NYC Mayor’s Office for Economic Opportunity, Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, and Citi Community Development Announce the Launch of the Nation’s First-Ever Municipal Service Design Studio Dedicated to Improving Services for Low-Income Residents

New Design Studio and Toolkit aim to enable NYC agencies to better meet the needs of NYC’s most vulnerable residents using a participatory process known as “service design.”
Oct 6, 2017 8:00 AM ET
Press Release

NEW YORK, October 6, 2017 /3BL Media/ - Today the Mayor's Office for Economic Opportunity, the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, and Citi Community Development announce the launch of the nation’s first-ever Service Design Studio and toolkit dedicated to making public services for low-income New Yorkers as effective and accessible as possible. The announcement took place at Parsons School of Design at the New School, where over 400 public servants, nonprofit leaders, and members of the design community gathered in support of the new initiative.

The Service Design Studio at the Mayor’s Office for Economic Opportunity (NYC Opportunity) and its accompanying toolkit, NYC Civic Service Design Tools + Tactics, provide a central resource for expertise and best practices in service design to support public servants. The Studio, which will provide design consulting services, trainings, and event programming, is available to New York City government agencies that want to improve how they deliver services to City residents.

According to the New York City Government Poverty Measure, 2005-2015, 44.2% of New Yorkers live at or near poverty. Using a design process that considers the needs and motivations of those who depend on and deliver services can inform solutions that encompass programs, policies, digital products, and communications—particularly for low-income New Yorkers. The Service Design Studio and toolkit were developed in collaboration with Founding Partner Citi Community Development, which provided funding support through the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City. 

Both the Studio and toolkit employ an emerging practice known as “service design,” a participatory approach to improving services that incorporates ethnographic field research, behavioral science, economics, information technology, design, and other related disciplines. Service design actively involves all stakeholders of a service—including and especially those who receive it—making it a highly collaborative approach. The process aims to fully capture how a service is delivered and used, identify opportunities for improvement, and explore and test potential solutions.

The new Studio is helmed by a team of designers with backgrounds in policy, planning, user experience, and technology. In early 2018, the Studio will invite City agencies to propose poverty reduction-focused projects to collaborate with the studio on through receiving design services. Additionally, the Studio will be assigned mayoral initiatives.

Today’s announcement marks a significant milestone for the City of New York’s years-long commitment to exploring how service design can advance financial inclusion. In 2014, NYC Opportunity began hiring designers to work on initiatives including ACCESS NYC, Growing Up NYC, Queensbridge Connected, and HOME-STAT. In 2015, the City joined Citi Community Development, the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City and the Parsons School of Design’s Design for Social Impact and Sustainability (DESIS) Lab to launch Designing for Financial Empowerment, an initiative aimed at using service design to improve the effectiveness of the free tax preparation, citizenship, and financial counseling and coaching services provided by the Department of Consumer of Affairs. In 2016, the City launched the Nonprofit Resiliency Committee, which offers opportunities for collaboration and expands lines of communication between City government and the nonprofit human service sector. Collectively, these initiatives demonstrate the value of using human-centered design methodology to inform services.

By situating the Studio within NYC Opportunity, which works in collaboration with City agencies to use evidence and innovation to reduce poverty and increase equity, the team will be able to support new and existing initiatives across a variety of policy areas. NYC Opportunity advances research, data, and design in the City’s program and policy development, service delivery, and budget decisions. NYC Opportunity also manages a discrete innovation fund and partners with City agencies to design, test, and oversee new programs and digital products. Part of the Mayor’s Office of Operations, NYC Opportunity actively supports the de Blasio administration’s priority to make equity a core governing principle across all agencies.

For more information about the Service Design Studio, visit

“Local governments bear the challenge of providing vital services that must adapt and respond to the complex needs and daily lives of all residents, especially for those who struggle financially,” said Bob Annibale, Global Director of Citi Community Development. “With the launch of this new Service Design Studio and toolkit, the City of New York and Citi are working to institutionalize a replicable approach, which directly harnesses the unique insights and experiences of public services users to design and deliver efficient, inclusive and responsive public services for all New Yorkers.”  

 “The tools of service design help us better recognize and respond to what our residents really need, not just what we think they need, and help us understand how initiatives actually work, not just how we intend them to work,” said Matthew Klein, Executive Director of the Mayor’s Office for Economic Opportunity. “The Service Design Studio is a new and important resource that builds on our office’s history of helping to launch anti-poverty programs and develop evidence about what works.”

"We are pleased to see the efforts of the past year come to fruition with the establishment of the Service Design Studio. This project is a great reflection of the incredible work that can take place when the private sector seeks to help government innovate and adopt proven tools and models. We are so grateful for the investment of Citi Community Development, which will go a long way in helping New Yorkers better access public services and help our public servants better meet the needs New Yorkers,” said Darren Bloch, Executive Director of the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City.

“Our Studio will be a partner in empowering public servants to use design and engage their fellow public servants, nonprofit providers and residents in new ways,” said Ariel Kennan, Director of Design and Product at the Mayor’s Office for Economic Opportunity, who oversees the Service Design Studio.

“Department of Consumer Affairs is proud to support the launch of the Service Design Studio,” said DCA Commissioner Lorelei Salas. “These designers provide innovative problem solving and program design strategies to help government agencies fully capture how a service is delivered and used in order to improve the effectiveness of their programs. Service design is helping increase client retention at our Financial Empowerment Centers and I encourage other city agencies to take advantage of the many ways this new studio can help us in our efforts to better serve New Yorkers and create thriving communities.”

 “The Service Design Studio strengthens NYC Opportunity’s mission to take on poverty-related challenges and increase equity,” said Emily W. Newman, Acting Director of the Mayor’s Office of Operations. “Every day, City agencies work on complex problems that often require complex solutions to get the most impactful results. The design studio and toolkit will improve the delivery of key services. Congratulations to the NYC Opportunity team!”

"Finding a place for design in government can come in different forms. One way is to promote cultures of innovation from within by creating new infrastructures and norms to allow emerging forms of public innovation to flourish and exist in government. Places with the ability to do things differently, where designers can experiment with policy, policymakers experiment with service design and public servants co-design with city residents." said Eduardo Stasowski, Associate Professor of Design Strategies at Parsons School of Design and co-founder and Director of the Parsons DESIS Lab.

"AIGA, the professional association for design, captures the diversity of today's creative practitioners–from communications, UX/UI to service designers,” said Laetitia Wolff, AIGA Director of Strategic Initiatives. “While a big portion of its membership is made up of in-house designers, AIGA recognizes the growing importance of professionals working in government. A successful initiative such as AIGA DC's DotGovDesign shows the need to build community and improve standards for government design peers. AIGA strongly believes in the intersection of design and cities and is excited to support New York City's investment in service design." 



The Mayor’s Office for Economic Opportunity (NYC Opportunity) uses evidence and innovation to reduce poverty and increase equity. We advance research, data and design in the City’s program and policy development, service delivery, and budget decisions. Our work includes analyzing existing anti-poverty approaches, developing new interventions, facilitating the sharing of data across City agencies, and rigorously assessing the impact of key initiatives. NYC Opportunity manages a discrete fund and works collaboratively with City agencies to design, test and oversee new programs and digital products. It also produces research and analysis of poverty and social conditions, including its influential annual Poverty Measure, which provides a more accurate and comprehensive picture of poverty in New York City than the federal rate. Part of the Mayor’s Office of Operations, NYC Opportunity is active in supporting the de Blasio administration’s priority to make equity a core governing principle across all agencies.      


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