Driving Regional Cooperation

Our individual communities are connected and share a common fate. When we remain fragmented, our efforts are piecemeal and disjointed. When we work together, we can drive positive change for the whole region. Regional cooperation may focus on many things – advancing regional plans, creating common policies, improving inefficient systems, building innovative programs – but the end goal of a better region for all is the same.

What We Believe

Metro areas with strong regional cooperation structures tend to perform better over time on economic measures such as job growth, population growth, median household income, poverty rate, and labor force participation. 1    Structure is key: regions must create structures and processes for cooperation that function well and endure through political change. Building trust and a sense of shared fates is also important. We believe that if we build effective structures for regional cooperation and nurture a culture of trust, our region can ‘grow the pie’ for everyone.

While research shows that cooperation does not always lead to greater efficiency, the right kind of cooperation can deliver more effective, community-responsive services at a similar or lower cost. By consolidating government services, Charlotte, NC has reduced duplication, increased savings on buildings and other assets, and leveraged economies of scale.  Birmingham-area Riverkeepers have lowered costs and increased quality and consistency of water quality programs through collaboration. 1  

Regions that focus on cooperation have shown they can be highly successful at expanding high quality, regional amenities.  For example, Denver has built an extensive regional transit system and dedicated $50 million in annual arts funding that flows to large institutions and grassroots organizations alike. 1    It is important that philanthropy sits within a community of public-private partnerships that seeks creative funding solutions to build and sustain regional amenities.

[1] Together We Can…Charting a Course to Regional Cooperation in Birmingham, Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama, 2017.

The Impact We Seek

By supporting regional cooperation between organizations, municipalities, and communities, we aim to:

  1. Increase regional, equitable economic growth
  2. Increase the efficiency and effectiveness of public and private entities
  3. Improve the quality of regional amenities and developments

What Progress Looks Like

While there are many roads to regional cooperation, below are some measures the Foundation will track that we see as critical markers of progress. We will also track qualitative measures and – because this work is dynamic and we are learning – may evolve our measures over time.

  • Number of regional collaborative plans
  • Number of regional collaborative agreements
  • Number of regional collaborative advocacy initiatives
  • Amount cost savings through collaborative projects (organizational, municipal, etc.)
  • Amount national and/or federal funding secured through collaborative efforts
  • Number of public/private funding partnerships
  • Number of major regional collaborative projects or initiatives


The Together We Can report provides foundational data and analysis on fragmentation in Jefferson County and models for regional cooperation in other metro areas.

The Fund for Our Economic Future (FOEF) is an example of how philanthropy can lead in building strong regional partnerships to advance regional cooperation and inclusive economic growth.  FOEF’s longtime President, Brad Whitehead, was the Foundation’s featured Regional Cooperation speaker for 2019.  FOEF’s website provides an overview of their work and philosophy, and this handbook highlights FOEF’s approach to collaboration.

Together We Can website