New York City’s Center for Economic Opportunity

In 2006, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg established the New York City’s Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO) in order to improve how the city addressed the issue of poverty at a local level. Its goal was to create pioneering anti-poverty initiatives, continuously evaluating them to continue utilizing what works, while discontinuing those that did not.

The process began by conducting research on the current state of the city and by bringing in partners from the non-profit and private sectors including the Harlem Children’s Zone and Time Warner to explore the causes, range and results of poverty in New York City.

Acting upon their findings, Mayor Bloomberg created the Center for Economic Opportunity in an effort to change how the city addressed poverty. For decades, New York had been funding anti-poverty programs more focused on preserving the status quo than demonstrating successful results. CEO broke that mold by funding only programs that allow for more flexibility in adding to successful programs while cutting the ineffective ones. The success of CEO resulted from the added communication between organizations, while keeping the focus on program evaluation.

“Our approach relies heavily on performance monitoring, existing data, and ‘good enough’ comparisons that enable us to invest in building evidence for our most promising programs and those for which data aren’t readily available. We pay close attention to the data—requiring monthly narratives, quarterly reports to our providers—so that we can make sure they make course corrections if they aren’t hitting their targets, and so we can know what’s working.” – CEO Executive Director Kristin Morse

Since it began, CEO has worked with over 50 programs, 28 city agencies and almost 200 community-based organizations, aiding in development and implementation with continued evaluation. Through federal funding from the Social Innovation Fund (SIF), CEO has been able to replicate its programs and success from five of their programs in eight new cities, spreading evaluation and the monitoring of results as tools for improving the methods and outcomes of anti-poverty programs.