On November 16, 2016, building on the Administration’s efforts to modernize the way the Federal Government works with cities, counties, and communities — rural, tribal, urban, and sub-urban – the President signed an Executive Order establishing a Community Solutions Council. The Council will provide a lasting structure for Federal agencies to strengthen partnerships with communities and improve coordination across the Federal Government in order to more efficiently deliver assistance and maximize impact.
Across the country, citizens and local leaders need a Federal Government that is more effective, responsive, and collaborative in addressing their needs and challenges. Far too often, the Federal Government has taken a “one-size-fits-all” approach to working with communities and left local leaders on their own to find Federal resources and navigate disparate programs. Responding to the call for change from local officials and leaders nationwide, and grounded in the belief that the best solutions come from the bottom up, not from the top down, Federal agencies have increasingly taken on a different approach to working with communities to deliver better outcomes in more than 1,800 cities, towns, regions, and tribal communities nationwide.
As a part of this new way of working, Federal agencies are partnering with local officials to support local plans and visions. They are crossing agency and program silos to support cities, towns, counties and tribes in implementing locally-developed plans for improvement – from re-lighting city streets to breathing new life into half-empty rural main streets. And by using data to measure success and harnessing technology, Federal agencies are focusing on community-driven solutions and what works, while monitoring progress to make investments that have a strong base of evidence behind them.
Building on this success, the President today signed an Executive Order (EO) that will continue to make government work better for the American people. The EO establishes a Council for Community Solutions to streamline and improve the way the Federal Government works with cities, counties, and communities – rural, tribal, urban and sub-urban – to improve outcomes. The Council includes leadership from agencies, departments and offices across the Federal Government and the White House, who together will develop and implement policy that puts local priorities first, highlights successful solutions based on best practices, and streamlines Federal support for communities. Further, the Council, where appropriate, will engage with representatives and leaders of organizations, businesses and communities to expand and improve partnerships that address the most pressing challenges communities face.
This Administration has been dedicated to leaving the Federal Government better and more effective than we found it. This Executive Order is just one part of accomplishing that goal and, as the work of government continues, will equip new leadership with an important tool as they undertake new policies and initiatives.
Local Partners Driving Progress
Local leaders are tackling the country’s toughest challenges and a more effective, responsive, and collaborative Federal Government has led to improved infrastructure, revitalized neighborhoods, and increased economic opportunities for their communities. Here, they highlight some of the benefits of a strong Federal-local partnership:
- Fresno, CA: “Having Federal partners working with you, rooting for you, helping to remove obstacles instead of being the obstacles themselves, completely reinvigorates you as a community and helps you really know that you can in fact move forward.” – Mayor Ashley Swearengin
- Rockford, IL: “[Strong Cities, Strong Communities] gave us a much more personal relationship between the city and…the federal government…Lynnette [Strong Cities, Strong Communities Team Leader] is an example of what this President was willing to do to humanize our work with the federal government.” — Mayor Larry Morrissey
- Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma: “I am very thankful that the Choctaw Nation and partners have been awarded the Promise Zone designation….this designation will assist with ongoing efforts to emphasize small business development and bring economic opportunity to…high-need communities. I am confident that access to the technical assistance and resources offered by the Promise Zones designation will result in better lifestyles for people living and working within the Choctaw Nation” — Choctaw Chief Gregory E. Pyle
- Gary, IN: “In addition to putting out fires, we’ve had the luxury of long-term planning with the Feds coming in to work side by side with us each day [through Strong Cities, Strong Communities]. So often as city leaders, we think about how to get money from the Federal Government. But what I’ve come to understand is that the technical assistance and ability to work across agency lines has been priceless to the City of Gary.” – Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson
- Atlanta, GA: “The City of Atlanta is honored to participate in the TechHire Initiative. In partnership with community leaders and business partners, we will provide residents with the accelerated, technical training needed to obtain better jobs and achieve brighter futures. The Atlanta TechHire Initiative will be essential to ensuring that our residents have the skills needed to compete in the global economy.” – Mayor Kasim Reed
Building on Efforts to Further Federal Partnership with Cities, Counties, and Communities
Today’s Executive Order builds on the last seven years of work done by Federal leaders—many working behind the scenes–and the successful efforts of the Community Solutions Task Force (Task Force) launched in 2015. The Task Force worked to solidify progress made beginning with budget guidance issued in February 2009 to develop a customized Federal approach to working with cities and towns. The Federal programs launched since then—from Strong Cities, Strong Communities to the Partnership for Sustainable Communities and beyond— have revealed ways the Federal Government can work better with local places to drive desired outcomes.
This progress is further fueled by efforts such as:
- Optimizing Federal Investments: The Federal government has used data and administrative tools to drive Federal investments to communities where they can make the biggest impact. Recognizing that their loans and grants could be more strategically used for highest-need areas, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development empowered staff with simple outreach tools and accountability measures to increase investments in persistent-poverty communities. In just three years, the share of targeted USDA investments directed to high poverty areas has increased by $2.5 billion – at no additional cost to its programs overall.
- Harnessing Data and Technology to Improve Outcomes for Communities: The Federal government is working to foster collaborations between communities and the tech sector, non-profits and citizens to help communities develop new ways to use both Federal and local data to address challenges with greater precision and innovation. As a result, new digital tools are helping citizens find affordable housing near jobs and transportation, matching unemployed Americans with jobs that meet their skills, enabling local leaders to use data to better target investments, and more.
- Streamlining Federal Engagement: Federal teams are working intensively in over 20 high-need cities, regions and tribal nations around the country. These teams align resources from across the Federal government and work behind the scenes to build local talent and capacity so that communities like Detroit and Baltimore can emerge from crisis. The Johns Hopkins University 21st Century Cities Initiative published a Federal-Local Partnerships Playbook, drawing on the experience of Federal teams in these communities.
Photo credit: WhiteHouse.gov