Federal Agencies Helping Communities Coordinate Services to Improve Client Outcomes

Federal agencies, including HHS, try in many ways to help communities, including states and localities, increase economic mobility and well-being. For example, federal agencies may leverage their convening power, ability to broker relationships, funding and evaluation tools, on-the-ground staff, and other levers to support community priorities. ASPE has focused on two specific ways HHS and other federal agencies support communities:

  • Federal-Local Partnerships: initiatives – often “place-based” – that target a specific geographic area and aim to help it break down siloes at the local level. Examples of these partnerships include Opportunity Zones, EnVision Centers, and Promise Zones, among many others.
  • Technical Assistance (TA): TA is one important way in which HHS and other federal agencies support federal-local initiatives, though TA is also an important lever outside of these initiatives.

Despite the difficulties, it is important to evaluate place-based and other federal-local initiatives. ASPE has a rich history of doing so. Relevant ASPE products include:

  • Facilitating Local Cross-Sector Collaboration: Strategies for Intermediaries – This brief explores lessons about six strategies federal or philanthropic agencies can take to try to enhance local cross-sector collaboration.
  • Planning and Implementation of the Rural IMPACT Demonstration – This report summarizes findings from an ASPE study on the first year of the Rural Integration Models for Parents and Children to Thrive (IMPACT) demonstration, which aimed to reduce poverty through coordinated services for both children and parents. Key findings include the importance of tailoring TA to individual site circumstances; having a range of partners involved, including families; and federal agencies in facilitating planning and implementation.
  • Evaluation of Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) Teams Pilot: Final Report – This evaluation explores the first 18 months of the SC2 pilot, which assigned federal employees to teams of experts that worked for a city full-time, part-time, or in in advisory capacity. Key lessons include that success depends on the role played by both cities and federal agencies, the characteristics of federal SC2 team members, and how the cities and federal teams worked together. SC2 enhanced federal-local and federal cross-agency collaboration and communication, though cities were not always able to fully take advantage of the pilot.

Unfortunately, there is a limited evidence base on the circumstances under which various types of TA are most effective, despite the significance of federal investment in TA. ASPE has begun trying to help build this evidence base: 

  • Technical Assistance: Insights and a Learning Agenda – This project explored TA needs assessment strategies, as well as potential topics for further learning about training and TA outcomes and approaches.
  • Using Virtual TA – This brief and summary one-pager summarize findings from interviews with federal staff and TA providers about using virtual TA to improve human services.
  • Measuring Training and TA Effectiveness – This toolkit, case study, and infographic provide concrete strategies for measuring the performance and effectiveness of training and TA efforts.
  • Providing TA to Local Programs and Communities: Lessons from a Scan of Initiatives Offering TA to Human Services Programs – This scan of 18 public and private TA initiatives synthesizes lessons, challenges, and best practices for providing TA to programs working to address poverty and child well-being. To help inform decisions about how to best target TA efforts for different situations, audiences, and objectives, this brief describes considerations for designing and delivering TA, factors that facilitate and challenges that impede the delivery of TA, and other lessons learned.

Going forward, ASPE’s work in this area will include an exploration of the most effective ways for TA to support cross-sector collaboration at the local level.