Cooperation thru Co-Membership: Assessing the Effectiveness of Local Government Networks in Metro-Detroit

Kelly LeRoux, University of Kansas

Document Type Article

Paper presented at the annual meetings of the Midwest Political Science Asscociation, Chicago, IL, April 20-23, 2006.


This paper uses a multiple case study approach to examine community conferences, a type of voluntary association of local governments that resemble smaller-scale versions of councils of governments. The purpose of this analysis is determine the effectiveness of these organizations in brokering several types of regional cooperation including service-sharing arrangements. A multiple case study approach is used to examine three community conferences in the Metro Detroit area, representing a total of forty one urban communities to examine the link between various forms of regional cooperation and their affiliation through the community conference. Community conferences are examined as networks of local governments and the effectiveness of these three networks is assessed at the community, network and participant levels using Provan and Milward’s (2001) framework for assessing network effectiveness. Findings suggest that community conferences are effective vehicles at the community level in that create regional social capital and contribute to a sense of collective identity by providing regional political representation and mobilizing voters around issues that affect the region. They are also highly effective at the participant level, as they enhance the legitimacy and increase the resource acquisition capabilities of member local governments. Moreover, participating local governments indicate that community conferences are more valuable affiliations for their jurisdiction than their membership in the local council of governments. However, community conferences are less effective at the network level, as local political barriers limit their abilities to reduce service duplication and to coordinate municipal services.