Committee Effectiveness Proposal with Convenor and Member Responsibilities

Process 2019-03-18


How GO committees should operate, to ensure good functioning and good communication. Also discussed 2/18/19 and 12/5/18


Part of Process committee's mandate is to support effective community decision-making. Due to a need for some further clarity about the role of committee convenors, and the fact that our initial Committee Effectiveness agreement is many years old now, Process committee tasked itself with bringing forward a revised Committee Effectiveness proposal that includes information about committee roles such as the convenor.

Transparent decision-making processes at the committee level, clear committee roles and responsibilities, and meeting practices that support open and constructive discussion and the expression of diverse views, are crucial to an effective consensus decision-making process. The purpose of this proposal is to strengthen the Great Oak committee system by giving specific direction to committees on how to effectively function and fulfill their mandates.

Process committee is a resource available to all committees to consult with.


This proposal institutes best practices for committees to follow in three major areas:
A. Committee Mandates: definition of committee purpose, scope, and authority
B. Roles and responsibilities within the committee
C. Questions, concerns, and controversial decisions

A. Committee Mandates: definition of committee purpose, scope, and authority

A committee mandate should define:
1. The purpose of the committee
2. If it is a subcommittee, what is its "parent" standing committee
3. The scope of its work - what it is responsible for, to help guide the community in evaluating what issues are appropriate for it to address
4. What its decision-making authority is
5. What method it intends to use to make decisions as a committee
6. How the committee will solicit input from the community
7. Some information about work positions (if applicable) and how they will be overseen
8. How the committee will communicate its decisions to the community

Standing committees
Each Great Oak standing committee will create a mandate and bring it to the community for consensus approval and inclusion in the Book of Agreements. When the content needs to be updated, the committee will bring the proposed revised mandate back to the community for consensus approval and an updated version saved to the Book of Agreements.

Each Great Oak standing committee will create mandates for its subcommittees. These will be brought to the full community for consensus approval and inclusion in the Book of Agreements. When the content needs to be updated, the committee will bring the proposed revised subcommittee mandate back to the community for consensus approval and an updated version saved to the Book of Agreements. Likewise if a standing committee would like to lay down (end) a subcommittee this should also be brought back to the community for consensus approval.

Ad hoc committees
Ad hoc committees are created by a community meeting (or steering committee meeting if time urgent) on an as-needed basis, usually when a need arises that is not able to be done by an existing committee. An ad hoc committee should be time limited. Since ad hoc committees are time limited, not all the mandate items may apply, but when the ad hoc committee is created, as many of the items should be defined as possible. The ad hoc committee's first task should be to flesh out their mandate further if needed, and share it back with the community. The ad hoc committee should report back to the community at the end of the time line, and ask for an extension if needed.

B. Roles and responsibilities within the committee

i. CONVENOR. Each committee must have a convenor, or two people can co-convene. Responsibilities of the convenor follow. The convenor may choose to delegate almost any of the responsibilities to committee members, and, the convenor is still accountable for ensuring that both the convenor and the member responsibilities are met.
1. The overall role of the convenor is to shepherd and oversee the work of the committee - to make sure the committee meets, functions well, and communicates well. The convenor is not expected to be a content expert and may not be doing project-level work.
2. Set the committee meeting dates, and communicate them to committee members.
3. Communicate the committee meeting dates, as well as some idea of the agenda, to the community via so that others can attend if they wish to. Ideally these reminders are sent out at least two days ahead.
4. Act as the main contact person for the committee, to ensure that items get onto committee agendas, and let people know that their request or comment has been received by the committee.
5. Maintain a list of issues of ongoing or repeating agenda items that are the committee's responsibility.
6. Write up a draft agenda for each committee meeting and email it to "talk" at least two days prior to the meeting
7. Ensure that committee meeting minutes are sent out to the "committeename" email address in a timely way, with the full date in the subject line
8. Maintain communication with committee workers, review work for effectiveness, troubleshoot work issues.
9. Ensure that the committee's work positions, and preassignments, are updated prior to each work season's deadlines.
10. Train someone to be the next convenor, so institutional knowledge is not lost. Discuss it early in the season, don't wait until the preassignment deadline. If possible, the next convenor should be on the committee at least one season before becoming convenor. And, if possible, the current convenor should remain on the committee at least one season after they stop being convenor.
11. Stay aware of interest expressed by others in being convenor - check work survey preferences, discuss with current committee members and other community members, and plan for rotating the convenorship as makes sense.
(a) Advantages to more frequent rotation: help continue to build expertise among neighbors
(b) Drawbacks to more frequent rotation: potential loss of institutional memory, or slow down of work in progress, if there was not time for sufficient training

ii. MEMBERS. Each committee should have one or more members that are not the convenor. Roles and responsibilities of the member(s):
1. Attend committee meetings and take part in the discussion and decisions. The GO Meeting Guidelines agreement is a good resource to review for committee meetings as well as for community meetings.
2. Fulfill any roles assigned for the committee meeting, such as to:
(a) Facilitate the committee meeting. The facilitator moves the committee through its agenda at each meeting; makes an effort to be sure that all voices are heard; summarizes the discussion and keeps it on track.
(b) Take minutes during the meeting, solicit any feedback with a short timeframe, and then within two weeks email the minutes to the committee......s minutes email address ( with the full date in the subject line. This will automatically email it to "talk" as well as archive it in the Book of Agreements (BOA). Note: it is preferred that the facilitator NOT be the minute taker, whenever possible.
(c) Capture Monkeys (tasks) and make sure they are in the meeting minutes, and make sure the Monkeys are reviewed and updated by the committee at each committee meeting.
3. Track the committee's budget lines via the Bookkeepers' reports, and make sure the committee reviews its budget lines and expenditures in time to propose the committee's lines in the next year's budget.
4. Be responsive to committee email between meetings.
5. Complete tasks assigned by the committee between meetings.
6. Find creative ways to share important committee-related information with the community, to help ensure that the most community members see it.
7. Bring issues and proposals forward to a community meeting (or steering committee if time-urgent) to discuss and potentially decide. This is true even if the committee is an empowered committee, whenever the committee:
(a) is uncertain or divided over how to handle something of significance
(b) is not able to tackle a time-sensitive item in a timely way
(c) feels the decision is impactful enough that the full community should make the decision
(d) has been asked by the community to bring the issue to the full community
8. Attend community meetings and give input from the committee's perspective, as appropriate
9. Cultivate new members.
10. Along with the committee work positions, consider subcommittees or ad hoc committees as potential additional ways to fulfill committee responsibilities.

C. Questions, concerns, and controversial decisions

Each Great Oak committee shall create a process for responding to questions from community members in a timely manner, and strive to anticipate community concerns. Effort should be made to include members who have expressed concerns in the discussions and decisions made by the committee regarding the area of concern.
1. A committee should always try to acknowledge receipt of the concern.
2. A committee's response to an inquiry may include any or all of the following:
(a) Talking in person to the concerned member to better understand their concern.
(b) Talking in person to educate the concerned member about the committees thinking/action regarding the concern.
(c) Placing the item on an upcoming committee meeting agenda and inviting the concerned member to come and discuss their concern and what they can do to support the committee in addressing it.
(d) If appropriate and the topic is straightforward, emailing a reply to the concern. Committees should periodically review the Community Guidelines for Conducting Great Oak Business Via Email agreement.
3. If a committee and member(s) with concerns find themselves unable to come up with a satisfactory course of action, depending on the situation:
(a) The committee or the member(s) with concerns can bring a discussion of the concern to a community meeting.
(b) Either or both parties could contact the conflict resolution committee for assistance.
4. If any committee is working on an item that is likely to be of high impact on the community, or is likely to be unusually controversial, they are encouraged to bring the item to a community meeting for discussion and decision rather than making a decision at the committee level. At minimum, an empowered committee should bring the item to a community meeting to solicit input about the best direction to take, and make certain to inform the community about the upcoming committee meetings when the topic will be discussed.
5. If any committee does make a decision that turns out to be controversial, the committee's proposal can then be brought to a community meeting by the committee, or by any community member, for community discussion and decision; Process committee is a resource to call on for assistance with this process.

- Provides committees with clear direction on how to do the work of the community
- Supports GOs commitment to consensus decision-making by strengthening the GO committee system
-Clarifies processes to use when committee decisions are controversial

- Practices suggested may seem too formal for some committee members.
- Makes it clear what we expect of our committees, which may be daunting to some members.
- Some committee work may be delayed; for example if an empowered committee is asked to bring a proposal or previously made decision to the community.

Process Comments:

APPROVED, no stand asides