The role of team members, at the most basic level, was to help the pilot cities address challenges and opportunities as determined in the assessment process or as they emerged during the course of implementation. As such, the members’ roles naturally varied across cities and from one member to another. In some cases, the role of a member was very narrow, such as helping a city upgrade its street lighting infrastructure or assisting a city in gaining access to surplus federal equipment; in other cases team members’ roles were much broader, such as helping a city build a coalition of community partners to improve health outcomes of citizens or assisting with comprehensive downtown revitalization, which included a variety of different tasks over the course of the two-year pilot. Depending on the task at hand, team members assisted cities by answering questions, working through bureaucratic barriers, assembling local stakeholders, identifying funding opportunities, conducting research, building relationships, and exploring creative solutions to long-standing problems.
Although their roles varied across cities, we observed certain patterns in team member roles. Team members who were embedded in city hall were the most likely to engage in planning and program development activities, examples of which included the creation of a strategic plan to enhance the effectiveness of local government in one city and the alignment of two transportation projects in another city. Embedded team members were also most likely to help build relationships between community stakeholders. In one city, team members helped form a partnership of community organizations to advance neighborhood revitalization strategies. In another city, team members helped form a partnership to collaboratively align workforce training and education programs.
In contrast, team members working from remote locations tended to provide more transactional assistance rather than strategic planning or partnership development. Examples of transactional assistance include helping cities navigate federal bureaucracy and connecting cities with needed information.