NYC Center for Economic Opportunity

An employability programme aimed at those previously involved with the criminal justice system
Case Study

" ...the original theory of change with CEO is to try pilots that then drive more systemic changes in programs with the biggest impact."

Kristin Morse, former Executive Director, Center for Economic Opportunity

  • Impact Measurem- ent
  • Leadership
  • Methods
Location in government

City government

Mission statement

“CEO is the anti-poverty innovation unit of New York City Government. Working in support of City agencies, CEO develops, oversees, and evaluates programs and policy innovations”

Size of team


Annual spend

£60.7 million1

Example of impact

CEO has run almost 70 programmes in collaboration with 40 different agencies, directly serving 540,000 individuals across New York City, securing more than 37,000 job placements, 12,000 paid internships, enrolling 18,000 individuals in college or occupational training.2

The New York City Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO) develops and finances innovations to tackle poverty across the city. With evidence of impact central to its approach, CEO runs programmes in collaboration with agencies across the City government, robustly testing their effectiveness to scale and spread the most promising, whilst stopping those that don’t meet their desired outcomes.

What it does

The New York City Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO) develops and finances innovations to tackle poverty across the city. CEO is a team based in New York City Hall that supports innovations to promote education, employment, asset development, and health, targeting the working poor, young adults aged 16-24, and families with young children, to address economic inequalities in the city. CEO provides the financial and technical assistance to test whether these solutions work, with delivery and implementation tasked to the relevant city agency.

One successful CEO programme is Community Partners, an outreach programme to connect people from high poverty areas with employment opportunities. Mobile Community Partner teams were established in all five boroughs of New York City, coordinating referrals to the public workforce system for job placement services. In 2013, 23,000 referrals have been made, resulting in 3,600 people securing job placements.3

Just as it is committed to growing what is working, CEO is equally committed to stopping or decommissioning ineffective programmes. One example is the Nurses Career Ladder programme, designed to train low-income New Yorkers to secure higher salaried positions as nurses, which was stopped when there ceased to be a demand for nursing staff.

CEO has also influenced national policy. In 2008 CEO developed an alternative poverty measure that is having national impact. Their work inspired the Obama Administration and this new approach is now being used by the US Census Bureau.4

Interesting features
  • Impact measurement: rigorous data collection and measurement is the core of CEO’s model, with clear definitions for success and failure. It is one of the few innovation agencies to regularly run randomised assignment evaluations, as well as drawing on a range of other mixed method approaches.
  • Methods: CEO is structured to provide funding for experimentation, supported by a political commitment to sustain successful programmes, and to actively decommission programmes that either don’t achieve impact or fail to do so at lower cost than existing interventions.
  • Leadership: Until 2013 the initiative was overseen by Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs, a public servant with over 20 years of government experience who worked with Mayor Bloomberg to create the space and political cover for the CEO to operate.


  1. Confirmed in email correspondence with Nesta, May 2014, conversion: ($)0.607408 to £1, as exchange rate on 21/01/2013, taken from:
  2. Confirmed by New York City Center for Economic Opportunity in email correspondence with Nesta, 14 May 2014
  3. NYC Center for Economic Opportunity (2014) ‘Community Partners (CBO Outreach)’. Available online: [Last accessed 15 April 2014]; CEO (2007). ‘Community Based Organization Outreach.’ Available online: [Last accessed 15 April 2014] 
  4. Further details on the poverty measure can be found here: [Last accessed 15 April 2014]

Photo Credit: An employability programme aimed at those previously involved with the criminal justice system. Image courtesy of NYC Center for Economic Opportunity

This page was last updated on

Monday, March 23, 2015 - 11:09