Evaluation of the Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) Teams Pilot: Final Report. 5. Lessons and Implications


Our discussions with city and federal stakeholders included a focus on identifying lessons learned during the 18-month implementation period that could help shape and enhance future program implementation. Discussants were asked to identify strengths and weaknesses of the SC2 approach for addressing local economic development challenges. Additionally, we sought to identity elements of the SC2 approach that might be replicated in other federal programs and to suggest are for future exploration with similar initiatives. This chapter presents what we learned from our analysis of those discussions as well as our own insights.

Chapter 5 Highlights

  • Pilot stakeholders noted several key strengths of the SC2 pilot:
    •  City stakeholders valued the individual efforts of the team members, the direct connection the pilot provided to federal resources, and the formation of new or improved relationships between federal employees and community members and organizations.
    • Federal stakeholders regarded the pilot as valuable for enhancing federal assistance to localities through gaining a deeper understanding of how local governments in distressed cities operate, learning how to better align assistance with cities’ needs, and involving mayors more directly in the process.
    • Federal stakeholders valued the chance to collaborate with federal employees from other agencies, as well as the opportunities for professional development the pilot provided.
  • Pilot stakeholders also felt that the SC2 pilot posed several key challenges:
    • Some cities were frustrated that the pilot did not provide direct financial support or allow for the relaxing of federal regulations affecting the city.
    • Federal agencies were similarly frustrated that there was no dedicated funding for the pilot, which meant that agencies had to find existing resources to support the pilot.
    • Federal agencies wished the assessment better captured how prepared cities were to benefit from deployment of a SC2 team and better identified local political and capacity challenges that might impede SC2 teams’ progress.
  • The evaluation identified several areas for further exploration with the SC2 approach:
    • A clear definition of the SC2 approach to cities, including information about the structure of the SC2 teams, the expectations team members will have of city staff, and the limitations of the SC2 teams, might improve the overall program design. Modifications to the approach may allow lower-capacity cities to benefit from a SC2 team without being overwhelmed by an influx of federal staff.
    • Enhancing the leadership audit conducted during the pilot assessment process may improve the city selection process, such as identifying ways the SC2 team lead and key team members could use the information collected to better gauge political dynamics that could affect progress and promote the buy-in of mayors, regional, and state stakeholders.
    • Providing funding for SC2 team travel or relocation expenses and dedicated staff time for SC2 team activities and monitoring the match between city priorities and team member skills to identify and correct cases of misalignment may improve the implementation process. Develop a clear exit strategy earlier in the engagement may reduce cities’ anxiety about the transition and sustain progress made by the SC2 teams.
  • Several components of the SC2 approach are regarded as replicable by other federal programs, especially in regards to providing technical assistance to localities and using federal staff in regional offices. These components include a bottom-up approach to engaging and working with cities, a focus on place-based strategies, tailoring strategies and technical assistance to local conditions, and conducting assessments of local conditions to gauge readiness for receipt of federal assistance. Additionally, the pilot’s use of federal staff based in regional offices to work closely with cities to address city priorities is replicable by other federal programs and activities.


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