Evaluation of the Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) Teams Pilot: Final Report. 5.2.2 Challenges of the Approach from the Perspective of the Federal Government


There was a lack of dedicated funding for the pilot. Federal agencies’ most common critique of the pilot was the fact that there was no dedicated funding for the engagement. This lack of funding meant that participating agencies had to reallocate existing resources to cover staff time and travel budgets. Many agencies struggled to decide which staff to assign as team members and to find sufficient resources to cover the costs of the pilot. When making these decisions, agencies carefully considered how to balance pilot cities’ expected needs with the agency’s ongoing staffing needs for other priorities. In the end, limited resources sometimes resulted in a smaller number of assigned team members than cities desired, and also resulted in team members who could spend less time on SC2 team activities than cities needed. The latter result was due to part-time team members often conducting pilot tasks in addition to their existing workload.

The pilot presented challenges for how agencies engage non-pilot cities. For some agencies, an additional challenge that arose was related to how their participation in the pilot would be perceived by cities not in the pilot. Representatives from one agency suggested that they were hesitant to provide too much assistance to a pilot city due to a fear of setting a precedent that a similar amount of assistance could be provided to other cities. Additionally, some agencies noted a dilemma in that the approach designates a select number of cities to receive special attention, while the agency’s mission is to help all communities. This can put the agency in the position of appearing to have been less helpful than it could have been before the pilot. Given that all cities, whether facing economic challenges or not, could benefit from additional capacity provided by federal staff and streamlined access to senior agency leadership, the SC2 pilot runs the risk of setting expectations for federal assistance that, given existing resources, federal agencies will be unable to provide.

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