Capstone Courses and Projects
Agora Partnerships is a nonprofit organization that works to accelerate the success of early-stage entrepreneurs in Latin America who are committed to solving social and environmental challenges. Agora’s main programming is an Impact Accelerator designed to give entrepreneurs the resources and network to become “investment ready.” As the impact investing market grows in the United States, there is demand from these entrepreneurs to access social, human, and financial capital. Having success in several countries in Latin America and domestic resources, Agora is considering bringing their Impact Accelerator model to the US market. The Capstone team was tasked to conduct an environmental scan of the US landscape with specific focus on social entrepreneurs, venture philanthropy, entrepreneurial support entities, and funders. The research was then synthesized and analyzed to produce a report of findings and recommendations to inform Agora on growth strategy and internal capacity building necessary for entry into the US market.
Mount St. Mary College, Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress, and the City of Newburgh, New York
The City of Newburgh, a town of 30,000 residents located on the Hudson River about 60 miles north of New York City, requested assistance in measuring its government performance. The Capstone team partnered with the City; Pattern for Progress, a local non-profit organization; and Mount St. Mary’s, the local college, to examine the City’s data collection and analysis processes, specifically focusing on the Police Department, Fire Department, Office of Code Enforcement, and city finances. The team then provided a framework to assist city officials in using data to make more informed decisions. In addition, the team made recommendations for replicating the analysis in following years and provided the means by which to expand data collection and analysis. In order to provide broader transparency and accessibility, especially for the general public, the information was made available in the form of an easily digestible public document, as well as in a presentation to city leaders and community members.
New York City Administration for Children's Services
In an effort to strengthen the infrastructure of the nonprofit community serving foster children in New York City, the Capstone team worked with the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) to compare the strategic planning, quality improvement, and data management practices among a diverse set of agencies contracted by ACS to provide foster care services. The team gathered information from the agencies' quality improvement and evaluation staff at leadership and team member levels and analyzed it in the context of a literature review of best practices in child welfare. The team summarized the practices in place and highlighted the elements that appeared to have the greatest effectiveness on performance improvement. Ultimately, the team made recommendations to ACS regarding ways the agency can foster implementation of similar promising practices among all providers, including those with less sophisticated systems.
New York City Human Resources Administration
Serving over three million New York City residents, the Human Resources Administration (HRA) is the largest social services department in the nation. Investigations, Revenue & Enforcement Administration (IREA) is the investigative arm of HRA, uncovering everything from prescription drug fraud to duplicate food stamp cases. Data shows that while the number of welfare recipients is climbing, prosecution of public benefits fraud is declining in NYC. The Capstone team was tasked with researching whether this data meant fewer recipients are committing fraud despite the increase in public assistance, or if the threshold for prosecution has become more lenient as a result of the economic downturn. Through surveys, interviews and literature review, the Capstone team tracked patterns in fraud prosecution across the country and compared NYC figures to national trends. The team also conducted a process evaluation of IREA’s district attorney referral system and created a resource guide to improve the quality of cases referred for prosecution.
The 52nd Street Project
The 52nd Street Project (The Project) is a community-based arts organization that connects kids from the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood with professional artists to create original theater productions. Facing increasing pressure from funders to demonstrate outcomes, The Project sought to track the development of the kids they serve, with a special focus on non-cognitive skills (for example, self-control and self-efficacy). The Capstone team held focus groups and interviews, and conducted an extensive literature review to identify the appropriate metrics. The team identified a set of non-cognitive skills that are developed by The Project’s programming and also associated with long-term success, as grounded in social science research, and conducted best practice research to examine how other organizations measure the development of these skills. The team then developed valid and reliable tools for data collection, as well as an implementation plan for launching and maintaining the system of measurement.
New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence
The New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence was formed in 1992 in order to improve the State’s response to and prevention of domestic violence. In 2007, an Executive Order was issued by the Governor that set guidelines for Domestic Violence in the Workplace initiatives for state employees. This included training, communications materials, and protocols in place to help support state employees. Five years after the Executive Order was issued, the Capstone team implemented surveys of state employees and Domestic Violence in the Workplace liaisons in various state agencies in order to assess the efficacy of the Executive Order, as well as to make recommendations on information gathering and continued implementation of the policy. A comparative analysis of state policies across the country was conducted in order to make best practice recommendations and evaluate New York State’s policies on a national level.
Sauti Yetu Center for African Women
Sauti Yetu (SY) is a community-based nonprofit in the South Bronx. Their Girls Empowerment and Leadership Initiative (GELI) aims to empower African immigrant girls through academic tutoring, facilitated peer connections, and holistic support. The Capstone team was asked to design a performance measurement and management system to allow SY to more effectively communicate GELI’s activities and outcomes to stakeholders. The team began by conducting secondary and primary research in order to gain a comprehensive understanding of the program. With this research, the team created a logic model to serve as the foundation for GELI’s performance measurement system. Next, the team developed culturally competent indicators and measurement tools for GELI, designed a database for tracking program activities and outcomes, and provided orientation for SY staff in implementation and use of the system. Finally, the team presented SY with recommendations to strengthen their performance management system.
Times Square Alliance
Times Square Arts, the public art program of the Times Square Alliance, presents leading contemporary art and performances to Times Square’s 400,000 daily visitors; cultivating the creativity, energy, and edge that has made Times Square a national icon. The Capstone team was engaged to develop a performance measurement framework in order for Time Square Arts to better evaluate its successes in the short- and long-term. The Capstone team first outlined the Times Square Arts theory of change; conducted an extensive literature review; interviewed the leaders of national and international public art programs, funders of public art, and key stakeholders; and through a process evaluation, developed a narrative for past art projects. The performance measurement framework will allow Times Square Arts to collect key information about its art projects and program impact, enhance strategic decision-making, bolster support, and paint a detailed picture of how to assist in fulfilling Times Square Alliance’s mission.
Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
The Capstone team partnered with the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, a philanthropic nonprofit institution, to identify areas where open data systems and collaborative arrangements via technology can add public value to the regulatory job of government agencies. The team first organized a design challenge similar to the New York City “Reinvent Payphones Design Challenge,” wherein New York City residents collaborate to redesign payphones across the city. At the event, policy students, policymakers, regulators, and technology experts collaborated and brainstormed in order to design rating and reputation tools to complement and improve the regulation of illegal apartment conversions in New York City and interstate Chinese motorcoach companies. As a result, the team compiled a detailed report of the challenge’s findings, giving regulators insight into new, non-traditional approaches to the oversight and regulatory function of their agency.
World Bank - Procurement
Billions of dollars are expended each year through the procurement process by which governments and multi-national lending institutions acquire the goods and services needed to complete development projects. One of the most crucial components affecting procurement is the process by which technical specifications are developed. This is particularly true in procurement of products and services in technology-intensive markets, where technical specifications require greater diversity and depth of expertise in order to obtain the best possible solution. The World Bank engaged a Capstone team to assist in accessing expert knowledge and identify ways to improve the procurement process. The team designed and developed a process and policy for an open and collaborative public procurement process to foster identification, implementation, and scaling of innovative solutions to help The Bank achieve its mission of poverty reduction.
Delaware Department of State Division of Corporations and UK Companies House
Delaware Department of State Division of Corporations and UK Companies House imagined a comprehensive and accurate global directory of information about public and private companies that regulators, investors, civil society, the media and researchers could easily and freely access and combine with other datasets to promote corporate accountability, economic growth, and the public interest. To advance this vision, the Capstone team was engaged by two of the world's leading company registers to investigate alternative business models (considering financial, technological and political factors) to inform their consideration of how and why they might make the information they collect about business entities more freely accessible and open. The team interviewed experts and innovators in open data, other company registries, as well as current and potential users of company registry data and leveraged social media to generate public dialogue among stakeholders. This research informed the final analysis and recommendations to both the Delaware Secretary of State Division of Corporations and the UK Companies House.