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From RECL 3P25 Fall 2011 - Group 10 - Advisory Groups

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[edit] Mission Statement

To inform classmates about advisory groups.

[edit] Advisory Groups

Definition: An advisory group is a collection of individuals who bring unique knowledge and skills, which complement the knowledge, and skills of the formal board members in order to more effectively govern the organization.

Advisory groups are sometimes used, too, to provide membership which gives status to people, for example, retired CEOs, board chairs or major contributors.

Advisory groups seek to find individuals that will have a voice in a project that will support their future efforts and further interests. Groups should consist of diverse perspectives to encourage rich discussion when brought together. They have regular purposeful meetings of 15-18 people, however, for a successful group 10 people should be the maximum. Membership of advisory groups should reflect the diversity of the community including representatives from various cultures & socioeconomic groups.

The advisory group does not have formal authority; rather, the advisory group serves to make recommendations and/or provide key information and materials to the formal board of directors.

Who Invented It? The Research Council of Washington was founded in 1979 with a total of 5 employees. The original mission was to answer “any question for any company for any industry.” The company began to specialize in healthcare and higher education and changed their name in 1983 to The Advisory Board Company (TABC). In 1986, TABC introduced its first program group, the Health Care Advisory Board. Today TABC is a global research, consulting, and technology firm partnered with 125,000 leaders in 3,000 organizations across healthcare and higher education.

[edit] Applications

An advisory group can be used for many different reasons. Organizations may appoint people to be on an advisory group to hear the voices and opinions of the community to assist with their work or people of the community could also join together to form an advisory group around similar interests. This less formal form of an advisory group usually doesn’t have positions assigned to each member (like example 3 below), whereas more formal groups may have roles defined for each group member. Anyone can be on an advisory group; however, it is usually very beneficial if these committees have a very diverse range of people so a variety of perspectives can be heard.

First Example of Advisory Group: One project located within the Enterprise Communities (EC) is the Lowell Community Health Center's teen pregnancy prevention program, known as the Lowell Teen Coalition (EC is administered by a grassroots board consisting of elected and appointed members drawn entirely from EC residents and small business owners). A similar type of advisory group oversees the Coalition. Its members include representatives from city government, the business community, the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, juvenile probation, youth program staff, citizen activists, and others. The advisory board looks at the direction of the program and recommends new initiatives and directions for the program. Current initiatives include investigating how appropriate the abstinence message is to the teens it serves as well as ways in which it can reach out to middle school students. It is then the responsibility of the Executive Director, who is also the Program Coordinator, to seek out resources to fulfill the mission suggested by the board. The program uses EC funds for various teen leadership initiatives including increasing youth membership in community organizations, funding recognition programs, and development of leadership training programs.

Second Example of Advisory Group: The Five Star Enterprise Community, in Washington State is comprised of five census tracts, some as far as 150 miles apart. Three of these are Native-American reservations that contain a total of two tribes. Two of these tracts contain the Colville Indian Reservation. In developing its executive committee, early plans called for one representative from each census tract. However, the group came to the realization that the existence of four tribal subdivisions within the two Colville reservation tracts would cause this strategy to limit each subdivison's representation. To adjust this, the Colville reservations agreed to elect one representative from each tribe rather than each census tract. This resulted in each tract's having two representatives from a different tribal subdivision. All three other census tracts, including the Spokane Indian Reservation and the Newport Census tract have two at-large representatives that are elected to the executive committee.

All executive committee representatives are elected by their local EC committee. Local EC committees are comprised of local residents that are active in the EC. Board chairpersons and officers are elected by the 10 member executive board. In the course of the executive committee's existence, two of the three chairpersons have been from tribal groups. This EC's efforts to be inclusive of tribal subdivisions has resulted in an advisory board that the community believes is truly representative of its residents.

Third Example of Advisory Group: At the YMCA of Flamborough, there is an advisory group that helps voice the opinions and concerns of customeres. Although the members of the commitee were appointed, its is still a very informal group. The meetings were usually once every three or four months and were organized by the YMCA manager. If unable to attend, members simply just informed the manager of the YMCA, it wasn't a big issue. At the meetings, the manager would provide the group with an update on what was happening at the YMCA (program changes, new additions, fundraising event, membership, etc) and then the committee would ask questions and provide thoughts or ideas on the subjects discussed. There are no specific positions on the Y advisory group, everyone was seen as equal. All member were however active user/members at the YMCA in Flamborough, so the people on the committee would hear concerns from other patrons and discuss those with the manager at the meetings.

[edit] Procedure

1. Consider your current advisors, mentors and close colleagues. After several conversations with them, they will begin to feel that they have a stake in your initiative. Then ask them to be part of your informal advisory committee.

2. With the support of this core of advisors, reach out to people that you know, or simply know of. Approach them with the idea that you are not just asking for help, but seeking to give them a voice in a project that will also support their efforts and further their interests.

3. Do not begin planning your project before you ask for others to relate their experiences, needs and lessons learned. You are more likely to encourage participation when you ask what others think needs to be done, rather than just list all the wonderful things that you have planned.

4. Look for diversity; your group should not only have racial and ethnic diversity, but a diversity of perspectives to encourage rich discussion when you bring them together.

5. Use your advisory group or committee's members to provide credibility with potential funders and partners. Do not simply list their names; this is often a transparent attempt at providing credibility without the individual's direct participation. Instead, make a list of your members and write one or two sentences about who they are and what they do or will contribute to your project. Include this list in any information that you provide to potential funders and partners. It will demonstrate that your advisory committee members truly believe in and support the group's efforts.

6. Have regular, but not too frequent, purposeful meetings. Provide an informative introduction of each member. This not only gives each other background information and ideas for how they might work together, but also provides committee members with an opportunity to network.

7. As your group's plans begin to move forward, be sure to highlight successes and emerging priorities. Let committee members ask questions, provide critiques and offer suggestions. Follow this up with a brainstorming session that allows them to add value to your work and theirs.

8. Use focused questions when querying your advisory group. Ask what is needed to reach their health goals and how the group can help to provide that. Ask about potential partners that they may know of or opportunities for outreach, fundraising, marketing, etc. Advisory group members will then have a focused role in helping the group's plans move forward.

Adapted from "Developing Advisory Committees" by Jim Pitofsky

[edit] Technique Strengths

  • Guidance during a rapid change
  • Initiative
  • Effective mechanism for fostering community involvement
  • Community is able to participant in the process of change
  • Opportunity for investigating alternative options
  • Monitor future progress
  • Helps with the prevention of delays
  • Mechanism can help clear up misconceptions and rumours
  • Community is well represented
  • Different viewpoints
  • Commitment

[edit] Technique Limitations

Group conflict -> Reduce the quality of group relationships -> Decrease the amount of communication which would slow progress -> May create misunderstanding of goals

Commitment to group

Exclusion within advisory group -> Disengaged/Feel like they do not belong

Bias recruitment -> Who they appoint can be biased (ie. based on knowledge)

No new insight -> People committed for 1-2 years so no new people coming in to add to ideas

[edit] Tips for Successful Implementation

  • Learn what the community and key partners see as important issues.
  • Build on community perceptions to gain broader support for priorities.
  • Establish priorities and objectives that resonate with businesses in your group.
  • Make sure everyone understands and accepts the process for recommending and adopting final priorities OR consider if you want to set priorities at all.
  • Assign accountability for the priority and objective setting process.
  • Strive for measurable objectives, but don't neglect important areas where measures need to be developed and objectives may drive new data sources.
  • Align priorities, objectives and strategies with your group's strengths, assets, and opportunities.
  • Organize objectives according to priority areas in the group plan.
  • Show respect for what already has been accomplished to address priorities.
  • Keep your objectives realistic.
  • Don't chose a priority setting method that will require data if it's not available for the group.

Successful committees or groups have:

1. A mission statement. A committee needs a clearly defined mission. It should be expressed in an easy-to-understand statement of 25 words or less.

2. Process for setting goals and objectives. A committee should set goals for the future. Objectives should be stated in specific, measurable terms.

3. Committee recruitment procedures for stable yet renewing leadership. Does the committee or group have a high turnover or dropout problem?

4. Fewer than 18 people. If a committee seems too large and there are valid reasons for not reducing it, a subcommittee structure or task group should be used to undertake specific projects (15-18 is a good number).

5. Sufficient skills, diverse community interests and perspectives. A variety of member skills is needed to carry out the committee's mission effectively. Diverse community interests are needed to ensure proper representation.

6. Members' talents are fully utilized and their contributions recognized. Committees often don't take advantage of their members' potential contributions. Also, committee members' contributions should be mentioned during meetings and noted in newsletters and press releases from time to time.

7. Ability to give committee members substantial responsibility. In order for committee members to have a chance to exercise leadership, agency staff need to give them enough latitude to help make program decisions and initiate activities.

8. Decisions that represent feelings of the group. It is important that decisions result from discussions representing the different perspectives and interests on the committee.

9. Opportunities for members to learn new things. Committee members should be represented with opportunities to improve their organizational skills and knowledge of water quality issues. Educational activities could include calling in resource people to committee meetings or sending one or more members to a conference or workshop.

[edit] References

US Department of Health and Human Services (n/a). Renewal communities, empowerment zones, and enterprise communities. Retrieved from

Carter McNamara (2010, February 24). Guidelines to form an advisory group. Retrieved from

Wikipedia (2011, November 4). Advisory board company. Retrieved from

[edit] External Links

[edit] Authors

Alexandra Canzi

Katie Fairweather

Kelsey Hildebrandt

Kora Keith

Ilana Romanow

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