Partner Spotlight: ICMA

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Sustainability Survey

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Another key finding is that economic development was a high priority for local governments and was a prime motivator behind sustainability efforts.

“Governments are realizing the impact that sustainability has on their economic strength and we believe that’s a driving factor toward the increased focus on sustainability,” Newton said.

Data also revealed an opportunity for greater public engagement around sustainability. The majority of responding jurisdictions stated that public participation has had little or no impact in shaping sustainability plans and strategies.

“We see this as a critical need to make sure that the public is informed and engaged, because public engagement is critical to communities’ ability to address sustainability goals,” Newton said.

While the survey report highlights initial findings, ICMA continues to work with Cornell University and Binghamton University to dive deeper into the survey data, exploring trends and opportunities in different regions.

“We want to distill from the survey data what communities are identifying as best practices, and we want to share that broadly, nationally, internationally, and where we can find specific opportunities in each region, regionally,” Newton said.

Sustainability has been a focus area at ICMA for several years, and the 2015 Sustainability Survey is a follow-up to an original initiative launched in 2010. ICMA hopes to continue this research over time to develop a strong base of longitudinal data that can be used to inform practice.

National Resource Network

NRNICMA is a founding member of the National Resource Network, a HUD-funded consortium of five organizations united with the mission to support economically challenged cities across the country in achieving economic recovery and growth.

The Network provides a service called 311 For Cities, a resource line through which cities can  ask questions about their major challenges and receive a quick response offering resources and information.

Since its inception in 2014, the Network has directly engaged with over 50 cities across the country, with ICMA leading networking activities.

Each year, ICMA organizes a national convening that brings distressed communities together to discuss strategies for addressing high-priority issues facing them, like economic development, neighborhood revitalization and housing affordability. The network supports discussions with research and policy information.

The convening grew from a dozen cities in 2014 to 40 cities in 2015. Now in its third year, the Network is expanding the conversation beyond the annual national convenings to include small group discussions between communities via webinars and city exchanges throughout the year.

One peer-to-peer activity that ICMA is leading on behalf of the Network is a topic group focused on broadband access and digital inclusion in communities. Driven by seven cities that identified this as a priority, the group is collaborating to develop a resource guide for other cities that are interested in expanding digital inclusion and digital access for their communities.

The network is also working to strengthen partnerships and cooperation between cities and states, as state policies and funding have a significant impact on a city’s economic competitiveness.

Lowell is one city the Massachusetts State Resource Network will work with (wiki photo)

Lowell is one city the Massachusetts State Resource Network will work with (wiki photo)

Recently, the Network won the support of Mass Development to launch the first state-specific resource network: The Massachusetts State Resource Network. The state now works directly with distressed cities to help them achieve their goals.

ICMA is hoping this will be a model that gains traction and gets utilized in states across the country.

Moving Smart Growth Forward

By focusing on sustainability, ICMA is moving smart growth forward beyond the ten smart growth principles.

ICMA’s sustainability survey research provides evidence that sustainability is becoming a concern for more communities over time, and ICMA is leading the way in determining best practices for implementing sustainability plans.

ICMA has taken smart growth strategies like encouraging community and stakeholder collaboration in development decisions, and applied them beyond the ten smart growth principles, to include areas like sustainability.

ICMA demonstrates a clear understanding that the needs of every community are best defined by the people who live and work there, and they strive to make those needs heard through convenings and collaboration.

By bringing information and best practices to the forefront and encouraging discussion among local governments across the nation, ICMA is encouraging its 10,000 members to make smart leadership decisions that will affect tens of millions of individuals from small towns to big cities.