Phase II: Ramp-up to Full Implementation and Mid-Term Activities
The primary goals of the full implementation phase are to establish the team’s focus areas, launch a series of projects within these areas, and put in place a structure and system for completion and evaluation of these projects, as well as for transition to the local community as the federal teams’ role transitions and decreases over time.
Establish a culture of results and flexibility. As the federal team moves from the start-up phase to the full implementation phase, the team should seek to maintain a sense of urgency and flexibility to meet local needs, while also working with the local community on longer-term projects and solutions.
Adapt Strategies Based on Local Capacity and Need. The federal team should be mindful that project priorities may shift over time, depending on changing needs, capacity of local implementers, and available resources. As project capacity is assessed and new information continually becomes available, the federal team may have to adjust strategies and the scope of work.
Flexibility within Federal Team Structure. The team lead should create an environment of flexibility around project implementation and communication, while ensuring that team members are accountable and supported in the work they are doing. For some projects, the team lead may need to be more involved than in others.
Questions to Consider
How rigid is the local community in their priorities?
Are there lessons learned from working on short-term projects that inform priorities and project moving forward?
Convene federal team to mark transition period. Shortly after sharing the initial progress report or fact sheet, the team lead should consider bringing the full federal team together to review the work of Phase I, and mark the transition into Phase II. As a team builder, the team lead may also consider creating opportunities for informal socializing among the team.
Federal team agency liaisons. This convening is a good opportunity to lift up the work of federal team members from agencies that were particularly engaged during the initial phase of the work. It also provides an occasion to identify team member transitions and welcome newly assigned liaisons or members to the team.
Coordinate with local team. In preparation for the federal team convening, the team lead should meet with the local community POC to assess the work from Phase I, identify areas for improvement, and discuss community priorities. The team lead may also want to include the local community POC and other members from the local team at the federal team convening.
Initiate process of cementing focus areas. At this meeting, the team should begin to develop key areas of focus, detailed in the next step.
Questions to Consider
Is there turnover in federal team members or at the local community level? If so, how is the team lead managing transitions?
How is team morale?
How is the working relationship among the federal team and with the local community?
Develop mid-to-long term areas of focus. In order to effectively make progress the federal team should solidify three to five focus areas and associated projects to be implemented in the coming one to two years. At this stage of the work, the team should have a general sense of these focus areas, and should be looking to refine and solidify them.
Selecting focus areas. In selecting priority areas of focus, the federal team may want to consider the following questions:
- What are the biggest community needs and have they changed since the initial or most recent assessment?
- Where is there capacity on the ground to implement?
- Are there areas where the federal team can make a bigger difference? The areas of focus should be balanced between what the local community wants and needs with where federal assistance can add value. In the end, there may be priorities or strategies that are not included in the focus areas because federal assistance would have limited impact.
Selecting projects within focus areas. Within each area of focus, specific projects and types of assistance (See Section 3) should be identified based on local needs and capacity. Preferably, the federal team should identify project deliverables and milestones, implementation timelines, key barriers, and conditions for success. In some cases, there may be an intersecting group of federal investments or technical assistance programs that can be joined together to create a focus area. For example, DOJ efforts around community policing, HHS efforts around trauma-informed care, and NEA efforts around community arts development may be joined together under the priority area of violence reduction. In other cases, new federal assistance or services will have to be identified to fit within a focus area. The federal team should maintain flexibility and recognize that individual projects within each focus area may change over time.
Solicit input and finalize. Given that local communities may face multiple challenges and a diverse group of stakeholders with different priorities, there may not be a unified vision within the local community for federal assistance. It is therefore helpful to get reactions from a number of local stakeholders. This provides community leaders the opportunity to offer perspective on what they think the federal team should focus on, and serves as a feedback loop to help ensure the federal team is being responsive to local needs and stakeholders. While input should be solicited from many partners, the federal team should balance its primary relationship with the local community POC who should be supportive of the final focus areas.
Document focus areas and projects. After the focus areas are developed and finalized, the team lead may want to document the areas and associated projects in a report or presentation that can be shared with federal and local stakeholders. In presenting the areas of focus, the federal team should clarify that areas and projects are subject to change based on new needs, opportunities, and capacity. In addition, there may be individual projects that do not fit into one of the focus areas. The federal team may still decide to pursue such projects if they have valuable merit on their own and a high level of potential success and impact.
Questions to Consider
Do the focus areas address the community’s needs and priorities?
Does the federal team have the capacity and types of available assistance to deliver on the focus areas?
Is there consensus on the focus areas within the local community and across the federal team?
Locally-driven, federally supported implementation. At this stage, the federal team should be fully engaged in project implementation. Projects will likely vary in terms of timeline, complexity, and outcomes. Regardless of the project, the federal team should consider following an implementation approach that focuses on engaging local partners and ensuring execution by local leaders.
Engage local partners and work with them to identify appropriate entities (organizations, individuals, networks, etc.). that are positioned to successfully implement a specific project. Encourage these partners to think boldly and creatively. The following structure might be useful:
- For each project, identify a project team co-led by a federal team member and local community leader.
- Other project team members may include representatives from additional local organizations and individuals, national partners (depending on the project), and federal team members whose agencies are positioned to offer relevant assistance.
Establish clear goals and target outcomes. The project team should focus on setting clear and achievable project goals, outcomes, budgets, and timelines.
Assess and identify gaps that would preclude or inhibit implementation, such as shortage of adequate funding, lack of appropriate partners, or limited technical expertise and/or management systems.
Scout for existing solutions to the challenge either within the community or in other communities. In many cases, someone, somewhere has either solved this challenge or has learned valuable lessons.
Identify federal assistance that most effectively addresses the gaps, such as financial assistance, training and technical assistance, or other partnership and program development assistance. See Section 3 for ideas on specific types and programs of federal assistance. The team, led by local partners with guidance and assistance from the federal team, may also need to explore other forms of non-federal funding to support the project.
Ensure local leaders execute and lead implementation efforts so that projects can become sustainable and institutionalized within the local community.
Incorporate an evaluation plan that can track outcomes and ideally quantify impact. Where possible, the team should look to incorporate robust project evaluations that can help build an evidence-base for the work. Where such an approach is not feasible, the team should at least have a plan for measuring performance and implementation.
Questions to Consider
Is the local community leading project implementation?
Does the project team have membership from all relevant and potential partners?
Are there people in the community who are already working hard to solve the issue and can they be engaged?
Is federal assistance available that can add value to the project?
Is there a plan for evaluation?
Encourage federal interagency collaborations. Throughout the engagement in the local community, the federal team should be encouraged to pursue projects that leverage interagency collaborations. Such collaborations have the potential to maximize outcomes for the local community by taking advantage of intersecting, cross-agency synergies and resources. These collaborations also help to strengthen the long-term federal-local partnership by deepening the engagement and commitment of the federal government in the local community. They also help to strengthen relationships between federal agencies. One strategy for encouraging interagency partnerships is to include federal team members from different agencies on project teams, discussed above.
Braiding or aligning federal funds. The federal team might explore using different streams of federal funding to support different components of an individual project or focus area. In some cases, this approach might be organic as the federal team helps the local community identify two or more competitive grant programs that can support a single project. In other cases, this might be more intentional, where the federal team helps the local community better align intersecting block grants or demonstration funds.
Interagency technical assistance. The federal team might align technical assistance across agencies. Agencies may look to provide coordinated technical assistance to one or more local organizations around a specific project or focus area. The federal team should consult the Interagency MOA template developed by the Office of Management and Budget for guidance on this formal approach to coordinated technical assistance.
Combining financial and technical assistance. Under this collaboration, one agency provides technical assistance around a specific project and a separate agency funds a part of the project. For example, DOE might provide technical assistance to a local community on installing solar panels on residential units to achieve energy and cost saving for local residents. DOL might then provide a grant that trains local residents in solar installation and repair.
Questions to Consider
Are there existing financial and technical assistance programs across agencies that can be aligned more closely?
Are there examples of interagency collaborations from other communities that can be replicated in this community?
Are there federal programs being developed that the team can provide input on that will encourage interagency alignment?
Partnership development. One of the most valuable roles of an interagency federal team is working with a local community to develop new partnerships that can bring resources, capacity, and opportunities to a local community. As the federal team works on specific projects with a local community, they should constantly explore opportunities to bring in new partners.
Convene a range of potential partners around specific projects. Federal agencies may work together to convene a wide range of partners and build a consortium around a single project. For example, in Detroit, the federal team brought together public and private stakeholders from the transportation, energy, and financial sectors to develop a project plan and funding strategy to help the city improve street lighting, a top priority.
Use federally-led meetings, roundtables, and events to encourage collaboration and ideas. The federal team is well-positioned to organize and host events that can spark new initiatives and ideas. These types of meetings can take many forms, but some approaches to consider, in addition to formal remarks or panels, are the following:
- Short, lightning or spark talks highlighting specific programs on the topic at hand (local or otherwise) that are working well and relevant resources that can support such efforts.
- Small-group brainstorming sessions on topics such as what’s working, big ideas, or what are the barriers. These interactive portions are a critical part of convenings. Following the meeting, the team should consider sharing the ideas with all attendees and encourage continued idea development leading to implementation.
Use the reach of the federal team to identify opportunities. With a national scope, federal agencies are often aware of and/or involved in a range of efforts that may be relevant to a local community. The federal team should become aware of what’s working in other communities and seek out such opportunities within and connected to their agencies and introduce them to the local community where relevant. For example, the federal team in Fresno, informed local partners of the IBM Smarter Cities challenge program, which provides the expertise of IBM employees on a pro bono basis, and which Fresno subsequently applied for and was selected.
Questions to Consider
Are there opportunities to convene public, private, philanthropic, and other partners around specific projects?
Are there national initiatives, public or private, that support local projects or priorities?
Are there opportunities to convene partners to generate ideas, especially groups and leaders who are not already working together?
Are there other communities that have successfully solved similar challenges and how did they do so?
Continuously track performance and make necessary adjustments. The team lead should work with federal team members to make sure that monitoring systems and check-ins are in place to track progress of project implementation, make adjustments as necessary if projects are not progressing as planned, and build on projects that are succeeding.
Focus areas and projects may need to be re-prioritized. The quick-moving nature of this work and the availability of appropriate federal assistance may require a re-ordering of priorities and/or addition or subtraction of specific projects.
Take advantage of opportunities that emerge. While the work of the federal team should be driven by local needs and priorities, there may be opportunities to bring new federal agency initiatives, policies, or priorities to the local community. Federal team members should maintain awareness of such initiatives or priorities within their own agencies that may be applicable to the local community. For example, when HUD finalized a new fair housing rule, a federal team working with a local community on access to affordable housing could have explored using HUD’s new data and tools to help a local community update their fair housing plan.
Questions to Consider
How is the team tracking and responding to progress?
In addition to an overall work plan and/or work plans for each area of focus or project, should each agency or team member have individual work plans to clearly track progress?
Federal team transitions and evolution. As the work of the federal team moves further down the path of full implementation, the role of the team lead will evolve and individual agencies may look to replace team liaisons.
Role of the team lead. During the full implementation phase, the team lead will likely focus on broad oversight of the team, assisting with tracking performance, follow-up, and addressing challenges, rather than the day-to-day project management that characterized the startup phase. The time commitment of the team lead in this phase will, in most cases, be about 50 percent of their time.
Team liaisons. Individual agencies may look to identify new liaisons during this stage of the work who are more directly involved in overseeing project implementation and/or are subject matter experts. This may mean shifting from liaisons in the Secretary’s Office to a liaison in the office or agency most directly involved in the local projects.
Questions to Consider
Is it feasible or useful for the team lead to adjust his or her role?
If there is a change in team members, are they adequately supported in their agency to perform the job?
Assess Progress. The team should consider preparing a report summarizing the federal team’s implementation progress. This report should be completed at an appropriate point where there has been enough time to realize specific implementation outcomes, which will likely be about 1 year to 2 years after establishing the team. Depending on the status of evaluations of individual projects or the overall federal team’s work, this report may be linked with an initial evaluation report. In addition to a report, the federal team may consider hosting an event in the local community to mark the partnership’s accomplishments to date.
Questions to Consider
Has there been adequate progress to warrant a report?
What is the best venue for disseminating the report with the local community?