The Detroit SC2 team was deployed on September 12, 2011. During the first week, the SC2 team met with staff from the city and state, as well as representatives from the Skillman and Kresge foundations. The mayor weighed in at that time with his priorities: public safety, public transportation, public lighting, neighborhood blight, and recreation. Team members used those multiple discussions to prioritize areas where the Detroit team could be most helpful. Those key priorities included the pending M-1 light-rail project, public lighting, and guidance regarding Detroit’s use of federal grant dollars. A work plan was established at the start of the SC2 pilot, and seven key goals were outlined: government efficiency, transportation, public safety, economic and workforce development, the Detroit Works project, energy, and education. Several projects were identified for each of the seven high-level objectives.
When the SC2 team started implementing the proposed work plan in December 2011, the reality of working in a challenged city became clear. The work plan needed to be flexible, with activities being added or abandoned depending on evolving opportunities, obstacles, and circumstances. The SC2 team faced the additional challenge of not having clear counterparts in the city to work with, as senior management staff left or saw their positions eliminated in cost-cutting efforts. Few of the senior managers engaged during the initial assessment who could have served as champions for SC2 team involvement in the city remained at city hall during implementation.
Capacity was not the only challenge for the SC2 team. The SC2 team struggled to maintain a focus on implementing strategies for long-term economic growth, a primary objective of the SC2 initiative, as the city worked to meet the most basic needs of its residents (regular bus service, working streetlights). With city resources severely limited, all departments felt pressure to focus federal dollars that would otherwise go unused on efforts to address fundamental needs of residents. The philanthropic community was working on a longer-term vision for the city through the Detroit Works initiative, but the planning process was still under way during the majority of the pilot so the SC2 team could not help implement the long- term vision.