June 29, 2016Op-ed

Washington Monthly: How to Lead a New National War on Poverty (Part 4)

by Linda Gibbs and Robert Doar

Federal/Local/ 2016/

When New York City launched its war on poverty in 2006, Mayor Michael Bloomberg began a city-wide campaign the likes of which no other city, state or the federal government had seen in decades. Through its flagship agency – the Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO) – the city launched more than 60 initiatives aimed at reducing poverty, some tried-and-true strategies and others bold experiments.

Ten years later, the results of this grand experiment – a poverty rate that is the lowest among the biggest cities in America – could yield a vast number of useful lessons for a new national war on poverty, informed by New York City’s experience.

The most important lesson, however, is the value of data and an evidence-based approach to social innovation. Perhaps the greatest accomplishment of New York City’s effort around poverty was the ability to document what worked and what didn’t and to offer other local governments a blueprint to follow. But there is also a critical role that the federal government can play to encourage and support the kind of innovation that led to New York City’s success.