This map highlights the 50-plus cities chosen to participate in some capacity in the National Resource Network. These cities can also be viewed here.
When citizens have complaints or issues about sidewalks, potholes, stray animals and other non-emergency items, many can call their city's 311 interface. And now, under the Obama Administration’s Strong Cities, Strong Communities initiative (SC2), more than 50 city governments in need of assistance can request and receive support in a similar fashion at varying levels.
“Cities offer great 311 services for their residents, and it seemed there was a need for the federal government to do the same for cities,” said Mark Linton, executive director of the White House Council on SC2.
In late May, the administration launched the pilot phase of the National Resource Network, which is more than just a 311 call center — it's an attempt to improve how the federal government supports advancing local priorities. It takes a solution-oriented approach focused on the communities’ priorities to grow their economy. One of the goals is to bring together a range of technical resources and best practices from the private sector, and nonprofit and philanthropic groups. It serves as a one-stop shop for communities looking for solutions.
“We want to set the stage for enduring economic growth,” Linton said. “A lot of places are not always looking to the federal government for a bail out, but for a problem-solving approach.”
The National Resource Network, funded on a three-year technical assistance grant of $10 million from the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development, will provide on-the-ground support to selected cities. Initial cities include Fall River, Mass.; Kansas City, Kans.; Miami, Fla.; Compton, Calif.; and Lynwood, Calif.
Cities were selected by studying data and assessing where there are economic needs, including factors related to housing, employment and poverty. The on-the-ground support consists of private- and public-sector experts who work with city leadership for anywhere from two to 12 months in an effort to assess needs, provide recommendations and support strategies that advance economic recovery.
In Kansas City, for example, experts are looking at a series of economic development strategies that will target the downtown area and leverage previous investments. In Compton, experts are studying issues related to the city’s budget and its ability to provide high-quality government services.
"The unified government is in the early stages of working with National Resource Network and we've been very impressed with their team," said Kansas City Mayor Mark Holland. "We're honored that the National Resource Network has chosen to be a part of our Healthy Campus project, and we are expecting this to evolve into a national model for healthy living in an urban environment."
By the end of the year, the National Resource Network will have field experts in seven to 10 cities; in the next few years, the goal is to extend this type of support to hundreds more.
Currently, there are also 50 cities that have access to the 311 for Cities
resource. City officials can log on and receive best practices and advice from national experts on community development, economic development, operations budget and other key issues. In the future, additional cities will be able to access assistance through this tool.
“We want to make sure that intervention and support we provide are catalytic,” Linton said. “We want to help them do something transformative in their communities, whether that is regaining their fiscal footage, turning around a waterfront or a workforce retention strategy.”
Another element of the National Resource Network is to develop a series of peer networks intended for cities that are facing similar challenges or have a connection through geography in order to learn from one another.
“This isn’t just a public-sector network,” Linton said. “Over time, leading national experts in a field of practice — for example, land use — foster a connection. The federal government does not own it. There’s a stronger building of a community of practice.”
Additionally, the work taking place in the various communities will lead to a series of reports, creating accountability for the way in which the programs play out. All cities and the public will be able to access such reports in addition to the curated and searchable online resource library.
“Our hope is that there will be additional resources that contribute to this over time,” Linton said. “We want this to live beyond the life cycle of any one grant. We think we’ll be starting a national dialogue about issues that cities face in common.”