Policy & Advocacy

Connecting people, programs and policy to create change.

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What We Do

One key to achieving authentic and lasting change is educating residents about the way that New York’s economic and political systems work, listening to—and taking guidance from—their programmatic and policy ideas and priorities, and developing their leadership capacity to organize and make those priorities a reality. That’s why we are working side-by-side with community members to tackle the issues that are important to them, and crafting solutions that build on our expertise running programs that improve people’s lives.


Since our founding in 1895, Union Settlement’s workers have organized community residents to win pioneering victories around public health, education, and community development. In a reflection of our reformist roots, today we are connecting our staff and program participants to:

  • Strengthen New York City’s early childhood system and expand subsidized programs for low income children. Early education and safe, stable child care are critical to promoting children’s academic and social success and supporting working families.
  • Increase public investments in Adult Education to meet the need and demand for classes from all the learners in our community. 1.7 million adult New Yorkers lack a high school degree or English proficiency, or both, and too many who want to advance their education can’t find seats because programs are underfunded.
  • Identify the needs of East Harlem’s seniors as our neighborhood – like the rest of NYC – ages. Since understanding what residents need is the critical first step to identifying effective programs and policies, we’re partnering with Mt. Sinai School of Medicine on a community survey of older adults.
  • Understand and impact the ways that decisions about our neighborhood are made. As the largest social services provider in East Harlem, and its third largest employer, we recognize our opportunity and responsibility to be an anchor for community building and civic participation in the neighborhood that is our home. We’re piloting new, interactive ways to integrate civic engagement into our programs to boost grassroots action.