Evaluation of the Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) Teams Pilot: Final Report. 4.3.4 The Ability to Broker New and Improve Strained Relationships

08/25/2014

A notable finding is the extent to which team members were able to broker new relationships in pilot cites or improve strained relationships.

To establish new relationships, team members tended to use their close association with the mayor’s office to make connections and begin conversations with potential partners. Furthermore, team members noted that their ability to develop relationships was easier when potential community partners viewed them as neutral outsiders. This was seen, for example, in the formation of a city-wide partnership to link health care practitioners to more efficiently and cost-effectively provide healthcare. In helping to establish the partnership, the team member reached out to a diverse array of stakeholder organizations with little history of working together or with the city. The end result was a coalition of nearly 50 organizations that continues to meet on a biweekly basis to improve community health care access. Additionally, the members’ ability to develop new relationships at times was enhanced by their status as representatives of the federal government and by the cachet attached to being part of a White House initiative. One city department representative noted that a meeting convened by a team member drew more than five times as many attendees as when she had held similar meetings in the past.

In addition to helping form new relationships, team members on several occasions played a key role in repairing existing but strained relationships between pilot city governments and their community partners. Two pilot cities had broken relationships with their local housing authorities; in both cases team members were able to establish new working relationships. In one case, a team member was able to work with the housing authority to remove a barrier to housing individuals experiencing homelessness, resulting in housing for 70 people. In another case, a team member helped repair the relationship between the city and a private sector group that was involved in a transportation initiative. The SC2 team was able to help the parties reach an agreement on the type of transportation to be implemented and how the project would be financed. By brokering the agreement, the SC2 team enabled the deployment of a stalled $25 million DOT TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant to help support the effort.

As with forming new relationships, the neutral “outsider” status of team members appeared to aid in repairing relationships. Additionally, the ability of team members to engender the trust of city leadership was important to building and repairing relationships as it allowed the city to feel comfortable with team members working in its stead. For embedded team members especially, a close working relationship with the city and physical presence in city hall helped convey the message that the SC2 pilot was a bottom-up approach, which in turn helped create a dynamic within which improved relationships could flourish.

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