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13 TABLE 4 with the responsibility of facilitating meetings was effec- EVALUATION OF COMMITTEE EFFECTIVENESS BY tive, and that selecting committed, knowledgeable mem- COMMITTEE MEMBERS (Q51Q53) bers was important. Several agencies noted that selecting At the the right meeting frequency is important to committee During the end of the Individual success; an evident tension exists between holding meet- process process meetings ings at milestones when the committee has real work to Yes--through a written do and holding them regularly to maintain consistency 7.9% 9.4% 4.9% questionnaire and avoid scheduling difficulties. Yes--through individual 9.7% 9.4% 6.2% interviews or phone calls Respondents were asked to identify aspects of the advi- sory committee process that they would change in the future. Yes--during a meeting 37.0% 30.8% 14.2% Key themes about what could be improved, or challenges No 52.1% 56.6% 79.6% that arose, included the following: Meeting management: Many agencies noted that it is a mistake to not provide meeting materials ahead of Staff Support and Level of Effort time; providing materials sets an expectation that com- mittee members will arrive prepared to participate in More than 70% of respondents reported that two to four staff discussions. In many cases, agencies noted the strug- people attended committee meetings. Most agencies and gle to maintain consistent attendance and an engaged MPOs reported spending fewer than 10 hours to prepare for, committee. Many agencies reported that more time attend, and follow up from meetings; 40% spent fewer than might be dedicated to agenda development, including 5 hours on these tasks. the development of discussion topics, and the allotment of presentation and discussion times. Meeting frequency and scheduling: Agencies reported Positive and Negative Experiences with that they struggle to find the right meeting frequency for Advisory Committees committees. Some respondents thought that meetings were held too often and that they had to work to keep the Respondents were asked to note parts of the advisory com- committee busy, while others wished groups met more mittee process that worked well and what they would change often to allow them to be more engaged. Several respon- in the future. Responses about what worked well included dents noted that committee meetings could be structured the following themes: around milestones with less frequent meetings during less busy periods. This may be easier to apply to ad hoc General public participation: Respondents reported committees that meet to discuss a specific program or that committee members became advocates for out- project and more difficult to implement for standing come and process, acted as liaisons between their committees that have an expectation of meeting regu- personal networks and agencies or MPOs, and served larly to discuss agency policies or operations. as sounding boards for staff ideas. Many respondents Formality and process: Several agencies noted that noted that committees are an efficient, manageable additional structure would help with consensus build- way to share information and gather public input. ing and meeting management. They noted that a more Diversity of viewpoints: Respondents reported that formal method for carrying recommendations for- committees can be formed specifically to include mem- ward could improve communication between officials bers with diverse backgrounds, opinions, and perspec- and advisory committee members. Facilitation is key tives. Committees offer opportunities for members to to managing meetings successfully and making sure communicate with those with different viewpoints. everyone participates. Many agencies noted that mem- Many respondents noted that members respected bers needed to better understand their role in the process divergent viewpoints. and their relationship to decision-making bodies. Some Open discussion: Respondents reported that even when agencies noted that they needed to develop a specific controversial issues were discussed, dialogue was con- charge to clearly define the role of the committee. structive, and reaching consensus in this atmosphere Communications: Many agencies noted that estab- was a strong indication of committee support to deci- lishing communication protocols and expectations is sion makers. Committee members and staff were able important to maintaining good relationships between to share information and build trust, while community staff members or officials and committee members, members raised issues that staff needed to hear. among committee members, and between commit- Meeting management and structure: Many agencies tee members and their constituent groups. Agencies and MPOs reported that including an active chairperson and MPOs reported that communication from staff to

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14 ommittee members is important, even during periods c when a concerted effort is made to recruit a diverse of infrequent meetings. membership. Members can drop out of the process Presentations and content: Several agencies identified because the issue that motivated them to participate is the difficulty in providing committee members with resolved, because personal or professional obligations technical information in a way that allows members to change, or because the member is somehow dissatis- contribute meaningfully. Another challenge reported fied with the experience of serving on the committee. was that standing committees frequently review a wide Some agencies reported that they must balance the variety of information that interests only a subset of need for a broad range of viewpoints with the need committee members. Some respondents noted the for- to have a committee of a manageable size. Many mation of subcommittees to address this issue. agencies reported having cumbersome, complex, or Membership: Agencies noted that it can be difficult lengthy processes for appointing members. to maintain diverse advisory committees are even