Evaluation of the Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) Teams Pilot: Final Report. 4.4.2 Interpersonal Dynamics

08/25/2014

A key strength of the SC2 approach is the placement of federal staff directly in a mayor’s office, which gives team members access to decision makers and signals to city staff and stakeholders the importance of the engagement. At the same time, though, such a scenario can place team members in the middle of tense relationships between city stakeholders that predated the engagement. In some cases, SC2 team members were not able to overcome those past dynamics to address city priorities.

While most city staff and stakeholders appeared to welcome the assistance and participation of the SC2 teams, there were cases where individuals seemed reluctant to work with an SC2 team. In two pilot cities, the reluctant stakeholders were the local police commissioners, one of whom did not buy into the engagement in part due to frustration about not learning about the pilot until it was publicly announced by the mayor, and the other of whom was concerned that the team member would try to speak about criminal justice issues on behalf of the city. Importantly, in both cases, the local police department was not under the control of the mayor and thus there was little that could be done to avoid its lack of engagement. In another city, the mayor of a jurisdiction bordering the pilot city was disappointed at not being included in the OAT assessment process and was thus thereafter unwilling to be involved, hurting the SC2 team’s ability to address issues that required a regional focus. In yet another city, the unique structure of the local government, in which members of the city council rather than the mayor control certain city departments, thwarted the ability of team members to engage with some departments, presumably due to conflicts between the mayor and council members.

Additional conflicts surfaced between representatives from regional federal offices and the SC2 team. In one case, the regional office regarded the pilot as signaling the office’s inability to address local challenges. In other cases, regional team members and city representatives at times struggled to work in a productive fashion due to the regional team member not trusting the city based on past experience.

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