May 2012 | Volume 1, Issue 1  


 President Obama Announces White House Council on SC2
 Memphis: Create, Grow, Invest, Advance By Sarah Ray, Team Lead
 SC2 Community Solutions Teams


Memphis: Create, Grow, Invest, Advance By Sarah Ray, Team Lead

Skyline of Memphis.
Skyline of Memphis.

At the March 15 White House SC2 Convening, Memphis Mayor A C Wharton praised the initiative as being transformational for the City, and described the team’s work as doing three essential things: the SC2 team provides an outside perspective that helps to overcome roadblocks, identifies solutions to locally defined problems that draw on national innovations, and adds additional capacity to City staff to deliver on such efforts. To illuminate what this process looks like and how it has helped Memphis thus far, I’ll describe how Memphis went from 42 plans to 4 priorities with the help of the SC2 team.

During the Memphis SC2 Team’s first week on the ground in Memphis, we met with Mayor Wharton and his leadership team to get a sense of the projects on which we could provide support to the City. Not short on ideas or areas of need, the team quickly accumulated a long task list and a heavy set of strategic plans and program documents to review. After a few weeks of trying to tackle everything at once, the team went back to the Mayor and asked him to narrow our scope and provide a frame within which to prioritize our projects. The Mayor surprised the team with his response: he said that the City had been trying to do just that – be more focused, move from a system based on triage to one based on strategy – and asked if the team would lead the way in helping his administration to do so.

The team’s first step was to conduct an inventory of the 42 strategic plans underway in the City. The 42 plans were the result of the Mayor’s dynamism – the City had engaged in local public-private partnerships, attracted outside investment, and participated in community planning efforts – leaving the City with the enviable problem of having too many good things going on at once.

A streetcar passing through downtown Memphis.

With the inventory of the plans complete and an informal factor analysis showing the key areas of overlap among the plans, the team recommended that the Mayor establish clear priorities and craft a communications and operations plan to support implementation. The Mayor accepted the team’s recommendation and adopted four priorities for his new term that began January 1, 2012:

  • Create Safe and Vibrant Neighborhoods,
  • Grow Prosperity and Opportunity for All,
  • Invest in Young People, and
  • Advance a Culture of Excellence in Government.

Along with these priorities, the city adopted a new tagline: “City of Choice: Create, Grow, Invest, Advance.”

Though the priorities have already shown success in rallying the community and focusing the City’s efforts, the Mayor wanted to be able to track the City’s progress in the four areas in a more tangible way. The team connected the Mayor to best practices in data-driven performance management and is helping the City to launch a CityStat process. Through CityStat, the Mayor identifies measurable goals under each priority and uses data on a regular basis to check progress on those goals. The SC2 team is helping Memphis to model CityStat after the federal government’s HUDStat program (one of many programs following the New York City police department’s CompStat program model) – a fantastic example of how SC2 helps translate innovation from one level of government to another, and back again.

In Memphis, SC2 is working to help the City achieve its goals and to take a focused approach to becoming a City of Choice.



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