Building Strong Communities

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In August of last year, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), released a Request for Qualification notice, looking for the organization best suited to manage its Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) pilot program. Near the end of 2011, HUD announced it has selected a program manager and will launch SC2 in six cities.

Strong Cities, Strong Communities was first announced in July of last year as a way to encourage community development in parts of the country that need it most. SC2 was designed to maximize the work already being done by various government agencies and private entities who are attempting to rebuild and restore some of the U.S. cities most impacted by the struggling economy. It seeks to capitalize on the enthusiasm of mid-career professionals who want to focus on urban planning and community development. They will be invited to apply to a fellowship program, and of the applicants, 30 will be selected. Each fellow will work for 24 months in either Chester, PA; Detroit, MI; New Orleans, LA; Fresno, CA; Memphis, TN; or Cleveland, OH, and be assigned to city agencies

Fellows will contribute to the strategic and core operations of various government entities, act as community leaders, and engage in active problem-solving of redevelopment issues in the city. In addition to the fellows program, SC2 creates a Community Solutions Team, an Economic Planning Challenge that will reach out to additional cities, and a National Resource Network.

Each Community Solutions Team will be created by pulling from local offices of Federal agencies. Those federal employees will collaborate with a city’s mayor to determine how best to address economic issues. The team will support the mayor’s infrastructure, economic and revitalization strategies.

The Economic Planning Challenge is implemented outside of the six initial pilot cities. It is meant to enhance economic development on a regional and/or national scale. The Challenge consists of a grant competition aimed at helping other cities implement their economic development plans. Grants are approximately $1 million each. However, instead of being used to directly fund existing plans, the grants will be awarded so that cities can hold their own development competitions, encouraging multidisciplinary teams to create comprehensive plans for improving everything from infrastructure to housing and access to education.

The National Resource Network is not yet up and running, but once funding has been secured, it will be a place where city officials can go to find suggestions and solutions for a variety of development challenges. The NRN is intended to be a “one-stop shop” of sorts, where experts from a variety of disciplines aggregate their knowledge so that it’s easier to find.

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