Intergovernmental Cooperation

What is intergovernmental cooperation?
In general terms, intergovernmental cooperation is any arrangement by which officials of two or more jurisdictions communicate visions and coordinate plans, policies, and programs to address and resolve issues of mutual interest. It can be as simple as communicating and sharing information, or it can involve entering into formal intergovernmental agreements and sharing resources such as equipment, buildings, staff, and revenue. It can even involve consolidating services, jurisdictions, or transferring territory.
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Why should different governments work together?
Many issues cross jurisdictional boundaries, affecting more than one community. For example, air and water pass over the landscape regardless of boundaries so that one jurisdiction’s activities with regard to air and water impacts other jurisdictions downwind or downstream.

Today, increased communication technologies and personal mobility mean that people, money, and resources also move across jurisdictions, as quickly and freely as air and water. Persons traveling along roadways use a network of transportation routes, moving between jurisdictions without even realizing it.

Frequently, the actions of one governmental unit impacts others. Increasingly, we have come to the realization that many vital issues are regional in nature. Watersheds and other ecosystems, economic conditions, land use, commuter patterns, housing, media markets, and effects from growth and change are all issues that spill over municipal boundaries and impact the region as a whole. Our communities are not islands. The health of our community and the health of our region are interconnected. The fate of one mirrors the fate of the other.

What are the benefits of intergovernmental cooperation?

  • Cost savings– Cooperation can save money by increasing efficiency and avoiding unnecessary duplication. Cooperation can enable some communities to provide their residents with services that would otherwise be too costly.
  • Address regional issues - By communicating and coordinating their actions, and working with regional and state jurisdictions, local communities are able to address and resolve issues which are regional in nature.
  • Early identification of issues - Cooperation enables jurisdictions to identify and resolve potential conflicts at an early stage, before affected interests have established rigid positions, before the political stakes have been raised, and before issues have become conflicts or crises.
  • Reduced litigation – Communities that cooperate are able to resolve issues before they become mired in litigation. Reducing the possibility of costly litigation can save a community money, as well as the disappointment and frustration of unwanted outcomes.
  • Consistency – Cooperation can lead to consistency of the goals, objectives, plans, policies, and actions of neighboring communities and other jurisdictions.
  • Predictability – Jurisdictions that cooperate provide greater predictability to residents, developers, businesses, and others. Lack of predictability can result in lost time, money, and opportunity.
  • Understanding – As jurisdictions communicate and collaborate on issues of mutual interest, they become more aware of one another’s needs and priorities. They can better anticipate problems and work to avoid them.
  • Trust – Cooperation can lead to positive experiences and results that build trust between jurisdictions.
  • History of success – When jurisdictions cooperate successfully in one area, the success creates positive feelings and an expectation that other intergovernmental issues can be resolved as well.
  • Service to citizens – The biggest beneficiaries of intergovernmental cooperation are citizens for whom government was created in the first place. They may not understand, or even care about, the intricacies of a particular intergovernmental issue, but all Wisconsin residents can appreciate their benefits, such as cost savings, provision of needed services, a healthy environment and a strong economy.