Civic Hall @ Union Square
Civic Hall is a New York-based center that fosters collaboration and builds community to strengthen the civic workforce advancing the most critical practices of problem-solving for the public good.
In Feb of 2016 Civic Hall, and a developer partner RAL and Affiliates Inc. (RAL) were selected as the winners of a public bid process offered by the New York City Economic Development Corporation to develop a 250,000 square foot technology focused commercial center near Union Square at the intersection of 14th street and Irving Place.
Civic Hall and RAL’s proposal included the creation of a new 80,000 square foot community facility to be called Civic Hall @ Union Square which comprised a 40,000 square foot digital skills training center, a 300 person conference center and extensive collaborative workspace for the development of technologies and solutions for the public good.
When announced, Mayor Bill de Blasio heralded Civic Hall @ Union Square as a critical component of New York City Works, the City’s initiative to spur 100,000 jobs with good wages over the next decade. In August 2018, the project received final unanimous approval by the full NYC City Council which followed previous unanimous approval votes by the City Council’s Land Use Committee, the City Planning Commission, and the Community Board of District 3. Civic Hall is now engaged in an extensive planning process engaging with local and citywide community organizations working to provide skills training and job opportunities to New Yorkers in need. Civic Hall is also embarking on a two-year capital campaign culminating with the opening of the facility in the fall of 2020.
What is inside Civic Hall @ Union Square?
The new Civic Hall @ Union Square will occupy six full floors of the new building. Three of the floors will house Civic Hall’s Digital Learning Center, where multiple local workforce providers including Per Scholas, CUNY, Mouse.org, and FedCap, will run programs providing training to thousands of New Yorkers per year including students, teachers, immigrants, physically disabled, and the elderly individuals in 16 digital skills training rooms. One floor will house a “state of the art” 300 person capacity conference center, and two floors will provide collaborative workspace for individuals, civic tech startups, and organizations all working to develop solutions in the public interest.
The Digital Learning Center will also provide training programs and resources for nonprofit and government agency staff and other professionals working in the public sector. Andrew Rasiej, Civic Hall Founder & CEO, says,
“The idea is to create a fully integrated new community center at the crossroads of New York City’s technology district that will allow all New Yorkers regardless of background to develop digital skills and thrive in the 21st century economy of New York and beyond.”
Inside Civic Hall @ Union Square: Digital Learning Center
Despite the increasingly central role technology is playing across all sectors of society, many community organizations and government agencies are still not able to optimize their internal technology capacities. In fact, out of 80 nonprofits surveyed by Civic Hall in late 2017, 100% expressed a need for professional training around digital skills with the most interest being in classes on data science and analytics, cybersecurity, digital fundraising, and data-driven advocacy and marketing. In response, Civic Hall formed the Digital Learning Center (DLC), which offers professional development opportunities to two sectors that represent and serve all New Yorkers, and that also lag far behind in digital literacy: nonprofits and government.
We piloted these four digital skills workshops in 2018:
- Data Driven Marketing for Nonprofits
Sharon Lee Thony, Lead Instructor of Digital Marketing, General Assembly
The course explored the ways nonprofits can use data analytics of their social media, website, and mailing lists to inform the design of their digital marketing and advocacy efforts.
- Human-Centered Design for Nonprofits
Savannah Badalich, Director of Education and Training, Civic Hall
This full-day training used design-thinking methodologies, such as user personas, journey mapping, and rapid ideation in order to help the nonprofits create a roadmap for improving their work. It focused on human-centered design principles, centering the experiences and voices of the constituents the nonprofits serve to build out new actions with, and not for, their communities.
- Understanding and Improving Cybersecurity for Nonprofits and Mission Driven Businesses
Joshua Peskay, VP of Technology Strategy, RoundTable Technology
This course focused on building a solid foundation for those looking to significantly improve their literacy around digital security. It focused on both strategy and tactics, helping students learn foundational security skills that will apply for years to come, while also delving into the specific tactics and tools that are most relevant today.
- Ethical Data Collection for Nonprofits
Arlene Ducao, CEO, Multimer
This course covered best practices for ethical data collection including consentful gathering and communication with constituents, types of data and their sensitivity levels, and how to store the data securely.
Here are our 2018 pilot workshop results:
- 56 participants attended
- Representing 38 nonprofits, government agencies, and social good organizations
- Organizations that participated included Upwardly Global, The Door, University Settlement, Educational Alliance, the NYC Department of Small Business Services, Laguardia Community College, The New York Public Library, Workforce Opportunity Services, and Center for NYC Neighborhoods.
- Over 80% of participants reported significant increase in their understanding of the topics and gained confidence implementing these skills in their day-to-day work
Participants at each pilot workshop completed pre- and post-workshop surveys on their knowledge-change and confidence in utilizing these skills within their organizations. A number of participants also expressed an interest in participating in longer internal retreats with their entire teams, which we took into consideration for our 2019 programming plan.
In 2019, Civic Hall plans to:
- Launch 6 new courses on topics including AI for Nonprofit and Social Media for Advocacy
- Create tailored and intensive workshop series for 5 organizations focused on Human Centered Design and Data-Driven Program Design for Nonprofits
- Conduct second iterations of our current workshop topics; serve at least 400 individuals from 100 public sector agencies
- Develop/finalize each course curricula with an eye towards expanding these offerings further in 2020.
Check out our programs page for more details!
In 2018, Civic Hall engaged with 60+ community organizations in the planning process.
Civic Hall’s vision for Union Square is to support all New Yorkers in learning new digital workforce skills, connecting them with good paying jobs and, in turn, connecting the companies of New York City’s technology industry with communities who have too long been on the under-resourced side of the digital divide. We would like to thank our major partners and supporters in this process which include Cognizant Foundation, the Craig Newmark Philanthropies, the Ford Foundation, and Microsoft.
In partnership with New York’s diverse workforce ecosystem – local workforce training organizations, employers, the City of New York, workforce development funders – Civic Hall is realizing this vision to develop the overall operational plan for Civic Hall @ Union Square. Organizations engaged to date include:
- Academy for Software Engineering
- 1199 SEIU
- Baruch College
- Center for Employment Opportunities
- Code Cooperative
- Computer Science for All
- Cooperate Inc
- Educational Alliance
- General Assembly
- Goodwill of Greater NY and Northern NJ
- Henry Street Settlement
- Here to Here
- HOPE and Sustainable South Bronx
- Knowledge House
- LaGuardia Community College
- Lower East Side Employment Network (LESEN)
- Markle Foundation
- Nontraditional Employment for Women
- NYC Department of Information Technology and Telecommunication
- NYC Economic Development Corporation
- NYC Employment & Training Coalition
- NYC Mayor’s Office of Tech & Innovation
- NYC Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities
- NYC Stem Education Network
- OATS (Older Adults Technology Services)
- Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow
- Per Scholas
- Robin Hood Foundation
- Tech Talent Pipeline
- The Door
- Upwardly Global
- Workforce Professionals Training Institute
In addition to ensuring access to digital skills training for all New Yorkers, Civic Hall is also focused on serving its surrounding community and is developing partnerships with local organizations including the Lower East Side Employment Network, The Door, and the Educational Alliance.
Read more about our plans here:
- Union Square tech hub secures key approval from City Council Panel Crains, Aug 2018
- Union Square Tech center gets $100,000 grant from Microsoft amNY, Aug 2018
- New York City Unveils Plans for Union Square Tech Hub Project, GovTech, Feb 2017
- NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio Shows Off Design for Planned Tech Hub TechCrunch, Feb 2017
- New York City’s Tech Community Is Getting A $250 Million Home Base At Union Square Fast Company, Dec 2016