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How to Implement Multi-Jurisdictional Policy Coordination

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Amanda L McGimpsey
August 12, 2019

Cities are increasingly finding that they must work together to address a range of subjects including climate change, homelessness, affordable housing, smart technology integration and competition in the global economy. As regions become more densely populated the need for multi-jurisdictional coordination between cities becomes more important. Public administrators must recognize the benefits and challenges with a multi-jurisdictional approach and learn how to develop coordination effectively.

Before pursuing multi-jurisdictional coordination to solve a regional problem, it is important to determine if it is appropriate for the situation. For instance, homelessness would be a good example where collaborating with local jurisdictions would be beneficial. Homeless individuals are transient and can move between neighboring communities. Cities can reduce duplication by coordinating services and maintaining a standardized database to share case information. In contrast, infrastructure may not necessarily be as good a candidate for a multi-jurisdictional approach. While cars travel between cities, roads and buildings exist only within city limits.

Once an administrator has identified if the topic would benefit from a multi-jurisdictional approach, they should carefully consider their potential partners. The most obvious partners would be with a neighboring city, however, quasi-governmental agencies should also be considered as potential partners. These include school districts, utility providers and transportation agencies. Considerations include whether they have successfully partnered in the past. Does the potential partner have similar needs and capabilities? Do they have compatible authority structures that would allow for streamlined decision making? And finally, are they both impacted by the same problem and invested in finding a solution?

The easiest way to establish multi-jurisdictional coordination is if there are already existing planning efforts and collaborations that can be built upon. It may be as simple as a regional community taskforce that can act as a foundation to bring the major players to the table. However, in many cases a city may need to initiate the effort.

Before a coordination effort begins, it is important to secure a level of commitment from all the potential partners to ensure that they are all invested in finding a similar solution. Each jurisdiction must agree with the definition of the problem and identify clear and standardized success metrics. In some cases, a third-party consultant may be needed at this stage to establish these parameters. In addition, it is important to identify the decision-making structure of all partners and establish clear communication channels. And finally, the partners should agree to a schedule of regular meetings with clear agenda items and metrics of success. These requirements should be documented in a letter of intent so all parties understand their roles and can be held accountable.

It is important to perform a capability assessment of all jurisdictions to identify technical expertise, administrative support and fiscal resources as well as duplicated services. All existing community policies, programs and procedures related to the subject should be reviewed. Existing commonalities, differences and legislative restrictions should be identified early in the development process to determine the ability and practicality of each jurisdiction to implement new policies. At the same time, a risk assessment should be conducted to understand the impact of changing existing policies.

It cannot be overstated that the process of setting up multi-jurisdictional coordination can be nearly as difficult as actually developing and implementing any plans that may come out of the partnership. In many cases, jurisdictions may agree that they want to coordinate their efforts but find it difficult to accept that by entering into coordination they must also give up an element of ownership in the issue. It is important to weigh both the benefits and challenges of this approach.

There are many advantages for multi-jurisdictional policy coordination. For instance, it can improve communication between jurisdictions and facilitate the sharing of information that can help cities reduce duplication. By coordinating efforts, it can also help maximize economies of scale, allowing cities to use their resources more efficiently and achieve bigger impacts. However, it is important to also acknowledge the disadvantages. As mentioned before, by agreeing to coordinate efforts jurisdictions will lose an element of individual control which some may find difficult to accept. The coordination will allow for the sharing of helpful information—but will also require the development of a standardized documentation system which may produce additional bureaucratic workload.

While each city must make their own decision about the level of coordination that is appropriate, it is important to understand how to work together to address regional issues. As public administrators, we should be familiar with best practices for multi-jurisdictional coordination.


Author: Amanda L McGimpsey is a policy analyst and community advocate focused on creating partnerships to solve social issues. She is currently pursuing an MPA from San Diego State University. With a decade of experience working in the field of higher education she has an interest in reexamining complex social issues to promote social equity. [email protected]




 

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The American Society for Public Administration is the largest and most prominent professional association for public administration. It is dedicated to advancing the art, science, teaching and practice of public and non-profit administration.

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