Once the Community Council Board of Directors (Board) has approved an issue for study, usually in June, the president of the Board selects a volunteer committee chairperson (Chair). The Chair then selects members of a volunteer management team to guide the study process. The Chair and management team decide on a day and time for weekly committee meetings. These meetings normally last one and one-half hours.
During the summer, the Community Council staff conducts background research on the study issue and work with the Chair and management team to develop a calendar of weekly committee meetings. The first 15 to 17 of these meetings focus on fact-finding, with input from resource people and additional handout information from staff. The last eight or nine meetings are devoted to preparing the committee’s written report to the community.
The committee’s report contains the results of the committee’s fact finding, its conclusions from the findings, and its recommendations for improvement based on the conclusions.
In September, the Community Council through a variety of means including its newsletter, press releases, public service announcements, and email networks solicits everyone in the region to serve on the committee. There is no limit to the number of committee members.
Weekly committee meetings usually begin in October and continue, with a holiday break, through April or May. When the committee has reached consensus on its findings, conclusions, and recommendations, study report goes to the Board for review and approval.
Once approved by the Board, the study becomes the position of the Community Council, and is then released to the community at a public event, usually a luncheon, which is generally held in May or June, about a year after the study issue was approved by the Board.
Role of a Study Committee Member
The committee member’s primary responsibilities are to understand and analyze the issues of the study. Success of the study process depends on the active involvement of committee members in both the process of fact finding and the development of the study report. Committee members agree to abide by the Community Council’s Ground Rules for Civic Engagement, which are:
- Start and end on time.
- Turn off all cell phones and pagers.
- Engage in active listening.
- Actively participate.
- Raise your hand to speak and speak only for yourself.
- Be polite and attack the problem, not the person.
- All ideas and opinions are debatable.
- Stick to the topic.
- No filibustering.
- Respect the process.
- Have fun!
Besides regular attendance, active involvement in the fact-finding phase includes active listening, respecting and seeking to understand opposing points of view, and seeking understanding before seeking solutions.
Active involvement in the report-writing phase includes participating in the group process of reviewing and revising draft findings and of reaching consensus on conclusions and recommendations.
Role of the Study Committee Chair
The Chair’s primary responsibilities are to provide leadership and overall direction for the study process, the committee, and the committee’s report.
Process responsibilities include ensuring that the management team functions effectively, that the committee successfully engages in active listening and consensus building, that all committee members have opportunities to interact and to actively participate, that each committee meeting runs effectively, and that staff assistance is adequate and appropriate.
Content responsibilities include ensuring that proper planning is done so that the study issue is adequately covered in the fact-finding meetings and so that the study report adequately reflects the committee’s findings, conclusions, and recommendations.
The Chair also presents the committee’s study report to the Board, leads the committee’s presentation of the study to the community at the release event, and takes the lead in media and group presentations about the study following the event.
Role of the Study Committee Management Team
The management team’s primary responsibilities are to plan the direction of the study consistent with the issue approved by the Board, to guide the committee through the study process, and to assist in releasing the study report to the community. Working under the leadership of the committee Chair and with the assistance of staff, the management team fulfills several important functions.
Initially, the team plans the schedule of study meetings consistent with the study issue, and helps to identify and secure appropriate resource people for the fact-finding meetings. The team also draws up lists of key questions to guide the presentations of resource people. In addition, it reviews the initial list of committee members and takes steps to ensure diversity of interests and demographics.
During committee meetings, the team acts as a steering committee to guide the process and to ensure that the content of the study issue is covered effectively.
As the fact-finding meetings come to an end, the team reviews and revises the staff’s initial draft of findings for the study report before the draft goes to the committee as a whole for review and revision. This review considers both the clarity of writing and the completeness of the content.
Finally, the team participates in planning and making the presentation of the study report to the community at the release event and assists with media and group presentations about the study after the release event.
Role of the Staff in Support of the Study Committee
The primary responsibilities of staff are to facilitate the study process and to make the study experience enjoyable and stimulating for committee members.
The staff person assigned to the study does background research; works with the chair and management team to develop a meeting schedule; identifies resource people and develops key questions for the fact-finding meetings; handles logistics for the management team and committee meetings; writes summaries of the fact-finding meetings that become the basis for the committee’s findings; and provides additional written information gleaned from research.
The staff person writes the initial draft of the findings for the study report. This draft is reviewed by the Community Council’s professional staff members for clarity of organization and expression, but not content, before it is delivered to the management team for review.
The staff person also provides assistance to the Chair and management team as they prepare for the presentation of the study report at the release event. The Community Council support staff, with the assistance of the Board, handles logistics for the event and schedule media and group presentations following the event.