As someone who cares about the issues affecting New Yorkers and their families, I'm sure you are as eager as I am to see what Mayor-elect de Blasio has planned for our city. The decisions that he has already begun to make – just recently announcing his transition team – are vitally important, for while the Mayor may set the general tone for a new administration, the qualities of those he chooses are even more important to the way in which a new administration sets and implements its vision day-by-day and in the longer term.
What does the non-profit sector look for in this transition period? There are at least three qualities which have been articulated by our sector and which we trust will influence key choices. First, a new, highly collaborative and trusting partnership must be established between all public officials and appointees in their work with the non-profit sector. The good news in this City is that government relies heavily on our sector for the provision of necessary services across a wide range of program areas. But there is a difference between being a "vendor" and being a partner in a relationship. As partners, we would help shape critical policies and the best way they can be implemented from a sound operational perspective. The new administration should acknowledge and reinforce the partnership philosophy in its selection process.
The second quality focuses on taking advantage of the talents and political orientations of those selected, and derives from the assumption that many people in the non-profit sector will be asked and will accept positions in the new administration. Coming from our sector implies that potential appointees understand the values of both community-based programs and programs which serve targeted populations on a different geographic basis. Non-profit leaders understand that the true costs of operating programs need to be recognized and properly funded and that contract provisions should be negotiated rather than unilaterally drafted. Selecting people from the non-profit sector could be a strength of this administration; when this happens their expertise should be embraced and not suppressed.
Finally, we can acknowledge the significant accomplishments of the departing administration while also acknowledging some of its limitations. The new people entering the administration do not necessarily have to believe that bigger is better, that all accomplishments lend themselves to easily definable or quantifiable performance measures, that the "business" model approach is always appropriate in some program areas or even makes any sense in critical situations. The quality that should be considered is one that encourages risk taking, the search for innovative ideas, the acceptance of multiple strategies for addressing complex problems.
We are all now looking forward to a new administration which builds on the strengths of past accomplishments and has a path for even greater accomplishments. Selecting a new team of leaders with the right qualities will be the primary determinate of what will happen in the next few years. I look forward to sharing additional thoughts with you as we watch this new administration continue to take shape.
--Michael H. Zisser, Ph.D.
Chief Executive Officer