Regional Collaboration Stewardship Across Boundaries
Defining the Region
Match the spatial scale to the problem and people’s interests.
The impetus to define a region is either rooted in a "sense of place," or it is based on the nature of the issue being addressed – the "problemshed." In the final analysis, the precise boundaries of a region are usually less important than clarifying the core area of interest and activity.
In practice, the definition of the region must not only capture the problem-shed, but also must integrate people's interests. The region must "fit" the interests and the problem. Consider the following diagnostic questions when defining the region:
Some Questions to Consider in Defining a Region
- Does the region adequately capture the problem area?
- Does it reflect natural boundaries – such as watersheds, transportation corridors, and wildlife habitat?
- Does the region reflect people's needs and interests?
- Will it inspire, mobilize, and engage people?
- Can you build on constituencies that are already present, and bound your region in terms they can readily understand and support?
- Can you work through or with established organizations, rather than create new regional efforts?
- Does the region resonate with the way in which most people define the social, economic, administrative, physical, and natural characteristics of the community or place?
- Is the region large enough spatially to capture the problem, but small enough to get traction politically?
Keep in mind that regional boundaries do not have to be exact and can even be fluid, as the nature of the problem and people's interests change. Most regions are likely to contain the following types of sub-regions:
A Region's Regions
- Megaregions – networks of metropolitan areas, connected by travel patterns, economic links, shared natural resources, and social and historical commonalities.
- Ecological regions based on the goods and services provided by large landscapes, such as air quality, water supply, water quality, and so on.
- Hydrological regions – watersheds and river basins.
- Megapolitan regions based on connected networks of metropolitan areas.
- Metropolitan regions based on an urbanized footprint.
- Economic regions based on trade flows, labor markets, and buying patterns.
- Administrative regions based on legal and institutional boundaries.
- Service regions based on service delivery territories.
- Cultural regions based on language, arts, literature, and social norms.