Civil Service: The Explainer

Dear reader, this post is meant for people seeking jobs in NYC government, and for new hiring managers who want to better understand the complicated world of civil service. It’s also a good primer for anyone interested in how an important part of your government, namely its workforce, is selected and hired.

New York City employs over 300,000 personnel in roles that range from sanitation worker and school crossing guard, to software engineer and actuarial accountant.  Overall, the pay is decent and in many roles you can still qualify for a pension plan (a benefit that is not to be underestimated).  But, there’s a hitch.  Some 80% of the jobs in New York City require that you take and pass a civil service exam.  If you dare to learn more, read on.

We’ve all taken exams, after all.  Like math and English lit and stuff. 

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It’s Not Easy Being Seen

Hello dear blogosphere, miss me? Probably not, since you’re an anthropomorphization of my overactive imagination, but that’s OK. Still, it’s always fun to have someone to talk to, oh Figment! Today, my mind is ruminating programs, partnerships and policy (yes, I know it’s three “P’s” in a row and a truly scatological mnemonic), three interconnected components that relate the idea of conceptual capital.

See three P! Oh!

A scatologically bad mnemonic for an important concept.

I’m mostly thinking about these things because later this week we’ll be hosting the 2nd annual #STHAchieve Conference at the NYC Department of Education – a professional development series for DOE employees and nonprofit partners focused on supporting students and families affected by homelessness. I’ll explain more about this in a moment, but for the time being suffice it to say that it’s a little unusual to be hosting a 1,200 person conference for city agency employees. Of course, the subject of homelessness, its related traumas, and their impacts on youth development and educational attainment are both intuitively obvious (not good at all), and also highly complex. On its face, it’s clearly important to bring together the educational professionals and support staff who interact with students affected by homelessness so that we can identify strategies, resources and relationships to become better allies and advocates for these students.

But it’s also about lifting up the reality of homelessness in an environment where social emotional learning and whole child supports are still relatively new concepts, and where homelessness itself (and it’s related traumas and stigmas) can remain hidden.

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On Whiteness (2016)

Good solid two feet of snow last week in Brooklyn, Dear Reader, and it’s gotten me thinking about whiteness.

I mean, I’ve been thinking about whiteness for some time, but it’s a very quiet early morning at the Man About Town Brooklyn redoubt, with only the whistling of the radiators and the desultory, distant scraping of cars being dug out to break the silence.  It’s a good time for a blog post.

And I’m white.  This will not come as a surprise to any of you who’ve met me, and probably to most of you who haven’t.  I’m white, and I try very hard to think about the impacts of race and racism on my life, on the lives of my friends and colleagues, on the lives of the people I work to support through my job, and on the society as a whole.  At the risk of wearing my political correctness like a suicide vest, I feel very compelled to talk a little bit about the popular demagoguery of The Donald. Continue reading

A Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Idea We Should Do Immediately


When I’m good, I’m very good. But when I’m bad, I’m better.

Dear reader, you know me.  I like to talk. When I talk to people I get ideas.  Mostly they are other people’s ideas that I simply steal.  But I do have my pride: I only steal the best ideas.

I want to share a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea that I think could make a difference for the nonprofit sector, and for the vulnerable people we are committed to support: teaching nonprofit leaders to be tech innovators.

As a special bonus, read all the way to the end for a special Man About Town discount code to the TechBoost for Nonprofits conference on April 23rd!

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Do good techies make good neighbors?

CSR to the rescue - insert logo here.

CSR to the rescue – insert logo here.

Everybody knows that if you want to restore integrity to your downtown business corridor or your local industrial park, if you want to create jobs and point your community towards the future of the workforce, or if you want to capture the hearts and minds of DIY makers and social entrepreneurs, you had better have a plan to lure tech related businesses into your community. Who wouldn’t want the many benefits that a thriving digital workforce can bring? Growing wages, agile thinking, jeans and ping pong in the office! Oh, but wait, you say, isn’t that the same industry that’s driving up real estate costs, sucking up huge amounts of power, and mining my personal privacy for profit? And, hey, don’t they have a little problem with diversity in the workforce? Well… yes.

Looks like it’s time for CSR to the rescue!

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#OMG: Why the #NPO sector is #tech averse

I'd be lion if I said I wasn't surprised.

I’d be lion if I said I wasn’t surprised.

So I was talking to a friend of mine at a very large nonprofit organization – as in over $100 million in annual revenues.  They serve thousands of clients every year with job development, alcohol and other drug abuse treatment, affordable housing, psychological counseling and a variety of other supports.  As a result of the many contracts and grants they have to do this work, they operate in excess of 15 databases to track operations, case management, finance, etc.  They have a full time IT staff, desktops, laptops, and handheld devices out the yingyang.  So naturally I said, what are you doing with all that data? “Actually,” my friend said, “we don’t do anything with the data.”  #OMG.
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The New Dawn of the Nonprofit Merger


Mergers – never easy.

It used to be that the idea of one nonprofit taking over another was simply anathema.  Nonprofits didn’t, you know, do that to one another. Mergers and acquisitions were the territory of national banks, energy companies and pharmaceutical giants with oversized ambitions and possibly malevolent intent. Nonprofits weren’t motivated by “creating efficiencies,” particularly at the expense of their own staff members – many of whom came from the very low-income communities those same nonprofits were seeking to serve.

But, oh, the times they are a-changin’. Nonprofit mergers are on the rise in NYC, and we’re going to see many more of them. Whether you like the reasons or not, you’d better know what they are because this, my friend, could happen to you.
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Social impact investment and the failure of imagination

Do you know what you don't know?

Do you know what you don’t know?

Domestic social impact investment is stuck.  Each year a few deals trickle through, but despite the potential and promise, impact investments in the US are rare, complex, and entirely bespoke. To be sure, there are structural challenges to growing the market in the US – just look at Tracy Palandjian’s recent SSIR article on the state of the social impact bond sector – but I can’t help feeling that we’re suffering as much from a failure of imagination as infrastructure. The problem is, few social entrepreneurs can clearly describe their impact capital needs, while few potential investors understand how to place impact capital into deals. I mean, if neither side really knows how to go about its business, how can we expect them to do business with each other?

But I have an idea…. Continue reading

Are You TED Talk Ready?  The Importance of Conceptual Capital

Marie And Donny Osmond

It used to just take two. Those days are over.

In the callow youth of the nonprofit sector, you needed two kinds of capital: (1) financial capital, because money does, after all, grease the wheels of change, and (2) social capital, because proving you could fill the courthouse steps or get the Governor to answer your call was a way to make up for not having enough money.  But the NPO sector is burgeoning, the capacity for evaluation is still limited, and the power of social media has grown.  Now there’s a new kind of resource you need: conceptual capital.  It’s the stuff that drives your visibility in a crowded marketplace.  So what is it, why do you need it, and where do you get it?

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Let’s Turn this Old Barn into a Theater! (Part III of III)

Big Car in Indianapolis, IN is a former auto service center.

Dear Reader, About a year ago the Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts (NOCD) working group asked your Man About Town to write a nice, juicy case study about what happens when cultural organizations buy non-cultural facilities and fix them up.  This three part series details my findings, although it’s well worth checking out the original report to see case studies from nearly a dozen cultural organizations across the country.  You can also read Part I and Part II of this series to learn more about the unique opportunities and challenges of adaptive reuse. Continue reading