July 13, 2011 (Shirley Allen)
The Obama Administration has launched a new pilot initiative called “Strong Cities, Strong Communities” (SC2) designed to strengthen local capacity and spark economic growth in local communities while ensuring taxpayer dollars are being used wisely and efficiently.
SC2 will kick off in six cities, Chester, PA; Cleveland, OH; Detroit, MI; Fresno, CA; Memphis, TN; and New Orleans, LA, forming a partnership between local governments, the private sector and other institutions to help strengthen local communities while delivering federal resources and assistance more effectively.
The three main goals of the new pilot program are:
– Improving the way federal government does business: Cutting through red tape and rationalizing the federal bureaucracy to help deal with the overlapping maze of agencies, regulations and program requirements that are sometimes confusing to local governments;
– Providing assistance and support – working with local communities to find ground up, not top down solutions: Providing on the ground technical assistance and planning resources tailored to local governments’ needs and helping them use the federal funds they already receive more efficiently and effectively; and
– Partnering for growth: Developing critical partnerships with key local and regional stakeholders that encompass not only municipal and state governments, but also new partnerships with the business community, non-profits, anchor institutions, faith-based institutions, and other public, private, and philanthropic leaders.
SC2 contains four main components which will help leverage federal investments and increase impact. These include:
– SC2 Community Solutions Teams: Community Solutions Teams comprised of federal employees from several different agencies will work directly with cities to support mayors of the pilot cities. Community Solutions Teams will assist cities with issues mayors have identified as vital to their economic strategies, including efforts to build on local assets, strengthen regional economies, develop transportation infrastructure, improve job-training programs and support community revitalization.
– SC2 Fellowship Program: A complement to the Community Solutions Teams, a new fellowship program will select, train, and place early- to mid-career professionals to serve multi-year terms in local government positions to give cities additional capacity. An intermediary will be selected to run the fellowship program, and Fellows will be selected through a competitive national process and will be funded primarily by philanthropic partners; the Rockefeller Foundation is providing $2.5 million in initial funding.
– SC2 Economic Planning Challenge: In addition to the six pilot locations, SC2 includes an Economic Planning Challenge designed to help additional cities develop economic blueprints. This national grant competition will enable cities to adopt and implement innovative economic development strategies to support comprehensive city and regional planning efforts. Six cities will be competitively selected to receive a grant of approximately $1 million that they will use to administer an “X-prize style” competition, whereby they will challenge multi-disciplinary teams of experts to develop comprehensive economic and land use proposals for their city. The Challenge will be administered by EDA, and EDA will assist cities in the administration of the competition.
– National Resource Network: Pending authorization of funding, the National Resource Network (NRN) will aggregate public and private resources to provide a broader set of cities, towns and regions with access to a one-stop portal of national experts to provide holistic policy and implementation support. Once funds are secured, HUD will host a competition to select an intermediary to run the NRN. Cities, towns and regions will apply to get access to the NRN, and outside experts will apply to be able to provide consulting services through the NRN. A menu of customized and comprehensive technical assistance in a variety of policy areas will be available to communities, delivered through on-site training and staff development. The NRN will also foster peer-to-peer learning to strengthen the network of urban practitioners and thinkers.
Pilot cities for SC2 we selected for a variety of reasons including economic need, strong local leadership and collaboration, potential for economic growth and to test the SC2 model across a range of environments.
Tags: SC2, Strong Cities, Strong Communities, pilot program, tax dollars, federal resources, local communities, red tape, community solutions