The heart of NYU Wagner's programs is our faculty. An amalgam of full-time, clinical/research/visiting, and adjunct professors, they are outstanding teachers, expert researchers and committed practitioners.
When organizations or businesses stumble, the search for an explanation often leads back to the quality of the evidence-gathering process. It is that process, known as Evidence-based Management (EBM), that fascinates Anthony R. Kovner, who has spent more than a decade trying to get managers to employ it when they seek ways to improve their organization’s performance and results.
Professor Kovner teaches EBM to students at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, where he is a professor of public and health management and the director of the Executive MPA Program for Nurse Leaders. He is also the author of several books on healthcare management. Shortly before the publication of a chapter he recently wrote, entitled “Adventures in the Evidence-based Management Trade,” for the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Evidence-Based Management (Oxford University Press), he sat down with NYU Research Digest (Spring 2012) to discuss Evidence-based Management.
What’s the theory behind EBM?
Evidence-based Management comes out of medicine—the idea that if you make a medical intervention, it should have a predictable and positive outcome. We said, “Why can’t we apply this in management?” Well, the truth is, it’s not a simple matter. We know a lot less about management than medicine, for which there’s a huge medical research establishment, the randomized clinical trial, and an established process for scientific review.
What professional sector does EBM most lend itself to?
To every sector. So for example, when two large health organizations decide to merge, we say, “Wouldn’t it make sense to look at the best available evidence before making a decision to merge?” Instead, a very common managerial response is: “We want to merge—let’s find the evidence that justifies it.” So these managers need to do more than just type “hospital merger” in Google? Keep in mind that all managers make decisions based on evidence. The point is, what is the quality of the evidence? It can be pretty shabby.
What’s wrong with the process as it works now?
When, for instance, two large institutions decide to merge, to what extent do they ask in advance, “What do we know about successful and unsuccessful mergers?” Generally speaking, what they do is ask the consultants, and the consultants say, “This would work in Akron.” But of course that doesn’t mean that it would work in Brooklyn. Are the merging institutions’ two geographies compatible? What about their respective cultures? It’s not that you get to a solution—these kinds of problems are too messy, too wicked, and the causation is not as clear as in randomized clinical trials. But it informs your thinking so you can see and avoid the worst consequences of what might happen.
How should the evidence gathering begin?
Three basic steps: search and locate the best available evidence, learn from best practices, and try doing your own management research. If you are studying why nurses turn over so much in your hospital, it’s important for you to understand the differences between the 12-hour day shift and the 12-hour night shift. The most important step, though, is to ask the right question, and translate your management challenge into an answerable one.
If EBM is so effective, why don’t more organizations engage in it?
That’s the $64,000 question, and it’s not an easy question to deal with. What it really is about is power and hierarchy and organizations. Let’s say an employee comes up with a better way of doing something and tells the boss about it. You’d expect the boss to say it’s a great idea, let’s do it. But in practice the boss says, “You’re insulting the way I’m managing this place,” or “If you thought of it, then how good can it be, if I didn’t think of it,” or “Go ahead and present your ideas to the higher-ups, and if they like it I’ll take credit for it, and, if they don’t we’ll blame you. “
That sounds almost insurmountable.
The trick of it is to make the politics work for you. To get it implemented, you have to get the managers to see that it’s in their political interest to practice evidence-based management. And I believe it is.”
NYU Wagner students Miriam Altman, Barrie Charney-Golden and Alexandra Meis have won the National Public Policy Challenge sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania’s Fels Institute of Government.
Demonstrating a pattern-breaking way to tackle a major public management challenge, the trio beat out teams from Heinz College at Carnegie Mellon University, Evans School of Public Affairs at the University of Washington, the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago, and Fels.
The National Invitation Competition was held April 22 in Philadelphia’s National Constitution Center. A panel of judges reviewed each student team proposal and rendered its verdict, awarding the $15,000 top prize for the Kinvolved project.
Kinvolved aims to improve education by utilizing pocket-size technology to help classroom teachers to input and retrieve student attendance and other records easily and communicate instantly with parents. Judges included: John Gibbons (partner, Deloitte Consulting); Wanda Gibson (former director of the Information Technology Department, Fair fax County, Va.); Parris Glendening (former Maryland governor), and Bill Leighty (former chief of staff to former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner ).
Kinvolved is on a winning streak. Kinvolved competed against more than 40 teams in London, Paris, Berlin, Dallas, San Francisco, and New York to win the Global BeMyApp Mobile App Competition on Feb. 29th, 2012.
The just-released U.S. News & World Report rankings of 266 public affairs master's programs across the country show NYU Wagner tied for 6th overall this year.
The results are thrilling confirmation of Wagner's upward trajectory. In the previous survey four years ago, Wagner finished in the top 10 for the first time, having risen from 26th in 2001. Additionally, Wagner is top-ranked in six of the specialty categories: #2 in City Management and Urban Policy; #8 in Health Policy and Management; #5 in Nonprofit Management; #8 in Public Finance and Budgeting; #9 in Public Management Administration; and #8 in Social Policy.
Wagner is grateful to the deans, directors and department chairs of master's programs around the country whose votes acknowledge our path of distinction and success.
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation named NYU's Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy a recipient of the MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions. This distinguished award recognizes the Furman Center's excellence in providing objective, policy-relevant research to address the challenges facing neighborhoods in New York City and across the nation. The award, announced on February 16, comes with a grant of $1 million, which the Furman Center will use to broaden its research and policy analysis to more national issues.
"We are humbled and honored that the Furman Center was selected for such a prestigious award," said Vicki Been, faculty director of the Furman Center. "The demand for our work has grown dramatically with the housing crisis and the increasing need for sustainable and affordable housing across the country. This award presents a remarkable opportunity for us to expand our research beyond New York City to help policymakers in Washington and across the nation make more effective housing and community development investments and policies."
"Because we are based at New York University, and are a joint project of the NYU School of Law and the Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, we're able to draw on the talents of a diverse team of faculty and students to produce rigorous, interdisciplinary research on urban policy issues," Furman Center Co-Director Ingrid Gould Ellen said. "The MacArthur Award comes at a critical time, allowing us to continue to expand the work we've always done in New York City to cities and neighborhoods across the country, and to address a broader range of national issues and public policy debates."
From analyses of how subsidized housing investments affect neighborhoods, to studies of the impacts the foreclosure crisis has had on local crime, neighboring property values, tenants, and the educational trajectories of children, the Furman Center has been committed to producing objective and empirically rigorous research on pressing policy issues. Its policy breakfasts, roundtable discussions, and conferences bring thought leaders from all sectors and all points of view together to discuss topics ranging from new models for housing extremely low-income households to creative ways of addressing credit needs in a volatile and declining housing market. The Center launched an Institute for Affordable Housing Policy in 2010 to bring research, policy analysis, and debate about promising new ideas and innovative practices to bear on the challenges of creating cost-effective affordable housing programs. Through its annual State of New York City's Housing and Neighborhoods report, Quarterly Housing Updates, and Subsidized Housing Information Project, the Center provides essential data and analysis for the media, government agencies, non-profit housing providers, and affordable housing developers and financiers.
The award is both a recognition of the excellence of the Furman Center's prior research and policy analysis and an investment in the Furman Center's future. The Furman Center will use the grant to build data and research partnerships that will allow it to broaden the geographic scope of its research, strengthen and expand its policy analysis, and improve its communications and data management infrastructure.
More information, including an overview video about the Furman Center, is available here.
The Furman Center is one of only 15 organizations from six countries to be recognized today with the MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions. "From Chicago to Kampala, these extraordinary organizations demonstrate exceptional creativity and effectiveness," said MacArthur President Robert Gallucci. "They provide new ways to address old problems. They generate provocative ideas and they reframe well-worn debates. And their impact is altogether disproportionate to their size."
The MacArthur Foundation does not seek or accept nominations for its Creative and Effective Institutions awards. To qualify, organizations must demonstrate exceptional creativity and effectiveness; have reached a critical or strategic point in their development; show strong leadership and stable financial management; have previously received MacArthur support; and engage in work central to one of MacArthur's core programs.
A distinguished pair of NYU Wagner professors have been named as recipients of New York University's 2012 Martin Luther King Jr. Faculty Award.
The faculty award recognizes University professors who exemplify the spirit of the late civil rights leader through their scholarship, research, and teaching by making a positive contribution to their students in the classroom and to the greater NYU community.
Professors Prasad and Royster and three other honorees were recognized at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Faculty Award Reception on February 8 in Pless Hall Lounge. Prasad's research focuses on political learning within immigrant communities across the United States. Royster is the author of "Race and the Invisible Hand: How White Networks Exclude Black Men From Blue-Collar Jobs" (2003).
John White, a recent graduate of NYU Wagner and the featured speaker at the upcoming Henry Hart Rice Urban Policy Forum in April, has been named to a top leadership position in public education.
Louisiana's Board of Elementary and Secondary Education this month (January, 2011) selected White as the State Superintendent of Education.
White began his career in public service as a high school English teacher. Honing his skills at Wagner in education finance, management, and policy, he went on to work for the New York City Department of Education's senior leadership team and as a Deputy Chancellor.
Since May, 2011, he has been the Superintendent of the Louisiana Recovery School District, overseeing 79 of the state's most challenged schools.
His most recent promotion has attracted praise from U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who said, "John is a visionary leader who has done great things in New York City and New Orleans, and I'm confident he'll do the same for the whole state of Louisiana."
White will be returning to NYU Wagner to discuss his successful career as a leader in public service: He is slated to be the guest speaker at the annual Henry Hart Rice Urban Policy Forum on April 23. Don't miss it!
Rising costs and budget reductions are forcing New York City leaders to grapple with the long-term financial impact of City retirees' pension and health care benefits. At present, about 20 percent, or $13 billion, of the City's annual budget pays those expenses. This portion arises from collective bargaining agreements, the ups and downs of the stock market, the dynamics and costs of health care, demographics, and other factors.
Weaving questions of public finance and public policy, a December 12 roundtable discussion at NYU Wagner on the City's long-term liabilities drew more than 100 guests, as leading experts explained the hard numbers and difficult choices associated with the public cost of health care for city and state employees, both active and retired, in the years ahead.
The discussion was the second of three roundtables on long-term liabilities cosponsored by The Fund for Public Advocacy; the Office of Bill de Blasio, Public Advocate for the City of New York; as well as by NYU Wagner and the Wagner Economics and Finance Association.
"It's the 20 percent of the budget that we tend to talk about the least," noted De Blasio, who explained that the question of how long-term liabilities are handled is critical to sustaining the City's strengths as a major local employer and an indispensable provider of public services.
The event included a keynote address on Federal health care liabilities by Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress, and a panel discussion with Carol Kellermann, president of the Citizens Budget Commission; Bruce McIver, president, the Voluntary League of Hospitals and Homes New York; Carol O'Cleireacain, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and New York Times columnist Michael Powell (moderator).
Reshma Saujani, executive director, Fund for Public Advocacy, and deputy advocate for special initiatives at the Office of the Public Advocate, delivered opening remarks, as did Neil Kleiman, special advisor to the NYU Wagner dean.
The series is being presented with the help of generous support from The New York Community Trust and the Peter G. Peterson Foundation.