Evaluation of the Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) Teams Pilot: Final Report. 4.1.1 Mayoral Buy-In and Direction


The degree to which the mayor embraced the SC2 team’s effort varied across the six pilot cities. The mayors’ commitment to the SC2 effort was demonstrated in the extent to which the mayors set the vision for the SC2 teams’ work in their communities, how city leadership interacted with the SC2 team lead, and the degree to which the importance of the SC2 partnership was communicated to city department staff.

In our interviews, we heard that certain types of mayoral commitment led to greater progress toward addressing city priorities than others. The most effective SC2 pilot engagements were those in which mayors had a strong appreciation for the value of the SC2 model and a vision for how to use SC2 teams to solve city problems. Effective mayors were either directly involved in planning the SC2 team’s activities or ensured their strategic vision was conveyed to the SC2 team for implementation by key city staff. Mayors did not have to be readily accessible to individual team members—but they needed to convey the importance of the SC2 team’s work to key city personnel.

The two mayors who took the most initiative in setting the vision for their cities’ respective SC2 pilot engagements, for instance, spent a considerable amount of energy early in the intervention making sure the SC2 team’s work was integrated with the city’s vision for growth (one of them personally delivered an 80-slide PowerPoint to the assessment team when they visited the city) and assigned dedicated staff to coordinate with team members throughout the pilot. This level and type of commitment communicated to city staff that team members were important resources that should be used and assisted, which  facilitated SC2 team-city staff collaboration.

In one city, the mayor used the city’s pre-existing economic development strategy as the framework to guide how team members might be most useful to the city. The mayor outlined this strategy during the assessment, which allowed SC2 leaders to strategically select team members to help to achieve the city’s vision. In the other city, the mayor had a strong sense about how the SC2 team’s effort could be instrumental in changing the nature of the relationship between the city and federal government and as a result solve some long-standing challenges or help to jump-start some perceived opportunities. The mayoral intentions for the SC2 pilot in these two cities were quite different—the first mayor focused on local strategies for maximizing upcoming transportation investments, limiting sprawl, and increasing investment in downtown, while the second mayor focused more broadly on coordinating sources  of federal funding and getting quicker, clearer answers to programmatic questions. In both cases, however, having a clear vision for the SC2 team work facilitated progress, helping the teams to create effective work plans, staff them with the appropriate team members, and make headway on prioritized areas.

In contrast, two other cities had very committed mayors who set aside a great deal of time to work directly with the SC2 team, but did not see as much progress. Both of these mayors played a much less active role as vision setters, and did not communicate as effectively to city staff the importance of the city’s work with the SC2 team. In these cities, SC2 team leads stepped up to coordinate with the mayor and generate a set of priorities for their teams’ work. This prolonged planning period necessarily delayed the SC2 team’s engagement with the city’s priorities, and a lack of effective communication about the importance of the engagement hindered the integration of SC2 team efforts with those of city staff or local stakeholders.

In the two other cities, the level of commitment from the mayor and senior city staff was more limited. In one case, the SC2 team lead had been on the ground for nearly a year before having a meeting with the mayor. In some other cities, the mayor’s level of commitment was not matched by senior departmental managers in city government, and the result was that the SC2 team struggled to make a meaningful contribution. Overall, team members in these cities found it difficult to engage city staff, track city priorities, and move their work plans forward.

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