Strong Cities, Strong Communities National Resource Network Program Evaluation

How To, Guide, or Manual National Resource Network September 15, 2018 Economic Development

 “Overall, Network engagements were viewed as a success…(city leaders) strongly believed that the engagements provided a valuable service…In fact, when asked whether the work done in the engagement would have occurred in the absence of the Network program, almost all respondents…indicated that they believed their city would not have been able to accomplish the task.”


As part of the National Resource Network’s original funding from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Urban Institute conducted a comprehensive evaluation of the Network’s efforts from 2013 through the end of 2016. During that time, the Network undertook 36 engagements, ranging from narrow to expansive—from creating a plan for a new fountain in the town square to developing a comprehensive antipoverty initiative. Within the nine engagements sampled for this evaluation, the investments ranged from $66,000 to $480,670 and took from 3 months to 1 year.

  • Baltimore, MD (school redevelopment, intensive);
  • Meridian, MS (downtown development, moderate);
  • Miami, FL (housing and neighborhoods, intensive);
  • Providence, RI (financial management, moderate);
  • Richmond, CA (financial management, moderate);
  • the Salinas, CA, region (workforce development, moderate);
  • Waco, TX (economic development, intensive);
  • Wilkes-Barre, PA (downtown development, light); and
  • Yuba City, CA (workforce development, moderate).

To evaluate the Network, the Urban Institute undertook interviews with key local government staff and the technical assistance providers both before and after each engagement in the sample. They then evaluated these data using an iterative process to organize information into key findings. The evaluation focused on the direct engagements, although it does include a brief overview of the NRN’s supporting activities as well.

This evaluation found that the Network offers a new, successful approach for the federal government to assist a set of distressed American cities. The sample of Network engagements examined in this study produced a number of valued short-term products and related benefits that furthered local interests.  The initial assessments conducted by the Network enabled the engagements to be more thoroughly and collaboratively planned between both the site and the TA providers than traditional consulting arrangements, increasing the probability that the assistance would be workable and match the true needs, desires, and capacities of the local governments and communities. The Network’s impact is also due to the emphasis on collaboration between not only various municipal departments but among the local government, civic leaders, and other stakeholders outside of the government.

Most importantly, the Network engagements were viewed as a success by city leaders, who believe that partnering with the Network provided a valuable service that their city would not have been able to accomplish otherwise.

Strong Cities, Strong Communities National Resource Network Program Evaluation