Coro New York
Coro is New York’s premier leadership training program. With a current cadre of over 2000 distinguished alumni who hold key positions in the city’s leading business, government and nonprofit organizations, Coro offers a host of programs designed to improve the leadership capacity of those participating in its programs. While these participants are the first level beneficiaries of this training, the organization’s logic model is more ambitious, calling for wider systemic change. To that end, it examines impacts not only on those who attend its programs, but also on the organizations in which they serve, and the communities within which they operate. Coro’s Neighborhood Leadership Program (NLP) is a case in point. Designed for those leading commercial revitalization efforts, whether working through a Business Improvement District or local development corporation, NLP provides participants with the skills and resources they need to address complex challenges within their neighborhoods. Beyond a first level assessment of their responses to each training session, Usable Knowledge asked participants to keep a diary of their work and interviewed them one year following the end of their experience in order to gauge the success of the long term neighborhood development projects they undertook as part of the program. Nearly all had achieved real, on-the-ground change, enabling Coro to document outcomes not only to participants, but also to the larger New York City community it serves.
Junior Achievement of New York
Junior Achievement of New York’s (JANY’s) mission is to inspire and prepare young people to succeed in a global economy. Working primarily through volunteers from its corporate partners, JANY delivers relevant, hands-on experiences that give students knowledge and skills in financial literacy, work readiness and entrepreneurship. In 2009, the organization received a five year grant from the NASDAQ OMX Educational Foundation to develop a business plan competition program designed to encourage entrepreneurial thinking among high school students in JANY’s catchment area, New York City and Long Island. JANY contracted with Usable Knowledge to evaluate the program each year and make recommendations as part of its continuous improvement efforts. While some features of the evaluation remained the same year over year, Usable Knowledge was able to alter its research in order to respond to modifications in program delivery. Based on this work we suggested a number of revisions to the program design which JANY piloted and will now implement in the program’s remaining years. These included additional opportunities for training for those students advancing in the competition, new criteria for selecting the schools that participate, and the implementation of a new model through which corporate volunteers and students interact.
United Way of New York City DTA / MAP
The United Way of New York City’s Management Assistance Program (recently renamed Direct Technical Assistance) matches consultants with non-profit organizations needing their services and then provides financial support for the period of the work. Since its inception, MAP has helped over 150 non-profits ranging in size from small community soup kitchens, to some of the largest human service providers in New York. United Way asked Usable Knowledge to develop a system for improving self assessment while also undertaking a qualitative evaluation of the non-profit community’s reaction to the program. The study involved interviews with the leaders of over 30 organizations that had received MAP assistance.
The impact of the report we drafted led United Way to ask us to help re-launch the program.
United Way of New York City CAPS
For over a decade, the United Way of New York City has managed a partnership between the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) and local, community based organizations (CBOs), designed to improve school attendance. The idea behind the program is that children and families are best encouraged to attend school when they are engaged by groups with whom they are familiar and that speak their language. United Way asked Usable Knowledge to evaluate the state of this partnership in order to bring to the surface any issues and concerns that could affect the stakeholders’ ability to work together. The study involved interviews with individuals in a variety of roles at both the CBOs and NYCDOE. The resulting report and recommendations were used to develop new strategies for matching CBOs with schools in need of attendance improvement, and improve the monitoring the partnerships. They also helped lay the groundwork for aligning the program with the newly restructured NYCDOE.
ICHEIC Student Service Corp.
In 2006 the International Commission for Holocaust Related Insurance Claims developed an initiative designed to match college students with elderly survivors of the Holocaust. The goal of the program was to provide ongoing friendly visits for the survivors, while at the same time transmitting, to the next generation, a living memory of what they endured during the years of the Shoah. In addition to the friendly visits, the students participated in a semester long academic enrichment experience which was delivered through the universities sponsoring the program. Usable Knowledge partnered with Innovation Network, a Washington, D.C. consultancy specializing in evaluation capacity building to evaluate this effort. The evaluation made use of an online survey designed to create a profile of the students in the program, a series of student focus groups at the program’s conclusion, interviews with staff from the all the partner organizations, and a unique online student journal, developed by Usable Knowledge, to capture students’ reactions to their weekly visits in real time. The evaluation report was used to improve both the program’s content and structure..
Osborne Association Safe Landing Program
The Osborne Association is a leading New York City human services provider that offers opportunities for individuals who have been in conflict with the law to transform their lives and rejoin society as productive citizens. A grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation enabled it to develop a program aimed at improving outcomes for individuals suffering from mild to moderate mental illness who were recently released from prison. Shortly after receipt of the grant, Osborne asked Usable Knowledge to design a system for monitoring and evaluating the program. We developed a series of client tracking instruments and recommended a number of standardized inventories to assess ongoing client progress. All were deployed using a web-based survey tool. The final stage of the project involves collaborative authorship of a series of papers and reports aimed at disseminating information about the program to academic, professional and popular audiences.
Reboot is an organization dedicated to Jewish renewal. It works to make inherited Jewish traditions vital and resonant to the generation of Jews now in their twenties and early thirties by facilitating opportunities for young Jews to gather together, engage with one and other, and question what Jewishness means in their lives. Reboot’s core program component is an annual retreat in which emerging Jewish cultural leaders gather together to discuss such questions in their own terms. The project involved analysis of post retreat surveys, the creation and analysis of an instrument aimed at assessing broader program outcomes such as engagement with fellow Reboot participants outside of the retreats, and a series of in-depth life history interviews designed to gauge deeper impacts. The project, is just entering its final phase, with a report forthcoming in the Spring of 2006.
National Guild for Community Schools of the Arts Membership Census
The National Guild for Community Schools of the Arts is a non-profit association dedicated to the growth of high-quality arts education in communities across the United States. It supports community based arts organizations through training, advocacy, information sharing, and high-profile leadership in arts education. In 2004, the Guild asked Usable Knowledge to conduct a census of its member organizations in order to benchmark the current “state of the field” and develop an info-base of organizational practices. The project resulted in the creation of a comprehensive data book of findings and a series of presentations to member organizations at a national association meeting.