* STRATEGY * PROGRAM DEVELOPMENT *
* PARTNERSHIPS * PROGRAM EXECUTION *
* STRATEGY * PROGRAM DEVELOPMENT *
* PARTNERSHIPS * PROGRAM EXECUTION *
Founded in 2012, Upper West Strategies is a consultancy focused on driving economic opportunity at the
intersection of government/education, private industry, the tech sector and mission-driven organizations.
Strategy -- For strategy engagements, UWS employs a rigorous process of information gathering, analysis, recommendations generation and implementation planning. The heart of the UWS information gathering process is direct outreach to key stakeholders through a series of in-depth interviews, which deliver clarity and perspective. These stakeholder interviews are complemented with client and stakeholder workshops, audience and community surveys, on-site observations and extensive document review to develop a deep understanding of our clients’ situation and unique needs. Once we have findings from the information-gathering phase, we take a simple, practical approach to analysis and recommendations generation to make sure that any recommendations can and will be implemented and are likely to succeed given every organization’s unique conditions. UWS doesn’t believe in fancy “consultant speak” that might sound impressive but doesn’t yield results. We believe in common-sense recommendations that work within our clients’ specific environments. After all, the best strategic plan in the world is worthless if it sits on a shelf and is never implemented. Finally, we work closely with our clients to ensure that they will be able to successfully implement the recommendations.
Program Development -- Upon developing an understanding of our clients’ needs and objectives, we work to develop innovative program concepts and package them into a holistic plan that can be implemented to achieve and exceed goals. A key focus of UWS program development is ensuring community engagement throughout every process. UWS’s Robbins has a long history of developing programs with national impact, such as a pledge not to text and drive, which has been signed by over 14 million people and saved countless lives.
Partnerships -- UWS’s Robbins has over 20 years experience developing partnerships among corporations, non-profits, public sector organizations and the entertainment industry giving UWS the ability to identify opportunities for collaboration and partnership, and to bridge cultural gaps in developing and executing successful partnerships. At AT&T, Robbins developed a successful national partnership with the non-profit Rock the Vote, resulting in over 250,000 young people opting in to get text message alerts to keep them engaged in the election. UWS led sponsorship development and community outreach efforts for the NYCEDC Next Top Makers program, attracting leading corporations to sponsor the program and engaging community leaders as advisors, mentors and judges for the program.
Program Execution -- The best strategy, program design and partnerships only go so far. Ultimately, impeccable program execution is essential. Relying on strong personal relationships, community and partnership engagement, an innovative approach to marketing and community outreach, and lots of hard work, UWS drives to achieve desired results for clients. As one example, New York City’s Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Readiness retained UWS to reach out to companies to partner with a prominent internship program and serve as hosts for the program. By using an innovative approach to marketing and outreach, UWS greatly exceeded targets and generated a large amount of positive publicity for the program’s sponsor, Bank of America.
Richard Robbins is the founder and CEO of Upper West Strategies. He has extensive experience in strategy, marketing, policy and tech. Robbins has conducted a number of high-level strategy consulting and program development/execution efforts including for the National Society of Black Engineers, New York City’s Department of Education, New York City’s Economic Development Corporation, and other leading mission-driven, governmental, and corporate clients. He worked for nearly 10 years at AT&T in a range of positions including serving as Director, Social Innovation, where he played an instrumental role in developing the company’s overall social media strategy. He initiated and led AT&T’s groundbreaking partnership with Rock the Vote that engaged 250,000 young Americans via text messaging, and created AT&T’s pledge not to text and drive that has been signed by over 14 million people. Prior to getting his MBA at Columbia Business School, he ran the American Express Gold Card Events program at Festival Marketing, where he implemented strategies to dramatically grow the program’s impact, including through pioneering use of online media. He has deep connections with senior leaders in government, corporations, start-ups, nonprofits and advocacy organizations and especially in the tech startup community in New York City, and has a long history of developing innovative strategies for leveraging technology to reach target audiences. He lives on the Upper West Side with his wife and two daughters and serves on Manhattan Community Board 7.
Ken Blacklow is a principal at Upper West Strategies. Most recently, Ken worked in strategy consulting for mission-driven clients at the Cue Group, focusing on strategy, training, program design, and organizational development. Prior to joining the Cue Group, Ken was the Chief Operating Officer and 4XL Program Director for Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT), a non-profit organization whose mission is to increase the presence of minorities in leading entry-level business careers and major graduate business schools as preparation for leadership position in corporations, non-profit organizations and entrepreneurial ventures. At MLT, Ken was responsible for growing the organization tenfold over 4 years. Ken has experience in the launch, management, and replication of innovative K-12 schools, and leadership program design and management. Prior to joining MLT, Ken worked in the private, public and nonprofit sectors both domestically and internationally. Ken remains civically engaged through board service where he served on a number of non-profit boards nationally and in New York City. He received his Master of Public Administration degree from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), and his undergraduate degree from Harvard University. Ken loves sports, travel, wine tasting, photography and spending time with his family.
Selected Previous Client Engagements:
National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) -- NSBE retained UWS to develop a long-range vision and three-year strategic plan. A key element of the strategic planning process consisted of analyzing what would be necessary for NSBE to achieve the goal of reaching 10,000 African-American engineering graduates every year, from the current 3,600. This work resulted in NSBE’s current “Be 1 of 10,000” campaign.
NYC Department of Education Work Based Learning Resource Center -- UWS worked with the New York City Department of Education to improve the efficacy of DOE's Work-Based Learning Resource Center in serving the needs of high schools and industry partners.
NYC Department of Education Office of Post-Secondary Readiness Internship Programs -- Since 2013, DOE’s Office of Postsecondary Readiness has retained UWS to develop partnerships with businesses and organizations in New York City to serve as partners and hosts for high school internship programs. UWS's work for the Bank of American-sponsored CTE Summer Scholars, the AT&T-sponsored Pathfinders program for Software Engineering Pilot (SEP) schools and the US Department of Labor-funded Youth Career Connect (YCC) program has consistently exceeded targets and generated positive publicity for the programs and program sponsors.
KPMG -- KPMG’s strategy practice retained UWS's Robbins to serve as the digital media expert on a long-term strategy consulting engagement for a major media corporate client to align the board and management on the company’s external environment and opportunities for success, and to develop a strategy to recognize that success.
NuCivic / GovDelivery -- UWS has worked closely with leading SaaS civic-technology firm GovDelivery to develop relationships with and secure business from Fortune 200, Federal government, local government and prominent NGO clients. This work has led to successful business partnerships and generated millions of dollars in revenue.
New York City Economic Development Corporation's "Next Top Makers" -- As the first phase of executing the Next Top Makers program to foster manufacturing in New York City, UWS mapped the “Maker” community in New York City, identified resources currently available to existing and would-be entrepreneurs, surveyed community members to identify areas of opportunity, and convened key stakeholders to identify needs, challenges and opportunities facing New York City’s Maker community. This information gathering and analysis process included research, interviews, site visits, and group dialogue that were used to develop the economic development program and to recruit community leaders to participate in the program. UWS subsequently led sponsorship outreach and community engagement efforts for the economic development program, resulting in sponsorships and partnerships with Microsoft, Autodesk, Maker Faire and other organizations.
Personal Democracy Forum -- The leading conference and media organization focused on the impact of technology on politics, government and society retained UWS to serve as lead producer of the PDF Applied civic hackathon, bringing leaders in NYC’s civic tech community together with government agencies and non-profit organizations to create applications for civic engagement, election participation and advocacy.