- Research shows that combining cognitive behavioral therapy with concrete economic opportunity can be effective in reducing violence, even in challenging contexts.
- With this in mind, ideas42 created the Business Lab, a pilot supporting young adults in developing their professional and behavioral skills to make positive choices, choose alternatives to violence, and pursue pathways to financial stability.
- An initial pilot showed promising results for reducing violence and increasing employment opportunities for young adults.
In New York City, violent crime has fallen significantly in the past two decades. However, in some neighborhoods young adults remain at high risk for experiencing conflict and violence, which can lead them to gun use and other harmful behaviors. While reactive responses are natural in a high-pressure environment, these behaviors negatively impact young adults’ well-being and can limit their economic stability. Equipping young adults with effective decision-making strategies can help them navigate difficult situations.
Interventions that incorporate cognitive behavioral therapy—which helps people regulate their emotions, shift negative thought patterns, and develop positive ways to cope with stress and trauma—can give young adults the tools to make healthy decisions and avoid harmful behaviors, even in very challenging contexts. Recent behavioral science research has shown that combining cognitive behavioral therapy with concrete economic opportunity can be even more effective in reducing violence.
That’s why ideas42 is part of a team that created the Business Lab, a pilot supporting young adults in developing their professional and behavioral skills to make positive choices, choose alternatives to violence, and pursue pathways to financial stability.
We joined the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice and the Office of Neighborhood Safety (ONS), Good Shepherd Services, General Assembly, Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow, Defy Ventures, and other City partners to develop the Business Lab’s programming, leveraging our expertise in human behavior and decision-making.
In building the Business Lab, ideas42 iterated upon previous experience designing CBT curricula by conducting dozens of interviews with community members and advisors to tailor program content to the local context. These conversations revealed a range of unmet needs among New York’s young adults which are standing in the way of their professional success. To meet those needs, we assembled a constellation of best-in-class partners to provide essential resources and training, all in one place. We designed each component of the program to spark and reinforce a shift in mindsets and habits, and help young adults apply this new approach in their personal and professional lives.
How does it work? Structured like a dynamic career simulation with high expectations, the Business Lab pays participants to build up their behavioral skills and get exposure to new professional opportunities. The multi-faceted program includes a tailored cognitive behavioral therapy program to help participants learn to slow down their thinking process during stressful and conflict-prone situations. In addition, participants practice essential soft skills, receive 1-on-1 job readiness coaching, and complete professional skills training in order to expand their career options. Upon exiting the program, participants are better equipped to regulate their emotions and make thoughtful decisions, and have taken steps toward meaningful employment and financial stability.
In the initial pilot, a starting cohort of 25 young adults ages 18-25 who had participated in the NYC Department of Probation’s Next Steps and Arches programs completed the five-month Business Lab program. It required between 15 and 20 hours of participants’ time per week, and in addition to the new skills they were learning, they earned a $15 per hour stipend for their time. “I learned a lot of things about myself from this environment,” reflected one participant, “and I decided to learn how to elevate myself from it to become a better person.”
We conducted participant surveys before the pilot and three months after its conclusion, and the responses indicate promising behavioral and career outcomes. Participants demonstrated improved behavioral control, with 31% more people who reported considering the consequences of different reactions to a situation before acting over the past three months, and a 72% decrease in the number of self-reported fights versus the previous 12 months. Additionally, in contrast to four participants at the program start, none of the participants reported that they would consider using a weapon in a confrontational situation. Career readiness assessment scores increased across the board, including a 27% increase in computer and job application skills. Of those prepared to enter the workforce, over 60% attained jobs, while the remainder were transitioning from summer employment to full-time employment and education.
By applying innovative, evidence-based methods, we can learn about effective ways to reduce violence in communities, and how to close the gap between a desire to work and the skills needed to sustain employment. We look forward to bringing insights from this pilot to more partners developing innovative initiatives for young people in NYC and beyond.