Evaluation of the Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) Teams Pilot: Final Report. Features of the SC2 Approach That Made Federal Assistance More Effective

08/25/2014

Federal agencies could target their efforts to cities’ needs. Just as the pilot cities saw the SC2 approach as a more direct and productive connection to the federal government, federal agencies regarded the SC2 approach as a more direct means of understanding local needs and targeting efforts to address them. This was particularly true for agencies with an existing focus on cities and communities. In these agencies, the pilot was an opportunity to take their existing programs and dig deeper into the specific needs of the community. Team members who relocated to cities gained a holistic perspective on how needs and opportunities fit together rather than having a singular view from a narrow focus. An example of this was a HUD employee who was focused on grant administration before becoming a team member. Once this individual moved to the pilot city, she was able to use her knowledge of HUD’s various programs to help the city and HUD collaborate on issues related to neighborhood revitalization, homelessness, and public housing. This was accomplished through a close working relationship with the mayor and by listening to local stakeholders and observing on a daily basis the ways they talked about their priorities and concerns. For agencies without previous connections to cities, the pilot represented a laboratory in which to experiment with providing direct assistance to cities rather than engaging, as they have historically, primarily with state governments that determine how those agencies’ resources are allocated to localities.

Federal agencies could work directly with mayors. Team members valued the direct involvement of mayors in the SC2 pilot, which members saw as instrumental in achieving outcomes at the local level. Mayoral involvement is important for conveying to city staff and stakeholders the importance of and their commitment to the engagement, thereby increasing the attention given to pilot activities and promoting a stronger partnership between the city and federal government than would otherwise be achieved. As reported elsewhere in this report, the most successful pilot cities had mayors that made their vision and priorities for the engagement clear and directed city resources to the engagement. Under such conditions, federal resources can more effectively be deployed at the local level and difficult problems can more readily be addressed.

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