The Department of Housing and Urban Development took a step into a brave new networked future today.
NationalResourceNetwork.org launched Thursday as HUD’s first-ever interactive online library and tool kit. Aimed at helping urban professionals share resources and knowledge, and generally learn from one another, the network is just one part of the Obama administration’s effort to break down silos in government and empower cities. The online home of the Obama administration’s Strong Cities, Strong Communities National Resource Network (SC2 Network), the website offers a library of best practices and tool kits; a blog focused on proven policy solutions; and the first attempt to bring together the full range of federal technical assistance resources into one searchable format. But what really sets the website apart from other online resources is its “311 for Cities” feature, which offers on-demand access to expertise and assistance.
“A city manager or a budget director can email questions and get back direct responses in a very short time,” said David Eichenthal, executive director. “For that city manager or budget director, this is ‘I could go out and spend hours collecting this information or the National Resource Network could collect it for me and send it right to me.’”
The 311 program will start with a pilot group of 50 cities, but within a year, the network anticipates growing it to serve hundreds more.
In addition to the online components, the network will be on the road, providing on-the-ground support to at least 10 cities in its first year, with a plan to assist dozens more in coming years. Already, several southern California cities, Compton and Lynwood, as well as Kansas City, Kansas, Miami, Florida and Fall River, Massachusetts, have begun to work with the network.
The SC2 Network isn’t the first Obama administration attempt at creating a broad entity focused on cities. But instead of concentrating the power in a department like the Office of Urban Affairs — or even an inter-agency effort like the Partnership for Sustainable Communities — the network’s entities come from various sectors and bring different areas of expertise to the table.
This consortium includes affordable housing non-profit Enterprise Community Partners, financial advisory firms Public Financial Management and HR&A Advisors, as well as the International City/County Management Association and New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.
Ariella Cohen is Next City’s editor-in-chief.