Almost everyone has an opinion on food, and thus on agriculture. Each may have interesting stories to share. While personal insights are valuable, it is the responsibility of the facilitator(s) to keep the group focused on the consensus questions. The following are suggestions that have been found helpful in reaching this goal.
Before the consensus meeting, committee members should:
- Review the study materials on the LWVUS website.
- Make sure that the consensus questions have been reviewed and save time at the end to make sure your information is sent to your local board for review.
Understand the ingredients of a successful meeting:
- There is a common focus on content.
- There is a common focus on process.
- The discussion leader or facilitator maintains an open and balanced conversational flow.
- Someone is aware of protecting individuals from personal attack.
- Everyone’s role and responsibility are clearly defined and agreed upon.
In other words, everyone on the committee is on the same page.
Assign specific tasks to committee members. Decide:
- how much time to allot to each section of the discussion,
- who will present each part,
- who will facilitate the consensus part of the meeting if different from the presenters,
- who will be the recorder, and
- who will make sure the results of your consensus get to your LWV board for approval before completing the online form at http://www.lwv.org/member-resources/agriculture-update.
Decide how to present the study material:
Break the presentation into manageable chunks that lay people can understand. Be careful to explain any jargon and acronyms. A variety of voices and styles help people stay focused. Be prepared to answer questions for clarification along the way. The material is complicated in some areas and you will want to check for understanding.
Schedule a practice session prior to the presentation/consensus meeting:
During a practice session is helpful to have an experienced League member present to help with timing and balance between background and discussion. The recorder should come away with what needs to be recorded and what to do with questions and opinions about topics not covered by the consensus questions. (Suggestion: Have another sheet of chart paper labeled as “parking lot” where these may be noted for discussion at a later time.) Many Leagues with multiple units will hold training ahead of time for the unit leaders. This is important so that the unit leaders understand the scope, are prepared for the discussion and understand the reporting procedures.
It is important to be aware of any place where there might be a conflict and be prepared to discuss it. Copies of the local, state and national positions should be available for reference at the meetings.
Make sure committee members are familiar with any agriculture positions your state or local League may have adopted, and also the current LWVUS Statement of Position on Federal Agriculture Policy. Consult Impact on Issues, 2012-2014: A Guide to Public Policy Positions at http://www.lwv.org/content/impact-issues in the section on Natural Resources, page 56.