RIGO Methodology

This section briefly describes the methodology our team has used for researching and compiling data on Regional Intergovernmental Organizations (RIGOs).

Visit the Data page to download the project's most recent datasets.

Step 1: Define a Regional Intergovernmental Organization (RIGO) and its Properties

    An RIGO is an organization consisting of contiguous, general purpose local governments constituted for the purpose of setting (or influencing) the governmental agenda for the region across multiple policy areas. Participation is typically voluntary, although many are charged with mandates from state and federal governments that dictate minimum participatory scope. Based on this broad and general definition, we developed the following set of properties to determine which cross boundary organization (if any) would be selected within each region:

  • Governmental membership
  • Significant geographic scale
  • A multi-purpose functional agenda
  • The ambition to want to be a regional institution, and
  • A region-wide legitimacy as viewed by State and Federal institutions.

Step 2: Define "Region”

    The federal government, in its effort to make sense of a post-World War II urbanizing America, parsed America into a number of Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs). This is accomplished by combining American counties (and in New England, municipalities) into groups that share a common social and economic geography. Local governments, as a census function, are used to aggregate America into 388 MSAs and 541 micropolitan areas (MiSAs). Additionally, the federal process groups proximate MSAs and MiSAs into 169 Consolidated Statistical Areas (CSAs).

    As such, MSAs represent a powerful and accepted way of defining region. Our alternative methodology for identifying region starts with the same technique of grouping counties (municipalities in New England) used by the Federal Government in identifying MSAs – but substituting the boundaries of an existing cross-boundary organization for the interconnected algorithms of MSA delineations.

Step 3: Create a Map of America Based on Existing Cross-Boundary Organizations

    We started with a file of every county (municipalities in New England) in the United States. The information in that file included, among other items, the population and the MSA (if any) to which that county or municipality was assigned.  

    State by state, metro area by metro area, we reviewed the primary cross boundary organizations, assessed their properties and identified the organization (if any) that best matched those properties. As we pieced together a map of American RIGOs (and related organizations), we relied heavily on a systematic review of candidate organization websites, organizational bylaws, state laws and requirements regarding cross boundary organizations, and numerous discussions with Executive Directors and staff of many of the institutions.

    That process allowed us to see a mosaic of relationships and differing roles that have emerged in today’s regions. It also quickly became apparent that many regions had important cross-boundary organizations that, while they did not meet all five properties, could not be ignored as they are significant actors in that particular region.

    That process identified 475 organizations that we refer to as RIGOs. 

Step 4: Build a database of Information on the 475 RIGOs.

    In the summer of 2016, a research team was assembled to collect data on each RIGO by review of the organization’s website and other published material and to complete a standardized survey covering the following areas:

General Data




AboutUs, Vision/Mission Statements, History

Economic Development


Executive Staff


Workforce, WIB



Activity Index

Aging, Seniors

Native American


Energy (S,U,B,N)

Other Social Services



Climate Change

Community Development, Housing


Information Services

Regional Plan

Regional Water, Sewer, Stormwater

Special District



Regional Solid Waste, Recycling

Private Sector

Transit Operations

Regional Air Quality/ Energy


Social Services

Rural Transportation, Transit, RTPO



Urban Transportation, Transit, MPO


Land Use, Parks, open space, greenspace


Public Safety, 911, emergency management

Constituent Services

Center for Metropolitan Studies
3803 Wesley W. Posvar Hall, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15260