Exploring Ad Hoc Regionalism
A growing number of urban challenges—from threats of environmental degradation and sprawl, to social and fiscal disparity, to economic transformation and globalization—call for action at a regional scale. But regions in the United States largely lack governance capacity to formulate and execute plans to respond to these challenges. Some recent experiments aimed at developing governance capacity to address regional challenges rely on augmenting existing government institutions—councils of government, regional planning councils, and the like. But more often they involve interest groups from multiple sectors—public, private and nonprofit—operating in loose-knit, collaborative relations.
Douglas Porter and Allan Wallis have given the name ad hoc regionalism to this amorphous collection of governance experiments. This Policy Focus Report discusses a set of common issues that ad hoc efforts must address.
- Defining the region;
- Understanding the driving forces;
- Capacities to ensure success;
- Determining strategic handles for action;
- Sustaining action; and
- Sustaining organization.
As some of the experiments in ad hoc regionalism become more widespread, they may give rise to new institutionalized forms of governance. Meanwhile, ad hoc regional organizations are proving that they can make a difference in attracting attention to and providing solutions for region wide issues. Representatives from four regions—Cleveland; Santa Ana, California; Southeastern Massachusetts; and the New Jersey Highlands—described the purpose and work of their groups. Case studies of these regions, along with descriptions of other participating regions, are included in this report.
The goals of this report are to try to understand how these ad hoc efforts had emerged, how those involved defined their region, what factors drove the programs, what they were accomplishing, how well they were succeeding, and how they saw their own future. (Could they or did they even want to be sustained?) This report summarizes those themes and closes with an attempt to draw some lessons learned that can help inform efforts around the country that are struggling to develop greater governance capacity to address regional challenges.
About the Authors
Douglas R. Porter is the president of the Growth Management Institute in Chevy Chase, Maryland.
Allan D. Wallis is an associate professor of public policy at the University of Colorado at Denver.