Evaluation of the Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) Teams Pilot: Final Report. 3.4 Range of Activities Conducted

08/25/2014

SC2 teams conducted a range of activities in keeping with the goals of the SC2 pilot and in response to the priorities of the pilot cities. Activities varied across pilot cities due to the individual priorities of the cities, the makeup of the SC2 teams assigned to each city, and the capacity of the cities to address economic development opportunities and challenges. Notwithstanding this local variation, SC2 team activities generally fell into one or more of five categories, summarized in Exhibit 6.

Exhibit 6: Common Types of SC2 Team Activities

  Activity Type Description
1. Providing responsive, transactional assistance to address specific problems

Team members helped to trouble shoot specific problems by:

  • Connecting city staff with federal and/or state resources
  • Identifying where flexibility exists within federal funding and regulations
  • Helping to short-cut federal red tape
  • Providing assistance with process
  • Offering ad-hoc technical assistance
2. Building relationships between local stakeholders and state and federal employees Team members connected local stakeholders with federal or state representatives to resolve long-standing community problems.
3. Brokering local or regional partnerships Team members connected individuals from different local or regional entities to align plans or services, share resources, and develop mutually beneficial collaborations.
4. Temporary addition of technical capacity Team members took on project tasks to help further strategic ideas the city staff did not have time to implement.
5. Program and plan development Team members took responsibility to develop a program or facilitate/contribute to a planning process

 

Following are examples for each activity type to provide a sense of the range of activities completed by team members.

  1. Providing responsive, transactional assistance to address specific problems. Activities included in this category involved team members troubleshooting specific problems at the local level. Team members connected city staff with federal and/or state resources, identified where flexibility exists within federal funding and regulations, helped to short-cut federal red tape, and offered ad-hoc technical assistance. In one city, for example, a team member worked with HUD leadership, city leadership, and the city’s Housing Commission to identify a source of funds to demolish a long- vacant public housing complex. Though a long-standing priority of the mayor’s, previous attempts to use Community Development Block Grant funds for demolition had been blocked by the city council. The team member identified that the city could apply for emergency HUD funds to support the removal of the blighted property and identified the data that would be needed to prove that demolition was needed to address health and safety risks linked to the abandoned property.

    Additional activities of this type included:

    • Researching HUD policies to find flexibility for a city to utilize Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding for land reuse projects
    • Organizing a training session for downtown property owners on working with the General Services Administration to encourage more federal agencies to locate in the downtown area
    • Working with city officials and representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration to release funds for demolition at the local airport
  2. Building relationships between local stakeholders and state and federal employees. These activities involved team members connecting local stakeholders with state and federal representatives to resolve long-standing community problems. As an example, team members in one city convened a broad spectrum of state and federal representatives to explore the implications of a planned high- speed rail project. The stakeholders met to discuss the impacts of the route, the interconnectedness of their activities, and how they might best collaborate going forward.

    Additional activities of this type included the following:

    • Initiating discussions between city stakeholders and a representative of the DOE’s Clean Cities Program to explore the adoption of clean alternative fuels for the city’s fleet vehicles
    • Connecting federal, state, and regional stakeholders to identify ways for city transportation projects to continue without violating historical preservation requirements
    • Coordinating conversations between city stakeholders, the Department of Energy’s National Lawrence Livermore Labs, and the Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Serve Western Regional Research Center to discuss a potential collaboration to support technology transfer for the development of an agriculture technology cluster in a pilot city
  3. Brokering local or regional partnerships. For this activity, team members connected individuals from different local or regional entities to align plans or services, share resources, or develop mutually beneficial collaborations. For example, a SC2 team lead in one pilot city facilitated a meeting to determine workforce needs and align curriculum across educational institutions. The meeting convened representatives from the newly created National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, educational institutions in the area that serve high-skilled and mid-skilled workers for the emerging additive manufacturing sector, representatives from the area NASA facility, and a local manufacturing organization.

    Additional activities of this type included the following:

    • Creating a collaborative team of local stakeholders to increase employment among veterans through various approaches, including offering career fairs and establishing a partnership with the United Way
    • Developing a framework for a city’s transportation department and a regional passenger rail provider to jointly allocate transportation funding for specialized and para-transit service delivery, and engaging local health sector stakeholders in the initiative
    • Connecting a nonprofit business development corporation with public and private stakeholders in one city to encourage the corporation to locate a new minority business development center there
  4. Temporary addition of technical capacity. These activities involved team members taking on project tasks to help further strategic ideas the city did not have the time or resources to implement. One city relied on a team member to conduct a broad survey of community health resources and providers that it would otherwise not have been able to complete due to staffing limitations, thus allowing the city to develop a series of improvements to the provision of community health services.

    Additional activities of this type included the following:

    • Developing a map of existing and potential infrastructure for a rural broadband system in the region around a city, and securing funding for its development
    • Reviewing a city’s short-range transit plans and contributing to a report on best practices for local transit agencies
    • Exploring housing opportunities for participants in a city’s violence intervention program
  5. Program and plan development. Activities in this category involved team members taking responsibility to develop a program, facilitate a planning process, or contribute to a planning process. As an example, team members in one city assessed the feasibility of expanding the area’s value-added food sector through a public market or kitchen incubator, helped develop a related strategic plan, exposed local stakeholders to other innovative food organizations in the region, and identified potential sources of funding for the effort.

    Additional activities of this type include the following:

    • Assisting a city with strategic planning related to career, technical, and adult education
    • Helping a city develop a plan for infill development, including securing technical assistance from the EPA and creating a strategy for engaging a private sector task force
    • Working with potential private funding sources to explore the development of an innovation district strategic plan to encourage economic growth in a city

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