We also advise and support agencies in applying poverty and equity frameworks to their own programs and internal operations.
- Service Innovations. In addition to testing new models, our team engages with agencies to enhance existing practices. We’ve built new internal capabilities in design methodologies, and our Service Design Studio and the Behavioral Design Team that we manage regularly help agencies identify opportunities to work more effectively, rooted in insights that come from people closest to the problems the City is seeking to address.
- National Influence. NYC Opportunity is a leader in the burgeoning evidence-based policymaking movement nationally. Our office, projects and staff have been recognized with awards in government effectiveness and civic innovation, and our work has helped shape federal initiatives like the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking and the National Academy of Sciences Roadmap to Reducing Child Poverty. We maintain active relationships with leading organizations like ideas42, Results for America, and Opportunity Insights, and regularly exchange ideas with cities across the country.
The past eight years have been a period of growth and evolution for our office.
We celebrated a 10 year anniversary and reorganized as a new Mayor’s Office. Along with our colleagues across City government, we confronted the unprecedented challenges brought on by COVID-19. And by the end of the de Blasio Administration, our focus on poverty and equity saw historic progress: after setting its first poverty reduction goal in 2015, the City recorded its lowest-ever poverty rate according to our measure, and new equity-oriented practices have become institutionalized as core aspects of the City’s governance. The selection of projects that follows show some of the ways that our office contributed to these important achievements, and the kind of work we will continue to do to serve New York City and its residents going forward.