Guides & Toolkits

NLC's action guides, action kits, and city practice briefs provide city leaders with helpful information in a concise format to help them address various topics of concern to their communities. Each guide identifies a common local challenge, outlines strategies and a menu of action steps for cities to consider, and highlights effective city practices and other resources. NLC's toolkits offer more in-depth, step-by-step guidance to help local elected officials and senior municipal staff implement promising approaches to key local problems.

  • Taking the First Step: Six Ways to Start Building Financial Security and Opportunity at the Local Level (2013)

    Drawing on the experiences of cities of all sizes across the nation, a new report published by CFED and NLC highlights six no-cost or low-cost ideas for how city officials can get started in helping more families in their community achieve financial stability. These concrete, low-cost strategies can build on existing city initiatives to empower families by helping them learn financial skills, maximize their earnings and income, save and invest for the future, and protect their assets.

  • Getting Things Done Together: A Workbook for Achieving Regional Goals (2012)

    Getting Things Done Together offers a new and better way to plan for getting things done regionally. It was created for people who are ready and willing to work toward accomplishing an important goal for their communities and neighboring areas. When you have finished the Workbook, you will have a thorough grasp of the strengths and weaknesses of your initiative, as well as a plan for moving forward.

  • Building Management Information Systems to Coordinate Citywide Afterschool Programs: A Toolkit for Cities (2012)

    Comprehensive, citywide afterschool systems have emerged in several dozen communities across the country as a promising strategy for improving the safety, health and academic preparedness of children and youth. This new report developed by NLC's YEF Institute offers municipal leaders a detailed guide for building management information systems in order to coordinate local afterschool programs more effectively.

  • City Leadership to Promote Black Male Achievement (2012)

    This municipal action guide published by NLC's YEF Institute with support from the Open Society Foundations Campaign for Black Male Achievement highlights potential strategies and promising city approaches for reducing the persistent disparities between black males and their peers in the areas of education, work and family.

  • City Strategies to Engage Older Youth in Afterschool Programs (2012)

    To assist city leaders who are working to expand the number of high-quality programs for youth ages 11-18, the YEF Institute has published this new guide on City Strategies to Engage Older Youth in Afterschool Programs, with support from The Wallace Foundation. The guide identifies four strategies that city leaders can use to increase afterschool program participation among older youth.

  • Managing Foreclosures and Vacant Properties (2012)

    City leaders play a key role in working with national, state, local and non-profit partners to help residents keep their homes and help communities cope with the ongoing effects of the foreclosure crisis. This guide offers solutions for the challenges that cities and city leaders face in dealing with foreclosures: preventing vacancies, preventing deterioration, rehabilitation and re-use and demolition.

  • Municipal Leadership for Postsecondary Success: Getting Started (2012)

    With support from Lumina Foundation, NLC's YEF Institute has developed a new series of publications highlighting city strategies to increase local college completion rates. The first guide in the series outlines a set of action steps for city leaders who are concerned about low college completion rates and want to identify and advance solutions.

  • Conducting a Scan of Local Efforts to Promote Postsecondary Success (2012)

    This guide provides an in-depth look at the important information gathering work that must precede a comprehensive postsecondary initiative. In most communities, many entities are involved in addressing the key obstacles to access and completion, from inadequate academic preparation and financial barriers to lack of information on college options and application processes and limited supports for students enrolled in a postsecondary program.

  • Using and Sharing Data to Improve Postsecondary Success (2012)

    This guide suggests a sequence of action steps that municipal leaders can take to understand college access and success rates in their cities, including where students exit the educational pipeline and what factors appear to affect student outcomes. The publication offers guidance on various data sources that cities can use to establish baseline measures and set ambitious goals for improvement.

  • Public-Private Partnerships for Transportation Projects (2012)

    Public-private partnerships, or PPPs, are increasingly becoming a viable financing alternative for local governments as they look for ways to fund their infrastructure projects. In the past, the private sector was limited to separate planning, design or construction contracts but now their role has been expanded to allow public agencies to tap private sector technical, management, and financial resources in new ways. Public-Private Partnerships for Transportation Projects is a new municipal action guide that describes PPPs, specifically for developing transportation and transit projects. It looks at the some of the common structures used for transportation financing and development, the benefits and risks, strategies for effective implementation, and real-life examples which detail successes as well as challenges.

  • Resilient Cities in a Transforming State: A Snapshot of Local Action in Michigan (2012)

    This report on resilient cities focuses on the responses carried out by local actors in Michigan in communities adversely impacted by job and real property losses during the last decade. The examples, reflections and experiences were gathered during a Leadership Forum, which brought together federal, state and local decision makers. The three major themes that are woven into this report are inclusive community engagement, capable local leadership and cross-cutting partnerships. The lessons from the experiences in Michigan will serve as models for other communities struggling with similar challenges.

  • Supporting Entrepreneurs and Small Business: A Toolkit for Local Leaders (2012)

    The importance of entrepreneurs and small businesses has been a central theme in discussions of the national recovery. On the local level, city leaders understand first-hand the importance of entrepreneurs and small businesses. Entrepreneurs and small businesses: create new jobs and employ local residents; play a pivotal role in creating a unique sense of place that enhances a community’s quality of life; and in a more footloose, global economy, homegrown businesses may have deeper roots than those gained through attraction strategies. This tool kit examines the question: How can local governments support entrepreneurship and small businesses? To encourage entrepreneurs, local governments need to examine how they can contribute to an entrepreneurial eco system by tackling efforts within city hall and partnering and connecting with external stakeholders.

  • Positive Crossroads: Mexican Consular Assistance and Immigrant Integration (2012)

    Mexico's consular network is the largest and most extensive of any foreign government in the U.S. For the last twenty years, and especially since 2003, with the creation by a presidential decree of the Institute for Mexicans Abroad (IME), the Mexican Consulates have fostered and developed programs and initiatives to assist, educate and help Mexican citizens living in the U.S. This report highlights a selection of successful practices developed by the Mexican Consulates with their local partners, including local governments, school districts, public libraries, faith-based organizations, police departments and the private sector.

  • City Examples in Civic Engagement

    As part of NLC's extensive work on democratic governance and civic engagement, we have assembled a collection of promising practices in cities across the country. These examples represent the variety of programs and partnerships that can be used to encourage citizens to become more engaged in their communities and provide them with the opportunities to do so.

  • Planning for Stronger Local Democracy (2011)

    As a culmination of NLC’s work over the last decade responding to the challenges of governing democratically, NLC’s democratic governance project has published Planning for Stronger Local Democracy: A Field Guide for Local Officials. This tool kit, made possible with support from the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation, is designed to assist officials in strengthening local democracy by cultivating transparency and inclusivity with citizens and key allies with shared responsibilities and mutual accountability for addressing and solving problems.

  • Strategies for Globally Competitive Cities: Local Roles in Foreign Direct Investment and International Trade (2011)

    While the majority of local leaders feel that expanding global economic linkages is critical to competitiveness, many communities are not engaged in efforts to support these linkages. Much of this disconnect can be attributed to local leaders not knowing how to connect their communities to the global economy, and a lack of information available about their potential roles. The purpose of this guide is to provide practical tools, resources and promising practices to facilitate local action. In particular, the guide focuses on foreign direct investment (FDI) and international trade — two areas in which local leaders can have a true impact in their roles as catalysts, conveners and connectors.

  • Sustainable Connections: Strategies to Support Local Economies (2011)

    Economic health and prosperity is a defining component of sustainability. Yet until recently the conversation surrounding sustainability efforts has focused largely on issues of environmental protection and too often presumed to be in competition with, or otherwise tangential to, economic growth. This guide presents five components often associated with sustainability – green space, community design, complete streets, food access and green buildings – that also benefit the local economy and in so doing, may enhance regional resiliency and the ability of cities to compete in the global marketplace. This publication has been made possible through a grant from Wells Fargo.

  • Healthy People, Healthy Places – Building Sustainable Communities Through Active Living (2011)

    The ways in which we shape our built environment—including the range of transportation options, provision of open space, and accessibility to places of work, education, or basic services—contributes to the physical health of our communities by either restricting or facilitating opportunities for physical activity, recreation and community interaction. Local leaders play an important role in promoting public health through creating the conditions for individuals to incorporate healthy options into their daily lives. This guide explores several ways that cities are incorporating options to promote active living and emphasize the multiple connections to sustainability principles.

  • Guides and Toolkits Library

    A recent history of the Guides, Toolkits, and City Practice Briefs from the National League of Cities.