The Tools We Will Explore Today
 Advisory groups
 What are advisory groups?
 How are advisory groups used?
 Preliminary requirements
 IAP2 participation planning steps
 Advisory group process
 Components of design
Photo by Minnesota Department of Transportation
Advisory Groups
 Advisory groups are a body of individuals convened to provide advice
to decision makers. Often, the group:
 Meets regularly over time
 Is composed of targeted skills, experience and/or perspectives
 The extent to which the group is responsible for recommendations
vs. final decisions is typically dependent upon the convening
organization or decision maker. However, in some cases, advisory
groups may be mandated or remnants of the past.
Advisory Groups
 How do advisory groups survive as a technique?
 Gathering a group of advisors to assist leadership make decisions
is an age-old practice. The oral and written histories of most
cultures indicate the existence of advisory groups.
 What are the benefits?
 A sense of partnership regarding an issue can be built
 Decision makers can hear a variety of perspectives
 Awareness and understanding between different points of view
can be enhanced
 Relationships and trust can be developed or repaired
Advisory Groups
 What are the challenges?
 Achieving commitment of the sponsor
 Clearly communicating the focus and boundaries of the group’s
 May extend over time
 Attracting participants / time commitment
 Follow-through on the part of the sponsor
 Determinants of effectiveness
 Commitment of the sponsor- from start through follow-up
 Comprehensive planning prior to starting an advisory group
 Precise design of the technique
Advisory Groups
 IAP2 – the International Association for Public Participation – is
the preeminent international organization advancing the
practice of public participation.
Preliminary Requirements; IAP2 Participation planning steps.
 Comprehensive pre-planning prior to the selection of any
participation tool is imperative. The IAP2 public participation
planning steps serve as a productive guide and offer essential
activities to prepare an initiative or project for implementation.
 All steps must be thoroughly developed prior to the decision to
apply an advisory group.
Photo by Minnesota Department of Transportation
IAP2 Planning Steps
 Internal commitment gained
 By whom will the decision be made?
 What is the problem to be addressed and decision to be made?
 Understanding of the public & issues
 Public issues and perceptions
 Determine key stakeholders
 Key perspectives to be involved in the project
IAP2 Planning Steps
 Level of participation selected
 Select level from the IAP2 spectrum for public participation
 Decision process defined and participation program objectives
 Process by which decision will be made
 Determine public participation objectives to be achieved at
each step of the decision process
IAP2 Planning Steps
Public participation plan design- outlined and in-process
 Figure out why an advisory group is being selected as a technique
At each step in the decision process:
 Define problem
 Gather information
 Establish decision criteria
 Develop alternatives
 Evaluate alternatives
 Make the decision
 Determine other techniques that may be applied, in addition, to the
advisory groups
IAP2 Planning Steps
 Sponsor anticipated outcomes & objectives
 Prior to final selection of an advisory group as a technique,
potential product outcomes and objectives should be anticipated
by the organization
 Product outcomes may include:
 Information gathered
 Recommendations submitted
 Report issued
 Writing objectives to be achieved by the use of advisory groups is an
important preparation activity and failure to establish objectives is a
precursor to inefficiency, lack of productivity, and discontent among
all parties
IAP2 Planning Steps
 Sponsor anticipated outcomes & objectives
 Objectives are statements that indicate who will achieve what,
and by when. Types of objectives are:
 Product objectives
 Products the group will deliver, both during the process and
at the end are identified by product objectives
 Behavioral objectives
 Objectives that describe how the advisory group members
will act or behave may be appropriate
 Affective objectives
 Objectives that center on relationships, emotions, and
feelings are affective
Photo by Minnesota Department of Transportation
Advisory Group Process
 Components of design- essential components within the design of an
effective advisory group include the following:
 Reason for being- purpose & relationship
 Members
 Roles and responsibilities
 Operations and logistics
 Documentation
 A comprehensive advisory group design is dependent upon the
consideration of each component and the sub-topics explored in this
Advisory Group Process
 1. Reason for being- purpose
 An advisory group is typically convened by a decision making
organization for a specific purpose. However, in post-group
analysis of advisory groups that did not work effectively, the most
common themes are misunderstood relationships with the
sponsor, failure to have a shared purpose and failure to
communicate constraints to members
 A. the relationship of the advisory group to the decision making
 Identify the primary relationship within the sponsoring
organization in the form of a point of contact
 Explain the relationship of the group to the layers of decision
makers between the point of contact and the highest executive
Advisory Group Process
 A. the relationship of the advisory group to the decision making
 Review the decision making process as it affects the work of
the advisory group and show how the group fits into the
 Explain relationships with partners of the organization
 Identify relationships between the public & other
stakeholders and the advisory group
Advisory Group Process
 B. The purpose of the group
 Clearly articulate the reason the organization is sponsoring the
 State the purpose and expected products
 In the group’s kick-off activity have the group restate the
purpose in their own language and affirm their agreement with
the purpose
 Create a poster or banner of the group’s purpose and post at
every meeting
Advisory Group Process
 C. Constraints to the group’s assignment
 Identify any constraints that may exist and are known to the
sponsor ( mandates, budget schedules, funding, etc. )
 Caution: if deadlines appear to be a constraint, authenticate
the validity
 Acknowledge potential unknown constraints ( funding, change
of administration, etc. )
 If the recommendations must be approved prior to being
enacted, the group needs to understand that the early
commitment of the sponsor to consider their recommendations
is no guarantee that all recommendations will be enacted.
Explaining why this possibility exists is essential
Advisory Group Process
 2. Membership
 A. Size & composition of membership
 The optimal size of the group is often debated. A
manageable group is no more than 12-15 people.
 The membership of a group may be designed to provide a
focused or a broader, more general set of criteria.
Depending upon the sponsor’s objectives, members may:
 Require specific credentials or experience
 Demonstrate special interests
 Represent affiliation with specified organizations
and/or stakeholders
 Reflect predetermined geographic areas
Advisory Group Process
 B. Credentials
 Requirements that define credentials and experience of
members must be crediable
 C. Interest & perspectives
 Thorough identification of issues and stakeholders completed in
earlier planning reveals the interests and perspectives to be
reflected in the membership
 Selection of interests and perspectives to be included tends to
produce strong results when done by a group rather than one
individual. Perhaps, there is a role for public participation in this
Advisory Group Process
 D. Organizational or constituency affiliation
 It may be appropriate for advisory group members to represent
distinct organizations or constituencies
 In this case, the invitation or announcement of the
participation opportunity needs to be sent to the organization,
rather than any one individual
 Also, if this is the case, some documentation that the individual
has been assigned the representative role is suggested
 Geographic considerations
 If geography has an impact on the problem or opportunity to be
addressed by the advisory group, attention must be given to
defining the requirement characteristics upon which the
decision is made
Advisory Group Process
 F. Demographics
 Depending upon the issue
 Age
 Gender
 Disability
 Income level
 Proximity to the issue ( user, property owner, etc. )
Advisory Group Process
 G. Term limitation & vacancies
 Establishing an ending date for the advisory group is strongly
 Term limits are also beneficial to prospective members in
evaluating the time they are being asked to give
 If an advisory group is being created with a long-term, standing
assignment, staggering member terms may be useful to provide
 It is common that despite the best of intentions members find
they are no longer able to serve. Consideration of this
inevitability during planning is important
Advisory Group Process
 H. Requirement and selection
 A clear plan for recruitment and selection of members is
 Recruitment must be aligned with the sponsoring organizations
objectives for the advisory group. If a broad scope of
perspectives is indicated, broad recruitment methods may be
Advisory Group Process
 3. Roles & responsibilities
 Explicit understanding of roles and responsibilities by everyone
involved with the advisory group is required
 A. Member roles & responsibilities
 At a minimum, a member should expected to:
 Read, learn and absorb information quickly and accurately
 Attend entire meetings regularly
 Articulate their interests, concerns and perspectives on any
issue being addressed
 Maintain an open mind regarding other views
 Focus on the “big picture”
 Work as a team member
Advisory Group Process
 B. Leadership
 All leaders need an accurate understanding of the sponsoring
organization’s objectives and the advisory group’s purpose
 Sponsoring organization executive staff
 Project or program staff & technical guidance teams
 Media spokesperson
Advisory Group Process
 C. Facilitator
 A qualified facilitator is vital to an effective advisory group
 Facilitator will be the primary designer of the process
 Facilitator should have the ability to send and receive
communications directly with the advisory group members
 The role of the facilitator includes:
 Remaining impartial to diverse perspectives expressed
 Avoid facilitation actions that steer or skew decisions of the
 Focus the energy of the group on their assigned tasks
 Assist in establishing a clear context and structured
framework of deliberations
Photo by Minnesota Department of Transportation
Advisory Group Process
 4. Operations & logistics
 A. Member recruitment process
 Recruitment of advisory group members requires planning and
 Recruitment process must be documented
 Methods of soliciting members must compliment the process.
A variety of techniques may be used to advise potential
members of the opportunity and how to participate ( News
releases, targeted letters, web notices, etc. )
Advisory Group Process
 B. Selection of members
 Documentation of the selection process is required. Conducting
the process opening and in full view of the interested public is
imperative. Credibility of the sponsor, the advisory committee
and their products can be affected by the transparency of this
 Multiple options exist for the selection process. Some are more
transparent than others. Subjective selection is, of course,
 Creating a set of authentic qualifications for membership is
 Qualifiers may include any of the topics previously covered in
the membership section
Advisory Group Process
 C. Notification of selected members
 All selected members should be personally contacted as soon
as possible
 Provide any additional information that may be needed prior to
the first group activity
 D. Acceptance by members
 Use a formal acceptance letter signed by the member that
acknowledges acceptance of the terms of service and purpose
of the group and understanding of the services to be provided
Advisory Group Process
 E. Inaugural activity
 The first activity of meeting sets the tone for the future. An uptempo activity that welcomes the individual group members
with an atmosphere of appreciation and confidence in their
success is very important
 F. Decision-making process and group management
 The group needs to determine what method will be used to
make decisions. Typical options include voting, unanimous
agreement, general agreement, etc.
Advisory Group Process
 G. Rules of engagement- Ground rules
 Agreement upon basic rules for discussion and behavior are
strongly advised. As discussions escalate and emotions are
displayed, it is helpful to have a mechanism by which a member
can be helped back to productive dialogue
 Common ground ruled include:
 Respect for start & concluding time
 Being prepared for the meeting- pre-work, self-study, etc.
 Effort to truly hear all views
 Honesty of participation
 Critic idea, not people
 Encourage participation of all members
Advisory Group Process
 H. Activity frequency and duration
 Various activities or techniques may be applied to how the
group conducts business. A few examples include:
 On-line meetings
 Teleconferences
 Video conferences
 Live face-to-face meetings
 The type of activity will be suggested by factors that were
identified during previous planning, such as:
 Complexity of the issues
 Intensity of emotion
 Degree of controversy
Advisory Group Process
 I. Pre-work or self-study
 Many advisory groups attempt to develop a shared knowledgebase about issues across the membership. This may be
accomplished by multiple methods, including:
 Presentations
 Recommended reading
 Assignments such as pre-work
 Self-study
 If pre-work or self-study is anticipated, it should be advertised
as an expectation in the recruitment notification
Advisory Group Process
 J. Committees and sub-groups
 The use of committees or sub-groups may be considered within
an advisory group. Potential benefits are:
 A higher volume of work may be accomplished in a shorter
period of time
 Member interests can be directed to related assignments
 Preliminary drafts can be developed within committee;
followed by full membership decision making
 Personal levels of responsibility to outcomes may be
Advisory Group Process
 5. Documentation
 Documentation is an important part of planning and
implementing an advisory group. It is often overlooked and
regretted. Documentation:
 Validates the work of the group
 Serves as a resource by which continuity can be maintained in
the event of staff or member turnover
 Provides efficiencies in planning future groups
 Serves as the formal record of activities and decisions
Advisory Group Process
 A. Meeting records
 All meetings must be documented including:
 Attendance
 Agenda
 Decisions made or actions taken
 Handouts
 Records should be sufficient enough that a member unable to
attend will be able to understand what occurred
 Meeting records should be available for review by members prior
to finalization
 Assigned note taker is required
 Placement of meeting records on the web for public review
Advisory Group Process
 B. Products
 Clearly, all group products are documented and become part of
the record
 Most members will expect to receive final copies of all products
 C. Documentation of the entire process and activity
 A final report from the facilitator or lead program staff member
that documents the entire process, activities, products and
outcomes is recommended
The Tools We Explored Today
 Advisory groups
 What are advisory groups?
 How are advisory groups used?
 Preliminary requirements
 IAP2 participation planning steps
 Advisory group process
 Components of design
Sources and Resources
 IAP2
 Course Binder- student manual
 Nathan Wegner for the Urban and Regional Studies
Institute at Minnesota State University, Mankato