Illuminates the role of the New York City Center for Economic Opportunity as an antipoverty agency that utilizes evidence-based policy in the development of city programs, works with multiple agencies to address cross-cutting interventions, and facilitates relationships between the agencies and external evaluators to ensure the evaluations are well implemented.

This brief explores the history and role of the New York City Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO), an antipoverty city government agency that pilots and evaluates programs to inform evidence-based policymaking. “Taken together, CEO’s operations create an alternative policy process within city government, a process more accommodating than typical government processes to innovation, rigorous evaluation, cross-agency cooperation, and evidence-based choice. Instead of trying to predict the consequences of new programs even before they are tried, CEO moves the burden of information gathering and analysis from pre-implementation to post-implementation. The critical policy choice is shifted from initial adoption of a program to the decision whether to continue and scale up a program—or, in some cases, modify the program model and try it again. Policy decisions thus depend on observation of a program rather than the many assumptions and analogies needed to predict the effects of a change in policy before its implementation. This approach suggests a new direction in public administration, away from extensive planning of major initiatives and toward a ‘trial and error’ approach that builds up and modifies programs in response to rigorous evidence from their actual implementation” (p.vi).

(Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)

Major Findings & Recommendations

Major findings from this report include: • “CEO has developed programs or projects with twenty-seven city agencies since 2007. Partners have included many agencies that do not have explicit antipoverty goals” (p.iv). • “CEO has helped bring about collaborations across agencies on innovative pilots, including many agencies that had little or no direct involvement with each other in the past” (p.vi-vii). • “A key resource of CEO was its proximity to and connection with the Mayor’s Office. Its placement under the deputy mayor for health and human services, who oversaw a wide range of agencies, and a widespread perception that the Center enjoyed the support of the mayor, were crucial in getting agencies to pay attention to CEO and its requests. • CEO’s Innovation Fund is also an essential source of influence. It allows CEO to make investments in diverse pilots in the areas of workforce development, youth development, re-entry services, asset development, health and nutrition, and others. The flexibility of this funding is particularly attractive to city agencies, as most have little opportunity to try new program ideas. • While cities do not typically integrate evaluation in government programs, CEO performs some type of evaluation for nearly all of its pilots. Its evaluations often begin in the early stages of implementation…. Later evaluations gauge program impact” (p.vii). • “CEO uses the evidence it gathers in making funding and implementation decisions. It has terminated several programs found to be ineffective, and it has ‘baselined’ other programs determined to be successful. Yet it has also made intermediate decisions at several points during the implementation and evaluation processes” (p.viii). • “Overall, CEO does represent a unique type of governing institution, one that promotes a new kind of public administration — an approach that stresses experimentation, trial and error, and rigorous observation of program impacts before major policy commitments are made. This approach differs substantially from the more common one, which emphasizes extensive planning before implementation and ensuring compliance with plans — with much less emphasis on evaluation, feedback, and frequent adjustments” (p.ix). (Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)