Regional Collaboration

What is regionalization or regional collaboration?

Regionalization, or “regional collaboration” as it is called in the Pacific Western Region, is a restructuring of how services are provided to congregations. The process began in 2011.

In the past, each of the four districts of the Pacific Western Region, including the Pacific Northwest District, the Pacific Central District, the Pacific Southwest District, and the Mountain Desert District, had its own district board and also had about three staff members who provided services to congregations in the district: a district executive, an additional field staff member, and a district administrator.

Under regional collaboration, each of the four districts still has its own district board, but the four districts of the PWR have entered into a collaborative agreement to contract with the UUA to provide services to the congregation of the region.

The region is now served by a field staff of seven, and an administrative staff of eight, including full-time and part-time staff members.

What are the advantages of having a regional staff instead of four district staffs?

The three main advantages are the opportunity to have increased specialization, teamwork, and accountability.

Having a regional staff allows each regional staff member to have particular areas of expertise. (District staff members had to be extreme generalists, knowing a little about a lot.) For example, the PWR staff has a youth ministry specialist, a communications technology specialist, and a stewardship specialist, among others.

Having a regional staff means that staff members are able to work together as a larger team, which makes their work both more enjoyable and more effective. For example, if one staff member is unavailable to provide a service to a congregation at a particular time, another staff member can step in.

Having a regional staff also means increased accountability. In the past, district field staff were co-employed by both the district board and the UUA, which meant two distinct groups were responsible for supervising and evaluating each staff member’s performance. Now all regional staff, including field staff and administrative staff, are UUA employees, and each staff member has a single supervisor, which increases accountability.

Isn’t the Pacific Western Region too big to provide adequate service to congregations?

Geographically, the Pacific Western Region is, by far, the largest of the five regions. However, a more important consideration than geography is the ratio of staff members to congregations. The staff member/congregation ratio is about the same as it was before regional collaboration. The Pacific Western Region has a better (higher) ratio of staff members to congregations than two of the other regions in the UUA. Field staff are still geographically dispersed throughout the region, so on average, they don’t need to travel farther than they did before regional collaboration, though this is less important than before in an age of mobile phones, email, and videoconferencing.

How is regionalization different in the Pacific Western Region than in other regions?

The Pacific Western Region is one of five regions that make up the UUA. The others include the New England Region, the Central East Region, the MidAmerica Region, and the Southern Region. In the Southern Region, district boards have dissolved. In the MidAmerica Region, the district boards merged into a regional board. In the New England Region and Central East Region, some district boards have dissolved and some remain.

Are the district boards in the Pacific Western Region planning to merge or dissolve?

The district boards of the Pacific Western Region have no plan to dissolve or merge at the current time. The boards, in addition to the Pacific Western Region’s Advisory Council, provide an important function in providing feedback to the regional lead and other UUA leadership about the needs of congregations and the quality of service provided by regional staff.

How are regional services funded?

About half the costs of regional services are funded by the four districts, and about half the costs of regional services are funded by the UUA. That means part of the funding for regional services comes from the per-member district dues each congregation pays and part of the funding comes from the per-member contributions each congregation pays to the UUA Annual Program Fund. Since the four districts are different sizes, each district contributes to the funding of regional services based on the number of congregation within the district.