Evaluation of the Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) Teams Pilot: Final Report. 5.3.2 Opportunities for Improving the City Selection and Assessment Processes


Ensure cities have sufficient plans in place to justify the investment of federal resources. Having mayoral buy-in and the support of city leaders is critical to the engagement, but it may not be enough to make effective use of the SC2 team’s resources. The most successful pilot cities not only had strong city leadership to promote the engagement, they also had well-developed plans for the SC2 teams to follow and build upon. Without a well-defined plan, team members can be underutilized, serving only to troubleshoot problems and field cities’ questions, not to conduct strategic development or tailor federal approaches to local conditions as would be expected given their expertise. Future engagements could not only identify activities for team members to focus on but estimate their likelihood of success by examining how the city has attempted to address specific problems in the past and why those attempts failed, exploring what challenges will likely be faced during implementation of an activity, estimating how much time implementation is expected to take (both staff time and total timeframe for a project), securing early commitments from key stakeholders in the city, and assessing the risks associated with the turnover of team members or local stakeholders. From these changes, a more strategic plan could be developed that prepares for contingencies and more clearly identifies opportunities for team members to share their expertise with cities.

Adopt strategies to gauge and promote buy-in of mayors. During the SC2 pilot, mayoral commitment was among the most critical factors for success. As has been detailed throughout, cities varied greatly in how committed mayors were to the engagement. The SC2 approach could incorporate steps to measure and promote mayoral buy-in during the site selection process, perhaps by having cities apply for selection as SC2 cities and proposing how the mayor would guide the engagement.

Add a leadership audit to the assessment process. Given the critical role mayors play in the SC2 approach, it is important to ensure that mayors of selected cities have the full support of the local government and key stakeholders. SC2 leaders may need to give more weight to political dynamics that can affect progress when deciding which cities to select for future rounds of SC2 teams. These dynamics might include the strength of the mayor in a city’s governing structure, the timing of elections of a mayor or other city leaders, or the relationship between a mayor and key city departments, such as schools and police. In addition to taking into account political dynamics, decision makers could also consider the commitment of key city leaders outside of the mayor’s office and how this will affect future partnerships between team members and the city.

Develop strategies to include regional and state stakeholders more intentionally. While the pilot approach emphasized including regional and state stakeholders in the engagement, in actuality few pilot activities included them, and one city in particular was frustrated by their SC2 team’s lack of a regional approach. State governments are especially important to include in the SC2 approach given that, for many federal agencies, their grants and programs for cities are administered by states. During the assessment process, the OAT could conduct an environmental scan of regional and state stakeholders to potentially include in the SC2 engagement so that team members can begin outreach to identified stakeholders quickly after implementation begins. Furthermore, the OAT could consider how federal agency funding flows to the city in each of the city’s priority areas. When agency funding is routed through states or counties, it is important to ensure their commitment to the engagement before assigning team members or to limit the scope of those member’s activities so that a lack of state finding will not prevent progress from being made.

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