Our Story & Early Impact
NYC Speaks convened a broad and diverse coalition of community leaders, civic organizations, and credible messengers from communities across the five boroughs
In December 2021, NYC Speaks convened a broad and diverse coalition of community leaders, civic organizations, and credible messengers from communities across the five boroughs to help shape and inform an initiative that would rigorously seek data from both inside and outside of government to identify the most strategic ways forward at a critical moment in our city’s history. From the beginning, NYC Speaks was organized with multiple entry points for those interested in taking part. Since launching, the team has provided direct support and technical assistance to hundreds of participating residents and organizations.
Last winter/spring, over 80 members of the Civic Policy Councils, representing a diverse cross-section of New Yorkers, collaborated on the research and outreach strategies for the initiative. Policy Council members led the development of the NYC Speaks Survey questions which captured more than 62,000 responses from New Yorkers across every residential zip code.
Throughout the first 100 days of the new administration, nearly two dozen community-based organizations representing Black and Brown neighborhoods and the communities hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and another 50+ citywide were resourced to execute the engagement process as Community Data Partners and Community Conversation Partners. Nearly 40 NYC Youth Speaks Ambassadors also received training on how to facilitate and host discussions at their schools and in their communities, and participated in conversations with Mayor Eric Adams, Deputy Mayor Sheena Wright, and Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Anne Williams-Isom. Youth Ambassadors also hosted ideas generation sessions as part of the citywide participatory budgeting process.
“NYC Speaks was ‘far more representative than a community board meeting’”
“By the types of answers that were given [we] could tell that this survey was serious and focused on real solutions”
“Data shines a light on issues that have been faced by communities of color for years”
“If we all come together and join under one group that advocates for each of our neighborhoods… we have power”
Community-generated findings are helping to shape the conversation on critical issues in our city, like public safety, affordable housing, and mental health.
Government leaders across all levels of local government, from senior administration officials to City Council members to statewide elected officials, are referencing the data publicly and using the findings to incorporate community voice into key policy agendas. For example, the Chief Housing Officer and her team leveraged findings from the NYC Speaks survey, combined with feedback and ideas gathered from homeless and formerly homeless New Yorkers, industry partners, advocates, and City agencies, to help shape the City’s housing blueprint. Our findings were also used by the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the Department of Records and Information Services, the McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research at NYU, Vital City, and the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Strategic Initiatives during the conference event “Conditions in Harlem Revisited” to consider the impact of research and how it can be used to improve community housing, public safety, and education conditions for Black residents in Harlem, New York.
“There is a segment of this city that has been overlooked and that is not lost on any of us. While speaking to our communities, it became apparent that there is a major divide. However, the core of what we all want is the same; a safe city to call home. If we can prioritize coming together, sharing our voices, and highlighting our similarities, we can bridge the gap. I believe that hope can come from NYC Speaks.“
We are laying the groundwork for a new era of collaboration between the public, philanthropic, and civic sectors in New York City.
NYC Speaks represents a transformation in the way government approaches community engagement, creating new vehicles for collaboration and co-design between government and the people it serves. Already, the community conversation model is being used by the Racial Equity Commission and Taskforce on Gun Violence to elevate community voice in solving some of the most intractable issues facing our city today.
Going forward, we will be working with the Mayor’s Fund and HR&A Advisors to establish a dedicated “NYC Speaks Fund” to make it easier for private funders to support specific projects with community-defined goals, compelling interventions, and measurable outcomes in close partnership with the administration. The initial commitments included in the NYC Speaks Action Plan should be considered a down payment on community-driven action, and the basis upon which the administration, private philanthropy, and civil society will continue to build over the coming year.