Evaluation of the Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) Teams Pilot: Final Report. 2.1.1 Federal Agency Commitment to the SC2 Pilot


Given the timing of the SC2 pilot on the heels of the Great Recession, the dedication of federal agency resources to the engagement was threatened by budgetary constraints. For agencies with staff already stretched to deliver existing programs, committing staff to the pilot presented a major challenge. Participating agencies had to adjust work assignments among existing staff to accommodate work on pilot activities and had to find internal sources of funding for travel and expenses related to embedding team members in pilot cities.

By September 2011, when SC2 teams were deployed, 14 federal agencies had identified staff to participate as team members. Another three agencies supplied team members after implementation was under way. Exhibit 3 presents the 17 partner agencies and the number of team members they committed to the pilot.

In addition to the number of staff committed to the pilot, agencies also varied in the number of team members embedded in pilot cities, the amount of time allotted to staff to work on SC2 team activities, and travel budgets for Washington, DC-based team members to travel to their assigned city. Three factors in particular, each related to agencies’ motivations for participating in the pilot, seemed to lead some agencies to a deeper commitment of staff and financial resources: 16

  • The pilot was a means to refine or expand existing place-based work. Agencies with a traditional focus on place-based strategies were among those dedicating the most resources to the pilot, including the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Department of Transportation (DOT), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Additionally, agencies pursuing place-based strategies in new ways, such as the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Department of Education (ED), were attracted to the pilot and committed substantial numbers of staff.
  • The pilot was a new way to further the agency’s mission. A Small Business Administration (SBA) representative we interviewed saw the pilot as an opportunity to assist cities with existing SBA economic development priorities to expand the tax base and streamline the certification and licensing of new small businesses. A Corporation for National & Community Service representative regarded the pilot as a natural extension of its AmeriCorps Volunteers in Service to America program, which provides technical assistance to local governments and nonprofit organizations in distressed communities.
  • The pilot was a means to build or improve relationships with local governments. Several agencies, especially those that typically work primarily with state governments, hoped the SC2 engagement would build or improve relationships with local governments, improving local and federal understanding of how federal programs and policies are implemented at the local level.


Exhibit 3: Number of SC2 Team Members by Federal Agency

Agency a Number of Team Members
Corporation for National & Community Service 8
Department of Agriculture 2
Department of Commerce 12
Department of Defense b 6
Department of Education 9
Department of Energy 5
Department of Health and Human Services 14
Department of Housing and Urban Development 19
Department of Justice 5
Department of Labor 7
Department of the Treasury 3
Department of Transportation 11
Department of Veterans Affairs 2
Environmental Protection Agency 10
General Services Administration 7
National Aeronautics and Space Administration 1
Small Business Administration 7

Source: Counts were compiled using three team member rosters provided to Abt Associates in September 2011, January 2012, and August 2013 (updated in September 2013).

a  In addition to the agencies listed here, SC2 team membership included Presidential Management Fellows, a representative of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, team members from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and unspecified interns.

b  Includes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

16 How the commitment of federal agencies factored into the success of the SC2 teams is discussed in Section 4.2.1.

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