As described in more detail in the SC2 annual report, 11 many American communities are economically distressed due to restructuring of the national and global economy, which has often resulted in localized job loss, population decline, and increased rates of concentrated poverty. These cities are working to rebuild their economies in the aftermath of losing many of their traditional economic drivers over the past four decades. The recent recession exacerbated these trends and created a difficult fiscal and economic reality for many American cities. Budgetary pressures at the local, state, and federal levels only make it more difficult to solve the challenges created by economic decline. With less funding available, cities are forced to perform equal, if not greater, functions to serve the public. As a result, local leaders are now working to respond to the increasing need for services even as they address their government’s shrinking staff and budgetary capacity to provide these services and work to revitalize and diversify their economies. Addressing these challenges requires identifying innovative approaches to accomplishing more with less.
In this context, the SC2 initiative was launched to pilot a new model of collaboration between federal and local government to improve how the federal government invests in and offers technical assistance to support locally driven economic development goals. SC2 focuses on changing how federal and local government systems interact, promoting enhanced collaboration and communication among federal agencies, tailoring solutions to local conditions, and increasing the capacity of local leaders and institutions for economic development.
The core elements of the SC2 pilot approach—assigning federal employees from different agencies to work collaboratively in specific communities, providing cities with technical assistance, working to increase the capacity of local communities, and advocating for integrated community solutions—are not new ideas for the federal government. What was unique about the pilot was the way these elements were combined into intensive, community-driven strategies. Federal employees were assigned to a SC2 team in a specific city. In each city, the SC2 team asked city government and local stakeholders how federal agencies could best help address city priorities. The SC2 team then worked in a collaborative, interagency fashion to devise customized, responsive solutions. This contrasts with the typical federal approach in which individual agencies work with cities on particular federal programs or to address particular community problems.
Also unique was the small contingent of federal employees who relocated to the pilot cities to work directly with city government, often operating from within city hall. This co-location of federal staff directly connected them to the on-the-ground realities in local communities. It also created new lines of communication between the federal government and the pilot cities and opened the possibility for stronger federal-local partnerships. Finally, because the team members in each city were assigned from different federal agencies, there were potential opportunities to coordinate and align technical assistance and programmatic funding across agencies.
The place-based, integrated, and collaborative SC2 team approach was expected to help cities more effectively tap into existing federal resources and to better position the federal government to collaborate with cities on local issues requiring tailored solutions. Exhibit 1 summarizes the core elements of the SC2 pilot initiative as well as the expected outcomes for the pilot.
Exhibit 1: SC2 Team Program Logic Model
11 White House Council on Strong Cities, Strong Communities, Strong Cities, Strong Communities First Annual Report, April 2013.