Evaluation of the Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) Teams Pilot: Final Report. 4.3.1 SC2 Team Members’ Career Experience and Content Expertise


SC2 team leads and members represented a wide range of experience in terms of tenure and seniority. According to the SC2 Council’s web survey of SC2 team members, 38 percent of team members had less than 5 years of experience with the federal government, while 29 percent had more than 20 years of experience.23

When pilot city stakeholders worked with more senior team members, the stakeholders appreciated their specialized expertise. Senior team members brought deep knowledge of federal programs and policies. They also brought access to high-level federal staff at their home agencies who had the authority to make decisions on behalf of the agency or resolve situations in which a city had received conflicting information from various departments or individuals within an agency. With this type of access, team members gathered needed information efficiently, set up meetings to facilitate decisions, and encouraged their peers and superiors to think creatively about solutions. In one city, a senior team member was critical in assisting the city with evaluating and reconciling years of poorly kept financial records, thus allowing the city to avoid the recapture of nearly $20 million in housing funds.

Extensive federal government experience also appeared to be an asset when the SC2 team lead or team member was called upon to lead complex, multi-stakeholder planning processes. For example, one team member, a senior administrator from the Department of Labor, successfully built a multi-stakeholder planning group to improve the alignment of workforce employment, training, and education programs with the needs of employers for skilled workers. Many stakeholders credited the team member with shepherding the complex process to completion, an endeavor that many thought could not succeed. The member’s experience as the administrator of multiple offices within the Department provided her with both managerial skills and experience in building stakeholder collaborations. She was able to foster collaboration and challenge key players to engage and think strategically about the region’s workforce development system.

Senior team members also helped cities address bureaucratic barriers, or red tape, that they encountered while applying for federal assistance or implementing federal programs. SC2 teams in each pilot city made significant progress in this area: 8 of the 40 key accomplishments identified in section 3.5 above included the members helping their cities circumvent red tape. These accomplishments were due mostly to the ability of senior team members to quickly obtain definitive answers to specific questions from their home agencies. Seniority and substantial government experience was important to breaking down barriers within the federal government and accessing federal decision makers. With this type of access, team members gathered needed information efficiently, set up meetings to facilitate decisions, and encouraged their peers and superiors to think creatively about solutions.

Although some city stakeholders preferred senior team members to junior members, we observed that seniority and long-standing federal government experience were not important for all SC2 Team work. For example, mid-level staff and staff with fewer years of federal government experience were able to make important contributions by helping to fill capacity gaps, develop programs, build new relationships in the community, and facilitate resolution of the more standard transactional requests from the city. More than a high seniority level, this work required energy, content knowledge, and a willingness to travel or move to the pilot city. One highly effective mid-level team member was complimented for bringing publically available grant opportunities to the attention of city staff, making it “her business to get involved in all things [related to neighborhood development],” and acting as a liaison with other federal

The findings on seniority and experience suggest that the SC2 approach does not necessarily require senior staff to be effective. However, senior staff can play important roles in brokering access to federal decision makers and in leading or facilitating complex planning processes.

23  Eighty-one team members completed some portion of the survey. At this time, the study team does not know how many people were sent the survey, and thus cannot calculate the formal survey response. Between September 2011 and March 2013, 138 federal employees were assigned to a SC2 team at some level.

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