Evaluation of the Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) Teams Pilot: Final Report. 3.3 Implementation of the SC2 Pilot

08/25/2014

The early months of SC2 pilot implementation involved the development and refinement of a work plan in each city, the assignment of specific tasks to team members, and initial work on those assignments. The work plan represented a detailed strategy for how a SC2 team would attempt to address its city’s priority areas and needs. Pilot cities took different tacks in selecting specific activities for implementation. These different approaches included holding planning sessions with city and community leaders, meeting one- on-one with city leadership, and refining existing city strategic planning documents. 20 All SC2 teams used findings from the OAT assessments as the starting point for the planning process.

The pilot cities varied in how quickly they were able to move from planning to implementation, ranging from as quickly as three months to as long as six months. The two cities that were able to begin implementing activities most quickly were those whose mayors had clear visions for the engagement and a defined set of priorities for the SC2 team. By contrast, in the three cities where it took six months to finalize the work plan and begin implementing activities there was no clear prioritized focus for the engagement and a limited sense of what activities team members should undertake. This led to lengthy planning phases in which agenda items were slowly added and refined. Team members noted that delays in some cases were due to not being sure of whom in the city they would and should be working with, which resulted in members feeling their way through that determination.

Some cities sought to balance short-term and long-term strategies. Two of the cities included “quick-win” activities in their work plan—small-scale activities or “low hanging fruit” that could generate early success while complex activities continued to be developed. A quick-win example is the development of a community behavioral health resource guide in one city.

As implementation proceeded, many team members settled into their roles and made progress on the activities assigned to them. There were times, though, when planned activities were found to be infeasible or new opportunities arose that were likely to be more beneficial to the community than the originally planned activities. In one city, for example, a project to notify residents electronically about city land use decisions was dropped when it was determined that the SC2 team could add little value to the project, while an exploration of redevelopment opportunities for a navy base was added.

SC2 teams made decisions during implementation to stop projects for several reasons, including SC2 team or city staff turnover, an inability to get traction on a project due to a lack of city involvement or opposition from a city representative, poor timing, the determination that a project was simply not viable, or a lack of resources to complete a project. In one city, for example, a team member assigned to focus on several health care projects disengaged from the pilot when it was determined that the city did not have a health or human services departments to implement the projects. In another city, criminal justice projects were stopped when the local police chief expressed a lack of support for the work. In another city, a significant workforce development strategy focused on the area around a proposed hospital was dropped when the construction of the hospital was delayed.

Team members also identified new opportunities once they had a better understanding of city needs, reacted to emergent needs, and changed direction when initial opportunities proved infeasible. For example, in one city workforce development strategies were left fairly general in the work plan. This allowed the SC2 team to conduct multiple stakeholder interviews to better define city needs before proposing more specific activities. Ultimately, the SC2 team helped create a multi-partner collaboration to develop strategies for alignment of workforce development efforts. In a second city, a team member stepped in when the city realized it would have to lay off over 100 police officers—the team member found a solution in the repurposing a Community  Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant to retain the officers.

A promising feature of the SC2 approach is its flexibility for adding unplanned activities. The local stakeholders interviewed commonly said that it was impossible to know at the outset exactly how the city would most benefit from the SC2 team. Leaving room in the work plan for emergent opportunities and using an adaptive approach to implementation is therefore needed. SC2 teams and cities seemed to be most successful when they adjusted their plan as opportunities arose, circumstances changed, and planned activities were found to be impossible to implement. In several cities, many key SC2 team accomplishments were unrelated to tasks outlined in the work plan; rather, the accomplishments involved responding to opportunities to address perceived barriers through the collaborative effort of the city and the SC2 team.


20  The site profiles provide specific details on each site’s process for developing their work plan (see Appendix A).

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