Capstone Courses and Projects
Despite their increasing prevalence in funding and guiding public policies, there has never been an attempt to thoroughly document the scope and universe of public-private partnerships in New York City. Citizens Union, a government watchdog group founded in 1897, raised concerns regarding the transparency and democratic accountability of these nonprofits. The Capstone team engaged in a three-step project. First, the team assembled a comprehensive inventory of nearly 200 public-private partnerships in New York City, including financial data over a three-year time period and information on their links to city government. Second, the team engaged in a case-study analysis of six specific public-private partnerships to gain a deeper understanding of their operations and their role in policymaking. Finally, the team made recommendations for improving the transparency and accountability of public-private partnerships, and limiting the potential for donors and political influences to create ethical conflicts.
Community Voices Heard
Community Voices Heard (CVH), an advocacy organization led by low-income people working to improve the lives of poor communities in Harlem, Newburgh, and Poughkeepsie, engaged the Capstone team to find game-changing economic development models that can reduce unemployment and improve affordable housing in Newburgh, NY. The team used two primary criteria in selecting prospective models. First, the models had to incorporate open, public and participatory decision-making processes; and, the models had to directly benefit the low-income communities where CVH members reside. The team identified and investigated several viable models and strategies that were successfully implemented in other communities with the potential to be similarly applied to Newburgh. The team’s final report outlined approaches such as anchor institution partnerships, renter equity systems, urban agriculture, and resident-led project development and ownership, and how they might be implemented in Newburgh, including specific action steps and funding sources to which CVH can refer.
Literacy Assistance Center
The Literacy Assistance Center (LAC) is a New York City-based nonprofit organization that increases opportunities for adults with low literacy skills and limited English language proficiencies by offering professional development training and technical assistance to instructors, policymakers, students, and other professionals focused on promoting adult literacy. The Capstone team’s purpose was to assess one of LAC’s programs, the LAC Academy, and its ability to enhance professionalization of the adult literacy education sector. In order to do so, the Capstone team conducted a literature review, designed quantitative and qualitative evaluation tools, and analyzed results from an online survey and two focus groups. Additionally, the Capstone team offered recommendations and a new evaluation tool that the Academy can administer to clients at the end of each course. These tools will allow LAC to continuously track the Academy’s outcomes and impact, as well as shape future certificate programs and course offerings.