Another Round of Layoffs at Public/Private Ventures

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Public/Private Ventures, a 33-year-old national research organization focused on evaluating programs for low-income communities and using that information to improve effectiveness, last week announced its second major round of layoffs in as many years.

Staff at PPV’s three offices – Oakland, Calif., New York, and the Philadelphia headquarters – were informed early last week of the layoffs. A public statement was issued by President Nadya Shmavonian on the organization’s website on Friday.

“With the support of our Board of Directors, we have made the painful – but necessary – decision to reduce our workforce at all levels across our three offices,” Shmavonian said in the message.

Shmavonian would not discuss which employees were let go, but said there were “cuts at all levels, from administrative employees through to the presidential level.”

This round of layoffs will reduce by 18 the number of P/PV full-time staff; a round of layoffs made in late 2009 included 12 full-time positions. Those two moves, combined with departures, have lowered the P/PV workforce from 80 full-time staff in 2007 to a current total of 22.

The 2009 layoffs occurred just as Shmavonian took the helm at P/PV. In part because of a $7.5 million endowment provided to the organization at the time by the Ford Foundation, its leadership was optimistic that another round would not be necessary.

“We feel good about where we are.” Board President Matthew McGuire told former Youth Today Editor-in-Chief Patrick Boyle for a story published in February of 2010.

“I don’t anticipate any further position eliminations,” Shmavonian  said.

But in an interview today, Shmavonian said that during assessments of the organization’s current and future finances this year – which included explorations of a potential merger or even closure – “it became clear that the model we worked with would not be sustainable.”

“We looked at merger opportunities, and we also asked questions that most nonprofits should ask themselves: If we care about the mission and want to see it stay alive…rather than waiting for payroll crisis, how do you think about what the prognosis is? That pushed us to make these decisions sooner.”

Shmavonian said she is again optimistic that this will be the final round of layoffs. This time, her expectation is founded on a recent pledge of general operating support that P/PV has received from a group of foundations led by the Flint, Mich.-based Charles S. Mott Foundation.