Task Forces are similar to advisory boards but they are typically formed for a finite period of time to respond to or address a particular problem, concern, or project. Tasks Force members, which are selected from relevant stakeholders and topic area experts, usually meet on a regular schedule to develop a detailed knowledge of the problem and to share their relevant perspectives, ideas, concerns, and interests. At the end of the task force process, the group will usually present findings and/or consensus recommendations in a final presentation or report.
- May work over time to generate in-depth knowledge and ownership of a project or issue in a way that less intensive efforts cannot achieve.
- Allows for the in-depth and focused involvement and input of a wide range of stakeholders on a specific topic area or issue.
- Allows for development of consensus (where achievable) and detailed recommendations for action on complex issues that affect the broader community.
- Provides opportunities for exploring alternative strategies as well as building coaltions and alliances.
- Provides for a detailed analysis of project issues, timelines and deliverables and a focus on the outcomes.
- Enables participants to gain an understanding of other perspectives leading toward common ground for recommendations.
Challenges to Consider
- Convening must be done in such a way as to result in a fair and balanced group that is widely perceived to represent the community at large.
- The range of interests must be broad enough to represent all those affected, and members must possess the relevant background and skills to assist in addressing the problem at hand.
- Participants must be willing to work together on a common challenge.
- A clear mission, charter, and ground rules need to be agreed to by all members.
- It is not always possible to achieve consensus.
- Can be very time and labor intensive if the issue is significant.
Principles for Successful Planning
- Conduct a thorough stakeholder analysis and convene the task force such that all relevant community interests are fairly represented in its membership.
- Select a strong chairperson who understands good process.
- Get agreement of all members on a clear mission and the requirements of member participation.
- Set expectations to ensure that members continually communicate with their constituents to keep the larger community informed and engaged throughout the process.
- Seek opportunities for broader public interaction with the task force.
- Record decisions and keep a running summary of deliberations, make sure all decisions are supported by a clear and detailed rationale to share with the broader public.
- Produce a detailed final report of recommendations including a thorough rationale for decisions.
- Administrative and logistical support
- Technical project support to develop briefing papers and information
- Regular meeting venues
- Briefing books, presentations and materials
- Convening a task force may take several months to identify, invite, and confirm members.
- Care should be taken to have a formational meeting to ensure all members agree to mission and process of the board.
- Well functioning advisory boards require a great deal of time and effort to prepare for each meeting.
- Task Forces generally meet once per month for several hours, but could meet more often depending on the specific project or decision.
- It generally takes several months for most task forces to address issues and develop recommendations; complex and controversial projects can take significantly longer.