It is unclear if agencies can establish formal and meaningful mechanisms for cities to provide input on their programs and policies. This will likely depend on the agency’s structure, how they have interacted with city governments in the past, and the extent to which the agency’s policies have a direct effect on city operations. Either way, though, there is value in establishing a culture throughout the federal government that values cities’ experience and insights. This was reflected during the pilot by cities indicating they appreciated and benefited from the SC2 Teams’ customer service orientation.
Agencies should consider promoting a customer service mindset where appropriate. They could do this by expanding staff’s opportunities to listen to cities in a variety of ways. One strategy might be to set up a series of webinars where city partners are asked to discuss topics of particular relevance to agency staff. Another idea might be to reward employees for soliciting and being responsive to community feedback in their daily work. Finally, agencies might examine their existing forums for community engagement and consider how they might be made more meaningful. A culture that values city experience would thoughtfully approach public comment periods with the intent to listen, figuring out how to elicit meaningful input and then incorporating it into policy or program revisions.