Evaluation of the Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) Teams Pilot: Final Report. 5.3.3 Opportunities for Improving Implementation


Monitor the match between city priorities and team member skills throughout implementation. Matching team members to city needs is complicated and best treated as an ongoing activity rather than a one-time event. Beginning the process early, during the work planning phase, and making it iterative with the process of staffing the team could ensure a strong match between the city need and the team member. Where possible, SC2 teams’ efforts could focus on activities that could benefit from an understanding of federal funding, programs, or regulations, as those are most likely to benefit from the unique skills and expertise of federal employees. As implementation begins, team member turnover and evolving city needs may call for reviewing team composition and, when appropriate, adding or replacing team members. In addition, a slow rollout of the SC2 team at the outset of implementation may allow for a closer review of city needs and some refinement of the work plan before fully determining the SC2 team resources needed. For example, a strategic assessment of city needs early on, perhaps through an extended planning phase, would allow the team’s skills to be more closely tailored to the city’s needs and opportunities. This is something that the SC2 team lead can likely facilitate effectively, but it will also require participation and buy-in from the SC2 Council and agency leadership.

Support travel and work time for team members. Team members who received substantial resources and support from their agencies were able to accomplish a lot of work and achieve a variety of outcomes. According to the team members interviewed, the most important types of support were having the time and flexibility to work on SC2 team activities—which for part-time members could mean reassigning some of their existing duties to other staff—and funds to support travel to the city when needed to move a relationship or initiative forward. In cases where agency support was more limited, team members had a harder time finding the time they needed to dedicate to SC2 team activities. Additionally, the SC2 Council might consider documenting and sharing with agencies and part-time team members how high-performing team members in the pilot effectively balanced pilot responsibilities with their existing workload.

Provide clearer communication about the limitations of SC2 teams. Given that some pilot cities, despite repeated instructions to the contrary, had expectations that the SC2 pilot would include federal funding or would allow for the relaxing of federal regulations, SC2 teams could look for additional ways to inform participating cities about what SC2 teams can and cannot do as part of their charge. One idea might be for cities to put systems in place to ensure that communication about pilot guidelines and limitations are shared with broader city staff and stakeholders engaged in the pilot.

Formalize the sharing of what is learned during implementation. Team members reported that they shared what they learned during implementation with other team members, the SC2 Council, and participating agencies via phone calls between SC2 team leads, point of contact (POC) meetings, and annual reports. However, incorporating lessons learned during the engagement is a longer term process, which was only beginning during the first 18 months of the SC2 engagements. The value of the SC2 engagement is limited when what is learned in one city is not shared with other cities. This is especially true in cases where specific solutions were found that would likely apply to problems in other cities, such as aligning DOT and HUD funding and waiving minimum rents for homeless individuals seeking housing in one pilot city. To help further the pilot’s expected long-term outcome of changing the way the federal
government does business with cities, POCs and the SC2 Council could develop formal mechanisms to share lessons more broadly with other SC2 cities and non-SC2 cities and across federal agencies.

Clearly communicate an exit strategy to SC2 teams and cities. At the point at which the research team held conversations with team members and city stakeholders, there were concerns about the lack of an exit strategy to end the engagement with a smooth transition of responsibilities back to the city.25 The fear was that this would threaten to undo progress made during the engagement. One interviewee’s suggestion was to develop a phased exit strategy in which one or two team members remain engaged on a consistent basis after the full team has disbanded. Another suggestion was to intentionally shift SC2 team responsibilities to regionally based federal staff.

25  Each city ultimately did develop an exit strategy. Therefore, the concerns noted here were likely resolved before the end of the engagement.

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