Evaluation of the Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) Teams Pilot: Final Report. 5.2.3 Challenges to the Assessment Process

08/25/2014

While the pilot assessment process was not part of the evaluation, a few stakeholders discussed some of the challenges they experienced related to it. We have included challenges that were identified by more than one person.

The assessment did not fully capture how prepared cities were to benefit from the pilot. Even though all cities facing significant economic challenges are in need of federal assistance, federal stakeholders noted that the first round of site selection did not adequately differentiate cities that were prepared to benefit from a SC2 team from those that were not as prepared. As discussed elsewhere in the report, pilot cities came to the engagement with varying levels of capacity and preparedness that affected the implementation of SC2 team activities. Some cities were marked by very limited staff capacity, which limited their ability to give attention to the pilot. Others did little to articulate a vision or set priorities for the engagement, which led to delays in implementation due to the SC2 team having to take up to six months to determine what the focus of the SC2 team’s activities would be. Still other cities saw implementation delayed by political instability or disagreements among city stakeholders about participating in the pilot. Additionally, in some cities there was a mismatch between what a federal agency could provide and whether a city had the structure in place to benefit from it, as was the case in one city that had no infrastructure to support health care initiatives undertaken by the SC2 team.

Preparation for the pilot was burdensome. From the cities’ perspective, the assessment was burdensome to prepare for due to the amount of data requested and because, in at least one case, an insufficient amount of time was given before the assessment team arrived. Additionally, the process alienated a few regional and community stakeholders who were not invited to participate in the process. Some cities also noted that the assessment process did not provide enough opportunity for cities to give input on who would be chosen to serve in the city as a team member.

The assessment did not fully capture challenges in the cities that hindered implementation. From the perspective of federal stakeholders, the assessment did not adequately capture critical political and capacity challenges that ultimately hindered implementation of SC2 team activities. Some team members said they wished they had had a better understanding of local political dynamics before their engagements. Additionally, while the assessment process identified challenges facing cities in order to identify areas of expertise that federal employees might contribute to the city, it did not consider the extent to which cities could exercise influence on the challenges identified. This led to the underutilization of team members with expertise in education, criminal justice, and health care, as cities either did not have the structure in place to support their work or mayors did not have control over those areas, limiting what could be accomplished.

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