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Forming an Independent Steering Group (ISG)
Trust has been identified as a critical component for any project to be positively accepted in a community. However it is not always easy to build trust when you as a project proponent have a vested interest in getting your project up and running. One way to assist and overcome the issue of building trust is to establish an ISG early in the life of your project which can be used to oversee the communications in relation to the overall project plan.
The final structure of the ISG will be dependent on the project, however suggested representatives include:
- Independent chair
- Project representative
- Technical experts
- Government representative
- Communications expert
- Environmental non government organisational representative
- Community liaison officer
Such a team of individuals can work well as they tend to become advocates for the project over time as they gain familiarity with the project plans and operations.
Ideally, the independent chair would be a senior social science academic that has the ability to be objective, pragmatic and impartial. They should have excellent decision making and questioning skills and have a keen interest in the project at hand.
A member of the project team who is highly knowledgeable about the specific details of the project. They will be an essential liaison person to keep the committee up to date on all aspects of the project as it develops.
A technical expert may be from either/or the project team however, it would be ideal to have at least one or two external scientists that are prepared to act as advisors.
This person would be critical for more formal liaison between the ISG and the actual project team. It is more than likely that this person would be the senior communications person for the project.
Environmental Non Government Representative (ENGO)
Earlier work from Bart Terwel and Emma Ter Mors demonstrated that having an ENGO present in discussions about CCS adds credibility to the process. A stakeholder representative from this group is essential if one can be engaged on a local project.
Community Liaison Officer
This person is obviously critical as the formal liaison between the team and the community. For a local person who found work through the project it will be essential that trust is maintained and this person act only in the best interest of the community throughout the process.
The ISG will more than likely meet more often as the project commences but this will likely diminish over time. Most of these meetings will be driven by the communications person liaising with the independent chair. Ideally the members of this group would assist and support the project management team to do the following:
- identify the needs of the community to enable the project to respond with appropriate materials and information
- educate, guide and refer the community in relation to their specific concerns
- form an effective relationship with the Community Liaison Officer
The ISG should be formed as a matter of urgency once a project is on the drawing board and before too many announcements are made that cannot be carried through.
TERMS OF REFERENCE
The purpose of the Independent Steering Group (ISG) is to guide the project communication process by:
- prioritising the issues emerging from public discourse
- developing dialogue processes to ensure these issues are adequately addressed
- steering the consolidation and evaluation of findings from the various dialogue processes
- providing advice to the project team on the best way to progress
- providing feedback of results to key stakeholders and the wider community as deemed appropriate
The scope of the ISG’s work will include:
- providing advice on the design of each stage of the project
- considering issues raised through the dialogue process
- facilitating feedback of findings to relevant stakeholders
Responsibilities of the ISG
The ISG’s responsibilities will include:
- becoming informed about low emission technology issues through attendance at Independent Steering Group meetings
- working together in a spirit of openness and co-operation, fostering the development of agreement among members regarding issues and options to be addressed and to move towards a position of consensus. Members are asked to share “the floor”, allowing others to speak and be heard
- assisting with dialogue processes by:
- engaging their own organisations, organisations within their sector or region, and people from other sectors or regions in becoming informed about the project
- promoting open and respectful exchanges of information, perspectives and knowledge pertinent to responsible development of LET among wider society
- coordinating, and providing oversight of the work of the project team to enhance the timeliness and quality of recommendations developed
- fostering the development of agreement among members of the Independent Steering Group regarding issues to be addressed, using interest-based approaches to build agreement and resolve conflicts
- co-ordinating, consolidating, evaluating and providing advice on the range of findings from the dialogue processes of the project
Responsibilities of Chair
The Chair will:
- clarify the project team’s expectations of the ISG
- help ensure the Independent Steering Group remains on topic with their discussions
- facilitate achieving consensus when necessary
- participate in meetings as a Committee member
Responsibilities of Project Representative
The project representative will:
- provide necessary background information to the Independent Steering Group to ensure an adequate understanding of issue surrounding LET
- co-ordinate all meetings of the Independent Steering Group
- prepare and distribute minutes within one week of a meeting
- distribute presentational material with the minutes if appropriate
- ensure Independent Steering Group members receive meeting minutes and other supporting documentation in a timely manner
All documents are considered to be the property of the project (Insert name), unless otherwise specified.
Forming a Community Liaison Working Group
“The purpose of a Community Liaison Group (CLG) is to increase community understanding about the project, to enhance community involvement and to enable a fast and effective response from the project team to arising issues and concerns” (Zerogen, 2008). Ideally you should aim for a broad representation of the general community including both men and women. Depending on the community, ideally, the group would consist of 8–10 key leaders, both formal and informal, of the community. Possibilities include:
- Local community leaders
- Local government representatives
- Media representatives
- NGO representatives
Local Community Leaders
Many local members of the community would be valuable to have participating on the CLG. Community groups can be broken down into landowners, business owners, service providers and social groups. From each of these four groups, ideally one representative would be present. Depending on who is available within your community, you may not have access to this broad range, nor the interest from the community to participate. Therefore you may be forced to look wider than those outlined below.
Local Council Representative
Journalists from local radio, television, newspaper, magazine.
Social and Environmental Groups which are active in the community.
This Community Liaison Working Group should be formed early as possible in the life of the project after the stakeholders have been identified. This ensures that the community have a visual point of contact to direct any concerns to. By implementing a CLWG early in the project, it can avoid having to act in a reactive manner in regards to media hype or propaganda associated with the project.
Ideally, this group will work closely with the CLO to meet, communicate and manage any issues raised from the community. Its main goal would be to ensure that the public are well informed about all stages of the project.