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.
4.1 Role of Pilot Cities
The SC2 pilot is, by design, flexible and adaptable to local needs. This program model encourages cities to take the lead in defining the priorities on which SC2 teams focus their efforts. Overwhelmingly, we heard that the SC2 pilot worked best when city leadership was committed to the partnership and guided the SC2 team toward what they hoped to achieve by participating. Not all pilot cities, though, were capable of devoting the resources required to ensure the success of the engagement. In this section we discuss the importance of mayors to the pilot and how the capacity of cities affected success.
4.2 Role of Federal Agencies
Certain characteristics of federal agencies seemed to affect the ability of SC2 teams to address city priorities during the pilot. The most important of these were agency leadership’s level of commitment to the pilot, agencies’ collective ability to move beyond traditional approaches to working with localities, and agencies’ ability to collaborate.
4.3 SC2 Team Characteristics
In many ways, the team members are the heart of this intervention. Their experience, expertise, intelligence, and relationship networks are the tools by which change is expected to happen. A significant portion of our data collection explored the skills, experience, and pilot activities of SC2 team leads and members. We have identified several characteristics that were regarded as important by participants in the pilot and associated with achieving outcomes. Our findings are summarized below, under the following headings:
- SC2 team members’ career experience and content expertise
- Adaptable and resourceful SC2 team leads
- Entrepreneurial and motivated team members
- The ability to broker new and improve strained relationships
- Where team members were located
4.4 How Pilot Cities and SC2 Teams Worked Together
While the federal government and pilot cities had unique roles in the engagement, how they worked together affected their ability to make progress on addressing city priority areas. We found two factors related to how pilot cities and SC2 teams worked together that affected success: the pilot city having a clear role for team members and interpersonal dynamics between individuals in the engagement that thwarted cooperation and collaboration.