National Resource Network's Peer Activity

Peer learning is a key component of the National Resource Network’s approach to working with cities. Local leaders tackling similar challenges have a lot to learn from each other; to help facilitate exchanges between communities, the Network researched best practices in peer activity when we launched in 2014 and solicited feedback from our first partner cities.

A central and highly successful component of the Network’s peer activity has been an annual peer convening that brings together leaders from the cities with which the Network has partnered to share successes, challenges, and lessons learned. Cities have typically sent two high-ranking city government officials and a third participant from a local foundation, anchor institution, chamber of commerce, or other key partner to each convening; this model has proven very successful in moving cities toward action on ideas generated at the convening.

The Network has hosted three peer convenings: a smaller, inaugural event in Chattanooga (2014) that also helped establish the trajectory of the Network’s peer activity, and two larger convenings – in Miami (2015) and New Orleans (2016) – that each brought together more than 100 representatives from 30-50 cities.  The last two convenings have focused on a mix of participant-led educational sessions, formal and informal networking, and city tours. Review the agendas for the 2015 and 2016 convenings online.

In addition to the in-person convenings, the Network – in partnership with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) – facilitated the work of six cities to produce a guidebook on improving broadband access and digital literacy in communities. Released in 2016, this guide serves as both a valuable source of information and a vehicle for continued communication and collaboration between local government stakeholders focused on broadband and digital inclusion.

A Steering Committee comprised of representatives from Flint, MI; Kansas City, KS; Meridian, MS; Miami, FL; Rocky Mount, NC: Waco, TX; and Youngstown, OH provided invaluable advice and feedback in shaping the Network’s early peer efforts. 

Moving forward, the Network is focused on creating State Resource Networks (SRN) that, among other kinds of support, provide an opportunity for economically challenged communities within states to develop stronger relationships with one another and, collectively, with their state leaders. In 2016, the Network launched the first SRN in Massachusetts; in 2017, we announced a California SRN; and in 2018, we kicked off a new SRN in New Jersey.