When I moved from Chicago to New York City, I remember one day realizing the immense economic disparity that exists here. I was shopping on Madison Avenue, wearing relatively expensive clothes, when I saw many homeless people living on the street, sometimes with their equally homeless dogs. There are also poor and even homeless people Chicago, but nowhere had I seen such a striking contrast between the luxury enjoyed by the rich and the awful conditions of the poor, illustrated on the very same street. I didn’t expect to see so many homeless people in the richest city in the richest country in the world. At this moment, I realized that most of humanity remains at the bottom of society. Even the most fortunate of us share the same world, both literally and morally, with the most downtrodden.
Given that the nonprofit sector is the lifeline to people in need, and is crucial in helping families move into and stay in the middle class and reducing social problems such as homelessness, I wanted to work in the sector, which lead to my internship with HSC. HSC, as a coordinating body, mobilizes a diverse group of nonprofits and stakeholders to educate policy makers and the community on how budget and policy decisions affect New York’s social service providers and the poor and vulnerable individuals and families who depend on them for services. I learned about the limitations of what government can do, and the possibility for human services organizations to bring about policy change. By advocating for issues important to different human services organizations, I am doing something tangible for New York City’s homeless population. I feel proud to join those addressing the “tale of the two cities” problem identified by Bill De Blasio in his successful campaign to become the City’s new Mayor.
HSC developed recommendations to strengthen the nonprofit human services sector’s ability to improve the lives of New Yorkers in need. On January 14, 2013, the Human Services Council of New York convened nearly 200 leaders of government, philanthropy, media, academia, and the nonprofit sector to have a frank conversation about the strategic significance and economic health of the sector, how to change the culture and practices that keep the sector from realizing its full potential, and what can be done to ensure that nonprofits are meeting community needs. The Summit, Doubling Down: How Recommitting to the Nonprofit Sector can Achieve Real Change in Communities, elicited many potential solutions that – if implemented – would build a stronger nonprofit sector that can more effectively and efficiently serve New Yorkers.
The document outlines fifteen recommendations for public policy reforms, which are broken down into four key areas: procurement, performance, pay, and new ideas. The goals of our recommendations are to achieve a healthier nonprofit human services sector in New York. They also offer significant relief to organizations that deliver a wide array of critical services to communities and will substantially improve its ability to provide quality services to the most vulnerable New Yorkers. They will move the sector forward on a path to sustainability, a step necessary to ultimately achieving greater, more audacious outcomes. See the attached detailed information regarding the recommendations’ four key areas.
Overall, the recommendations address the dire need to build and recommit to trusting and engaging partnerships between nonprofits and policy makers and to reform the flow of money and communication processes between the two. Nonprofits are a strong economic force in New York’s economy, accounting for 33 percent of City contracts and over $5.5 billion in annual spending. The sector also employs over a tenth of the City’s workforce  and spends an estimated $2.5 to $5 billion annually on goods and services. Ensuring the health of this significant sector is in the interest of government and the overall economy.
These recommendations are crucial to building a healthy nonprofit sector that can continue to serve people in New York, and work to alleviate the disparities I see every day walking in New York City.
Contributed by Yuan Zhou of the Human Services Council.
 Agency Procurement Indicators Fiscal Year 2013, City of New York Mayor’s Oﬃce of Contract Services, page 27
 Negotiated Acquisition Solicitation for Group Purchasing Organization for Goods and Services for Human Service Providers 2010