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Task Forces play a vital role in the strength and success of a project. The members serve as important links between a project team, such as a government agency or non-profit group, and the community at large. They also serve valuable roles such as planning events, public speaking, recruiting volunteers and supporters, working with elected officials and fundraising. After a project is completed, this core group can form the basis for a permanent organization that continues overseeing planning and stewardship efforts in the area.
 
 

Task forces should be composed of a broad cross-section of volunteers from the community and/or those individuals who are considered stakeholders in the project. If people come to the task force with different interests, the group will be stronger, especially if controversial issues arise. This smaller subset of the community is better able to discuss and come to agreement on actions that may diffuse controversy.

Besides self-interests, members offer their technical expertise, political support, financial assistance or other voluntary contributions.

Task forces usually oversee the progress of a planning process, the completion of a study or the development of a facility. Regardless of the focus, the task force is charged with overseeing the work that is done, discussing proposals and sharing findings and recommendations with the general public.

 
 

1. Define the Task Forceís Role

  • What is the mission of the group?
  • Is this group going to be responsible for overseeing the actual elements of the project or act more in an advisory capacity?
  • What is the lifespan of the group?
  • How will it be determined when the work is completed and the mission achieved?
  • How much time commitment will people need to make including large meetings, subcommittee meetings and actual assignments?
  • Will training sessions be offered or trips to other communities that have done similar work?
  • Will members be compensated for travel expenses or other costs incurred while performing duties?

2. Recruit Members

Memberships may be open to the public or made by invitation or appointment. However it is done, it is vital that the group reflect many interests. For instance, make sure someone is there to represent business people, elected officials, landowners, conservation groups, recreation groups, historical and cultural groups and technical areas such as scientists, engineers or lawyers. Look for members who are, or were in the past, active in the community such as serving on boards or hosting events. Ask people for referrals. You want people who have shown commitment to hard work but who are also not over-extended.

3. Organize the Group

The first time the Task Force meets is the time to establish ground rules and make key decisions. For instance,

  • Who will act as a facilitator and key contact person?
  • Who will fill other key roles: secretary, treasurer, etc.?
  • How will the group discuss topics and make decisions such as determining what defines a quorum for a majority or do decisions need to be unanimous or can there be consensus with disagreements documented?
  • How will the group communicate outside the meeting?
  • Should a telephone calling system be established or do all members have email?
  • How should meeting summaries be mailed: electronic or regular?
  • Can subcommittees consist of non-task force members as long as task force members lead them?
  • Will all meetings be open to the public or only key ones such as reporting on findings or discussing goals, issues and alternatives?
  • In looking at the project schedule, what are the key tasks that need to be done and by what date?

4. Set a Meeting Schedule

An effective Task Force should meet regularly to assure continuity. Establishing a regular schedule such as the third Thursday of the month helps everyone better plan. It is always easier to cancel a meeting than it is to find a common date people are free. If possible, meet in the same place to avoid confusion and start-time delays due to people getting lost.

Meetings should always have written agendas with expected results. If meetings will be open to the public, there should be ample notice and advertising in the newspaper or other venues.

5. Never Take Them for Granted

Task Force members are, after all, volunteers. They are playing a vital role in helping the success of your project. Donít wait until a planning process is finished to show your appreciation, especially if it is a multi-year project. Send personal notes, give printed shirts or hats, pass out mock awards, sponsor meals or any other tribute that says how much their efforts mean.

At the end of a project, the members should all be publicly recognized for their roles.

 
Updated
Wednesday 6/05/02 2:00.00
 
   
 
 
 
A citizensí advisory group created to participate in and oversee the development of a specific project.
 
 
  • You need a strong public involvement base for a planning process.
  • You are aware of several strong interest groups that have already voiced opposition to any efforts.
  • You want to gain a better understanding of issues in the community and build consensus.
 
 
  • You cannot get a broad representation of views and citizens.
  • You do not want to set yourself up as only listening to those who agree with you. You cannot get volunteers. Rely upon other public involvement techniques and events such as focus groups, conferences and festivals.
  • You really just want a stamp of approval on what youíre doing. Task Forces may take a project an entirely different direction, and you have to be prepared to listen carefully.  
 
 
  A Task Force should be established in the very beginning of a project, before other community outreach is done.