By Abigail Rybnicek

New in the Resource Library: Network’s Responses to Recent 311 for Cities Requests

One of the National Resource Network’s most innovative features is 311 for Cities.* Just like many residents can call one number – 311 – to get information about or request a city service, city leaders in more than 300 eligible communities can reach out to the Network via 311 for Cities as a one-stop shop for information about leading practices in local government.

Launched in 2014, nearly two dozen cities have taken advantage of the service and many of the Network’s responses are posted online in the City Partnership Library and can be located by searching for “311 for Cities.”

We’ve gotten great questions recently from city leaders around the country on topics ranging from smart technology integration into infrastructure projects to creating a more diverse police force. Take a look at these summaries of a few of the requests and responses the Network has provided:

Improving Water and Roads: Best Practices and Smart Technology Integration

The Network team prepared a memo of case studies, best practices, and financing models for water and road systems, as well as key considerations when integrating smart technologies into these projects. Highlighted examples include models to foster collaboration across different authorities and greater use of private sector funding; both technology-based and “natural infrastructure” improvements; citizen reporting of infrastructure issues; and general advice for taking on new smart technology projects.

Creating a More Diverse Police Force

Recent events have highlighted the need for police forces to reconnect with communities. Part of this discussion has emphasized the value of having police departments that are more representative of the communities they serve. The Network identified barriers to recruitment and retention of diverse police forces (e.g. age, physical requirements, background, and lack of career track) and successful approaches and programs used to overcome these challenges.

Streamlined Eligibility for Programs Serving Low-Income Residents

A city leader wrote in for insight on the advantages, disadvantages, and challenges of using a single yardstick to measure and define eligibility for programs designed to support low-income residents, hoping to create a system that is easier on users and program administrators. The Network’s response pointed to some of the challenges cities must be aware of when considering this switch, but also successful models for streamlining eligibility determination, enrollment, and retention and best practices for income verification.

Transitioning from a Seven-Digit Non-Emergency Number to 311

The Network connected a city official with a national expert on 311 and customer relationship management to discuss the merits of switching to the three digit, 311 non-emergency number from the city’s existing seven digit number. During the consultation, issues of cost, impact on call load, and staffing were explored to help the city think through the potential advantages and drawbacks of transitioning to a 311 number.

*311 for Cities launched with the Network in 2014 and – at its peak – was available to more than 600 cities around the country. Local government staff in these communities could submit a question on any challenge they were facing and the Network team would develop a written response highlighting recent research, relevant case studies and best practices. This is one of those responses. The Network no longer offers 311 for Cities, but please contact us at if you think we can be of help to your community.