Let’s Gather Some Information!

Bradley A. Leger, PhD

So . . . let’s see: we’ve assembled our council, we’re working on orienting and empowering them – what next? Again, I always try to remember that our council members are usually the “busy people”, so we want to make them feel that serving in this capacity is a wise investment of their time. As well, one of the main reasons that we’ve selected these particular community members is precisely so that they can provide valuable information to us which can assist us in planning relevant, useful programming. They’re hopefully on the pulse of the community! There are several avenues through which one can gather this information. One of the best ways that I know of (especially when you have a captive audience at the meeting) is through the Nominal Group Technique.

Basically, it is a variation of a small group discussion. However, this structured technique allows multiple viewpoints to be expressed and prevents one or more participants from dominating the discussion. This effort should guide the group to a list of prioritized recommendations.

With a bit of study and practice, this is a relatively easy procedure to learn. While you may want to serve as facilitator of this process at the council meeting, I think that it would be even better if you trained the council chair to conduct it.

Here are some great resources on this technique:

American Society for Quality website: Idea Creation Tools

Scannell, Edward E. (1980). Games trainers play. San Francisco, California: McGraw-Hill, Inc.

I invite all to give this a try and share your experiences. I look forward to witnessing a great discussion!

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One Response to Let’s Gather Some Information!

  1. Matt Fannin says:

    Bradley,

    I’ve used nominal group technique with multiple community advisory panels over the years with reasonable results. When decisions that have multiple decision making criteria and are more difficult to be made for a community, Analytical Hierarchy Process (AHP) can also be very helpful. A technical paper based on its approach in an economic development context can be found at http://nercrd.psu.edu/TRED/JohnsonTargetAnalyticHierChapter.pdf. I believe this process can be performed at low cost with modern day technology such as the clicker devices now used by LSU and LSU AgCenter faculty.

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