Evaluation of the Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) Teams Pilot: Final Report. 4.2.2 The Ability to Move Beyond Traditional Approaches to Working With Localities

08/25/2014

Related to the commitment of agencies to the pilot, agencies varied in the extent to which they either understood or promoted the underlying vision of SC2, that of a bottom-up approach driven by the priorities of cities, with the federal role being one of flexible assistance to accomplish city priorities. Many agencies appear to have enthusiastically adapted to this new approach to assisting cities, regarding it as consistent with their mission, a way to improve their understanding of conditions in localities where they increasingly intend to work, or a learning opportunity for individual team members and the agency as a whole. This appears to have led team members from those agencies to go above and beyond their traditional approach to assisting cities, which allowed for new, locally tailored solutions to long-standing problems to be found.

A small number of team members from certain agencies, though, did not appear to embrace the SC2 approach and struggled to assist the cities or to be effective teammates to other members. This seemed especially problematic for members based in regional offices, due to two factors. First, those team members tended to have a background in compliance and monitoring of federal grants and programs; as such, their work history was one of finding problems, not of proposing creative solutions as SC2 encouraged. Second, due to working in regional offices, these members had personal knowledge of and relationships with their pilot cities that appeared to make it difficult for them to trust the city’s intentions regarding reforming their relationship with the federal government. These members were noted by others as having difficulty moving beyond a monitoring stance with the cities and contributing only the bare minimum to the engagement. In one city, the SC2 team lead directly tied the lack of progress on a significant SC2 team project, which was ultimately abandoned, to the unwillingness of a team member from an unsupportive agency to assist.

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