By Abigail Rybnicek

Practical Takeaways for Cities at Network’s Second Peer Convening

At June’s SC2 National Resource Network peer convening, 120 representatives from more than 40 cities came together in Miami to share best practices, address common challenges, and brainstorm solutions. During the three days in Miami, attendees toured two redevelopment projects, participated in interactive working sessions, and took advantage of formal and informal networking opportunities. In this post, the Mayors of Springfield, MO, and Waco, TX, share some of their key takeaways from the event.

Mayor Bob Stephens, Springfield, MO

We were thrilled to be paired with the City of Waco through the Companion City Huddles at the convening because we share a focus on creating opportunities for our residents who live at or near the poverty level. Our cities are approaching it differently, but each working hard toward the same goal. It was incredibly valuable for us to share lessons learned and get feedback on challenges we’ve faced and our staff is eager to stay in touch with our counterparts in Waco as we continue our work.

But Waco wasn’t the only city that offered us great advice and insight. We also heard about an innovative program dealing with predictive policing and picked up on a couple of economic development projects from colleagues in New Jersey, all of which I quickly passed along to our staff to explore further. Our Chamber of Commerce is now more involved with our Brother 2 Brother mentoring program, after hearing from other cities about how successful the initiative could be, especially if the broader community engages in the effort. We also realized that we share the priorities of poverty alleviation and citizen engagement with many other communities and came away with several new ideas that can be incorporated into our own Community Listen assessments and Impacting Poverty Commission.

These types of exchanges – on topics large and small – were a big part of what made the convening worthwhile for me and my colleagues. This was my first Network peer convening and I came away thinking it had been one of the most valuable conferences I have attended.

Mayor Malcolm Duncan, Waco, TX

We brought a team of six attendees to the conference, including two city staff and four community partners. Each of us came back to Waco with a number of new ideas to explore and relationships to build on. Of course, we have a lot in common with our colleagues in Springfield and are eager to stay in touch with them as we both focus on supporting our lowest-income residents, but there were opportunities to learn from many other cities, too.

The City of Brownsville was incredibly helpful on two fronts. We have a group of residents interested in enacting a ban on plastic bags, though Texas law presents challenges to doing that. Brownsville has adopted a ban and we now have a model to work from as we engage with our citizens on the topic. We also had a chance to learn more about Brownsville’s intermodal transportation system and are following up with them to learn more about the funding sources they used to develop their project as we thinking about embarking on something similar.

The peer convening is a gift that keeps on giving, too. Since returning from Miami, I have toured an arts district in Ft. Worth, TX. On the tour, I had a chance to share the maps, images, and other information gleaned through the convening’s Wynwood Arts District tour with the organizers. And while with the First Lady of Baylor, Texas, I passed along what I had learned from the City of Macon, GA, about Mercer University offering their employees down payment assistance when they choose to buy homes in neighborhoods near the campus that the city is trying to revitalize.

We were grateful for the time in connect with so many colleagues in Miami and have already seen the impact of the convening on how we are dealing with issues here in Waco. Our group was inspired by the breadth of the collaboration offered in the Network and struck by the similarities of challenges we face with all of the participants. We are eager to continue exploring other ideas we heard about at the convening and to stay in touch with our new friends around the country over the coming years.