Linton: Reflecting on the Value of Peer Learning

Mark Linton, Executive Director of White House Council on Strong Cities, Strong Communities

This blog was originally posted on the US Department of Housing and Urban Development's PD&R EDGE, an online magazine.

  

I recently returned from the inaugural Peer to Peer Convening held by the National Resource Network in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Local officials and outside partners from over a dozen cities took time during a busy season to come together for two days to highlight priorities and successes in their communities, discuss common challenges, and develop new strategies together to make even more progress in areas such as economic development, workforce development, neighborhood revitalization, and civic engagement. And of course, Chattanooga was the perfect venue to hold such a gathering, since it has made dramatic progress with its own economic renaissance over the last two decades, with notable success stories like the redevelopment of its Riverfront and City Center. Visiting city officials had an opportunity to take a walking tour to see first-hand some of Chattanooga’s many successes.

Peer Convening

Participants tour redevelopment projects in Chattanooga

Organized by our private sector and academic partners, led by Enterprise Community PartnersPublic Financial ManagementNYU’s Wagner SchoolInternational City/County Management Association, and facilitated by the Institute for Sustainable Communities, this peer convening also brought together leading national practitioners in regional and municipal economic growth. Participating cities shared novel strategies with one another for solving persistent challenges that hamper economic growth in their communities, such as tackling low graduation rates, reducing crime, and adopting smarter land use and business development strategies. Expert facilitators were on hand to help city officials develop next steps and vote on strategies that would enable continued sharing of information and best practices among the participants. A diverse group including places like Miami, Florida, Kansas City, Kansas, Fall River, Massachusetts and Flint, Michigan shared their opportunities, insights, and tackled problems of mutual concern.

In addition, Mayor Andy Berke of Chattanooga, Tennessee spent time with us both days. He highlighted some of the ingredients of Chattanooga’s remarkable successes to date including the drivers of its continued progress in areas such as investments in IT infrastructure and data-driven policy, sound municipal finance, progressive planning and zoning practices, and a culture that welcomes private sector investment and innovation.

The peer convening led to a series of concrete best practices that were shared among the cities and some specific next steps that the Network will guide, including a follow-on event that will build on the initial learning.

The National Resource Network is supported by a $10 million technical assistance grant from HUD, designed to help cities around the country build their capacity, take advantage of their existing assets, and spark economic growth through more integrated problem solving across private and public sectors. Over the next two years, several additional peer convenings will be held in regions around the country, benefiting dozens of additional communities. In addition to peer learning, the Network is supporting cities through direct assistance, remote advice and coaching through an innovative “311 for Cities” feature, as well as a unique curated technical assistance library that brings a wealth of resources to cities through the click of a mouse. You can learn more, or seek assistance, by visiting www.nationalresourcenetwork.org or sending an email to: info@nationalresourcenetwork.org.

We are excited to learn from our many partners who gathered in Chattanooga, as they continue to learn from each other, and we look forward to taking those lessons on the road to many additional cities supported by the National Resource Network.