Regionalization news

The staff of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) are slowly developing what has come to be known as “regionalization.” Although as I understand it regionalization originally came out of initiatives by districts to share and pool scarce resources, now the UUA is being driven towards regionalization by economic necessity. In a recent presentation to district staff, made available on YouTube, Teresa Cooley, Director of Congregational Life, says this:

“We have reduced resources, we have an obligation to steward our resources better, and one of the recognitions we have is: to have administrative structures for nineteen different districts is not necessarily the most cost effective way of doing things.”

I’ll embed the video below.

This talk to district staff serves as a good introduction for those of us in local congregations who are trying to understand how the UUA is going to respond to district regionalization initiatives, and how the UUA will try to undertake its own initiatives towards regionalization.

One thing that became quite clear to me as I listened to Cooley — no one is quite sure how this is going to play out. With that kind of lack of certainty, people are going to be anxious, and that means rumors will fly, some people will get angry at the UUA and other leaders, and I guarantee that more conspiracy theories will arise to join the already existing conspiracy theories. It would be wise for all of us to remember the words of Sir Bernard Ingham: “Many journalists have fallen for the conspiracy theory of government. I do assure you that they would produce more accurate work if they adhered to the cock-up theory.”

Cooley addresses the conspiracy theories directly when she says this in her talk:

“Because we’re changing that [UUA] staff structure does not mean we’re changing the district structure itself. We are not in a position to tell district boards how they do their work, or how they make their decisions.”

In other words, she recognizes that the UUA cannot take over districts, since districts exists as separately incorporated organizations.

Mind you, there are plenty of opportunity for Sir Bernard’s cock-ups in the model presented by Cooley. But there are also plenty of opportunities for better delivery of services to my congregation: instead of relying on the skills of one or two field staffers, it looks like I might be able to draw on the skills of half a dozen field staffers. This is very good news, from my point of view as someone working in a local congregation.

One thought on “Regionalization news”

  1. Speaking as a former insider now enjoying my retirement from UUA leadership, I really like the idea of coupling regionalization of service delivery with reconsidering the role and size of districts. For years, we struggled needing to make sure that each district had a sufficient number of congregations and UU members to maintain a reasonable staffing level — that meant we had a district map with tiny districts like Mass Bay and huge ones like Mountain Desert, all with roughly the same number of congregations and UUs.

    The regionalization of service delivery is helpful in that it frees local UUs to reimagine the district map — I know some assume the districts would get bigger to match the regional service structure, but I’m thinking in the opposite direction. I’ve long felt that the appropriate district should be small enough that everyone could wake up on a Saturday morning, drive to a district event and be home that night. The advantage of regionalization is that it makes it possible to have districts like that (essentially clusters) — no longer do we have concerns that this would mean tiny Western districts that couldn’t each maintain a district staff. Freed up of the staff function, districts would be free to rethink what the roles are and how big they need to be. But this rethinking will have to be done by the districts themselves.

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