• ad hoc regionalism;
  • economic development;
  • Four Corners region;
  • rural America;
  • U.S. Southwest;
  • western Kansas


Government units such as counties and cities have long been the basis for economic development, service delivery, and problem solving in rural America, but they are increasingly inappropriate, because many of them are too small to reach the critical mass and because rural issues often transcend arbitrarily set political boundaries. To overcome the resultant adverse effects, many rural communities have been rethinking their development strategies and actively forging regional partnerships. Ad hoc regionalism is a politically feasible and effective way for rural communities to collaborate in these initiatives. The exact issues that spark such collaboration may vary from place to place, but they are all grassroots, voluntary regional governance frameworks or innovations. They allow rural communities to pool their resources and reach the critical mass necessary to tackle a variety of regional issues and take advantage of new economic development opportunities without replacing or threatening existing government units. The two case studies discussed in this article—the western Kansas Rural Economic Development Alliance and the San Juan Forum in the Four Corners region of the southwestern United States—show that ad hoc regionalism offers several advantages over rural communities working independently but that challenges in implementing it exist.