Evaluation of the Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) Teams Pilot: Final Report. 4. Factors Affecting Success of SC2 Teams

08/25/2014

The SC2 pilot was designed to create new partnerships between the federal government and the pilot cities in order to address city challenges and bring about new opportunities for economic revitalization. In this chapter we discuss factors affecting the ability of SC2 teams to address city priorities from the perspective of these partners, including team members, city stakeholders, the POCs, and the SC2 Council. Specifically, we examine factors related to the role of pilot cities, the role of federal agencies, characteristics of the SC2 teams, and how pilot cities and SC2 teams worked together.

Chapter 4 Highlights

  • Characteristics of pilot cities, federal agencies, and team members all affected the extent to which SC2 teams were successful in their pilot work.
  • On the part of the cities, the extent and type of mayoral buy-in to the pilot affected progress. Early work by mayors to set a vision for SC2 team work and get city staff on board facilitated progress, while a lack of initial planning for SC2 team deployment tended to delay meaningful SC2 team engagement. A lack of commitment by the mayor and senior city staff tended to impede it further.
  • Extremely low staff capacity in city government was also a hindrance. Some cities had so little capacity that they could not take full advantage of what the pilot offered.
  • Conversely, some cities came to the pilot with substantial federal and philanthropic resources in place, which allowed those SC2 teams to align their efforts to take maximum advantage of these investments.
  • Federal agency leadership’s level of commitment to the pilot affected the number of staff and amount of staff time dedicated to SC2 team activities. Agencies with an emphasis on place-based policies, in particular, provided the most resources to the engagement, including considerable access to agency senior leadership.
  • Although junior and mid-level team members could contribute significantly in certain capacities, team members with more years of experience in their home agency, or greater content expertise, were better able to help cities address their priority areas. Senior staff members in particular were key to connecting city stakeholders to high-level federal decision makers to resolve long-standing problems and to bypass bureaucratic barriers to progress. Team members were also more successful when they acted resourcefully to identify solutions to challenges facing cities and demonstrated an entrepreneurial and adaptable approach to the engagement.
  • The location of team members was often predictive of which tasks they were best able to accomplish. On-site team members (or remote staff with a travel budget) were well positioned to build relationships and convene local stakeholders, while team members at agency headquarters or in regional offices tended to be most successful when providing responsive, transactional assistance.
  • The perception of team members as neutral outsiders and the cache of being linked to a White House initiative aided their ability to develop and improve relationships with stakeholders.
  • SC2 teams worked best when the city provided a clear focus for their work. In cities that lacked a clear strategy or had conflicting priorities for SC2 team work, SC2 team leads, members, and city staff struggled to identify how best to work together, where to focus their energies, and how to maximize the opportunities for partnership and technical assistance inherent in the approach.

 

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