Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Public Affairs and Administration

First Advisor

Dr. Susan B. Hannah

Second Advisor

Dr. Peter Kobrak

Third Advisor

Dr. Ben Rudolph


This case study contributes to the understanding of governance in Metropolitan areas of the U.S. by examining cooperative activity among local units of government in the Grand Rapids, Michigan metropolitan area. A conceptual framework identifies the factors which impact cooperation, and displays a theoretical continuum of approaches to metropolitan governance.

The research methodology is qualitative and includes four years of participant observation, extensive records analysis, a survey of local government managers and 21 interviews with key informants.

The findings identify 151 examples of formal and informal cooperation occurring in Grand Rapids metro, as well as eight categories of factors which impact cooperative activity. The study concludes that local governments in Grand Rapids metro are unlikely to consolidate, but intergovernmental cooperation is occurring. Economics, the political culture of the area, and metropolitan leadership are key factors influencing cooperative efforts.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access