Evaluation of the Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) Teams Pilot: Final Report. Implementation and Accomplishments of the Pilot

08/25/2014

Given that the pilot cities faced distinct challenges and had different visions for the future, the implementation of the pilot varied from site to site. Each city also had a unique mix of federal team members and city leadership. In general, SC2 team leads played key roles in setting the direction for the pilot, developing relationships among SC2 team members and between the SC2 team and city stakeholders, problem solving, and managing SC2 team members. City mayors varied in their approaches to the pilot; some were closely involved in setting the vision for the engagement while others preferred that SC2 team members steer the engagement. A critical resource in most cities was a senior city staff person who served as a liaison between city leadership and the SC2 team.

Implementation in each city began with the development of a work plan followed by the assignment of SC2 team members to specific tasks. The cities most able to move quickly from planning to implementation of activities were those with clear visions for the SC2 engagement and a defined set of priorities for the SC2 team members. Cities lacking a clear vision and priorities endured a longer planning phase to identify projects for SC2 team members and city stakeholders with whom SC2 could partner. As implementation proceeded, a valuable feature of the SC2 approach was the flexibility it allowed cities to begin new activities that emerged over time as opportunities arose or as initially planned activities were determined to be infeasible. In this way, the SC2 work plan was considered a “living document.”

Overall, our evaluation of the first 18 months of SC2 pilot implementation found that the SC2 team approach can be an effective way to address the priorities of cities facing significant economic challenges. This is particularly true in instances where key players in the engagement—city leaders, SC2 team members, and federal agencies—are committed to the engagement and willing to provide time and resources to identify and overcome obstacles to progress. In the absence of such alignment, activities for SC2 team members were harder to identify, resources harder to come by, and progress delayed. There is also early evidence that the SC2 experience can transform the way federal team members do their jobs and potentially alter the way some agencies interact with their city government colleagues.

The efforts of the SC2 teams led to an impressive set of accomplishments during the first 18 months in the pilot cities. In the full report, we highlight 40 accomplishments that pilot stakeholders and the evaluation team considered to be the most significant. These accomplishments range from helping cities solve small, isolated problems or mitigating bureaucratic barriers to developing sustainable collaborations and plans that are expected to benefit the cities long after the SC2 engagement ends. Examples of SC2 accomplishments include providing technical assistance to help one city open its first grocery store, helping another city repurpose federal funds to demolish blighted public housing, and assisting still another city with planning for future development in a transit corridor.

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