Looking Back: Seven Years of the National Resource Network
Born out of the federal Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) initiative, the National Resource Network (NRN) was launched in May 2013. The initial $10 million investment was awarded to a consortium of organizations led by Enterprise Community Partners, HR&A Advisors, and Public Financial Management. With the guidance of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Network provided direct assistance to more than 60 economically challenged cities across the nation – with support ranging from “light touch” support through our 311 for Cities service to intensive year-long engagements.
Rather than adopting a “one size fits all” approach, the Network has tailored technical assistance to specific circumstances on the ground, partnering with local governments and seeking solutions. We have learned that expert support alone cannot solve complex problems, but working in partnership with cities technical assistance empowers local leaders to take action and create change.
Technical assistance has been cross-cutting – with most support focused on local government capacity (budget and operations), community development, economic development and workforce development.
Every Network engagement was the result of an in-person, cross-cutting assessment process that brought together community stakeholders and national experts. Even without an engagement, local governments and stakeholders benefited from “no holds barred” assessments that identified strengths and gaps.
The Network has piloted state-level Resource Networks in Massachusetts, New Jersey and Ohio In addition to direct assistance, the Network has provided peer to peer support through national and state convenings to an additional 21 cities.
Network research efforts have supported research on the specific role that state and anchor institutions can play in supporting economic competitiveness in economically challenged cities. The Network also helped to launch a first-of-its-kind health data dashboard focused on cities, in partnership with the Wagner Graduate School of Public Service and New York University.
A Few Highlights From the National Resource Network So Far
- The City Health Data dashboard, now a standalone project led by NYU Langone Health. Designed to fill a knowledge gap in local governments’ public health, the dashboard features data on 766 cities throughout the United States. Begun by the Network, the effort has transformed into a standalone project of NYU Langone Health with sponsorship by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
- Prosper Waco: The Network partnered with the City of Waco Texas to co-design a public-private partnership to build on the efforts of existing nonprofits and community leaders in Waco. Prosper Waco utilizes a collective impact model to build an environment where all members of the community can measurably improve their well-being in three related areas: education, health, and financial security.
- Brockton, Massachusetts: Capitalizing on City leadership’s effort to redefine Brockton’s image and improve public perceptions of the city, the Network designed a Communications Strategy for Brockton centered on its strongest asset – people. This foundation for building positive public perception began with utilizing an asset-based approach to communication within and among Brockton’s neighborhoods. To execute the plan, the City launched its first Neighborhoods Initiative to use resident leadership development and existing neighborhood associations in concert with establishing new neighborhood associations to center community engagement in the strategy.
Follow the City Sights blog for features on more of our work, including ongoing engagements with cities in our new Ohio State Resource Network.