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Steering/Advisory Committee

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Brief description of technique
These committees are made up of council and community representatives, established to provide input and overview for either a particular project or issue (steering committee) or on an ongoing basis on specific issues (advisory committee).
To what kinds of consultation situations is this approach best suited?

Steering/Advisory committees are suited to overseeing developing projects, issues or long-term and targeted strategies.

How much time is generally needed?
Committees may be time-limited subject to the statutory requirements of a land use decision or they can be ongoing and can be convened over years.
What skills are required?

Facilitation or chairing skills are very important. Third-party facilitation may help if the issue or process is particularly contentious.

How are target populations identified and approached?

Steering committee members will have some sort of stake in the issue or process being discussed or developed. It is important that the key power brokers are involved, otherwise they risk becoming vocal outsiders to this process.

Advisory committee members may have a specific skill set or knowledge-base relevant to the emerging strategy or policy.

Potential committee members are often interviewed before selection by the convening body. Special needs of committee members will be canvassed at this time, which will include preference for venue and meeting times. Other needs, such as access requirements to venues and childcare assistance, may be relevant.

What kind of information do participants require prior to their involvement?

Depending on the issue, participants should receive draft Terms of Reference for the committee, detailed reports and background information on the issue; have access to any visual or audio-visual information which is relevant and details of key contacts or staff members to contact regarding their involvement.

They should also have a clear understanding of what their involvement might mean in terms of time required and anticipated input.

Brief outline of how the process usually works
  • Depending on the issue, meeting times and frequency will vary. For example, the development of a positioning policy such as a drugs strategy will require monthly meetings, whereas committees convened around land use planning decisions may require more frequent contact.
  • Terms of Reference are often circulated in draft form for agreement at the first meeting of the committee. These will typically contain information on the scope, role and responsibilities of the committee and timelines, where appropriate.
  • As well as agreed terms of reference, other protocols may be determined at the outset of the meeting. These could relate to respecting the views of others and other housekeeping matters. This theme of agreeing on key points of the process is important in ensuring committee members move forward together.
  • The committee will work towards its task, as identified in the Terms of reference. It will often work with consultants or staff members, who may present information to inform committee discussions.
  • A willingness to compromise and a commitment to the process are often key features of a successful committee. It is important that members representing broader stakeholders communicate with their constituencies.
  • Generally, steering/advisory committee members will be resourced by local government staff and will receive agendas and minutes prior to any designated meetings. Accurate reporting of proceedings is important.
How the process is successfully concluded?
  • The process is concluded with the completion of the policy or strategy or a decision made on a land use planning issue. This might include a set of actions, a formal report or recommendations to council.
How this approach is usually evaluated?
Evaluation for advisory committee may include a feedback or evaluation sheet for committee members.
Strengths
  • Provides detailed analyses of project issues.
  • Participants gain an understanding of other perspectives, leading towards compromise.
Weaknesses
  • General public may not embrace committee's recommendations.
  • Members may not achieve consensus.
  • Sponsors must accept the need for 'give and take'.
  • Time and labour intensive.
Resources Required

Depending on its duration, this can be a resource-intensive process in relation to staff time, use of consultants and venue hire.


CASE STUDY

Council or other authority
Wellington Shire Council
Name of Project
Streets of Harmony
Date of consultation
Ongoing - started January 2002
Aim of consultation
To engage a group of young people to perform a mapping and scoping exercise to identify projects, programs and that could involve young people. The programs did not have to be youth-specific.
Consultation methods used
  • One-to-one interviews
  • Surveys
  • Weekly committee meetings
Description of consultation

The target group was people aged between 12 and 24, who may not usually get involved in such a project. A school-based welfare worker helped select the initial group of young people that formed the Streets of Harmony Committee and has been involved in the development of a mapping and scoping exercise. The committee developed a survey and undertook consultation with community groups, businesses and other young people within the shire. About 20 young people have been involved in the committee and there are currently eight committee members who meet weekly. The numbers fluctuate slightly due to study, employment and sporting commitments. Training has and will continue to be provided to give the young people the skills they need to complete the project. The Streets of Harmony Committee is still meeting regularly to implement the recommendations from the consultation.

Success of the consultation

From council's perspective, the consultation has been successful. It has given young people an opportunity to identify issues that are important to them and has produced a database of youth programs which outlines their cost, where they are, who runs them, the amount of youth involvement, availability, and the possibility of further youth involvement. The youth committee has used this database to recommend issues and projects to focus on. The participants had a strong dedication to the project and a sense of ownership about the programs to be implemented from their recommendations.

An important lesson was to identify and use the participants' existing skills and allow them to develop new ones. As the project progresses, the participants' confidence and abilities increased.

Contact person
Name: Jodie Pullman Position: Youth Development Officer
Phone number: (03) 51 423 340 Email: [email protected]

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