How to use a meeting to build consensus around funding recommendations.
The goal of the decisionmaking process is to build consensus around a set of funding recommendations. Scores and comments from reviewers provide the ability to objectively prioritize proposals. A decisionmaking meeting can then provide a forum to openly discuss the high and medium priority applications and come to a consensus around the funding recommendations.
- What type of additional context will you need to bring to the meeting to help reviewers make informed decisions?
- Is being a part of the committee something most reviewers are doing as part of their job or are they volunteering their time outside of their job?
- Are there any conflicts of interest that would require certain committee members to refrain from participating in parts of the meeting?
Compare Meeting Options
The type of meeting will mainly depend on the logistics of the review. For example, the geographic location of reviewers and committee make-up will need to be factors in deciding what type of meeting to host. It is also important to consider if the meeting is meant to delve deeper into the high priority proposals or just to confirm them. Here are some considerations to keep in mind when deciding whether the meeting should be in-person or via a conference call, or if an email confirmation will suffice.
Host an in-person meeting
Tends promote discussion around both the strengths and weaknesses of all of the high priority proposals along with feedback from some of the lower priority proposals. This is the preferred method for finding consensus around strategic funding recommendations and requires participants to have a thorough understanding of of the proposals being discussed.
Set up a conference call
Tends to be more of a confirmation of the prioritizations and a verbal review of the proposals by the program staff without significant amounts of discussion. This is the best option if the committee are not near each other geographically or if you want to ensure that the committee members have basic knowledge on all of high priority proposals, even if they had varying levels of knowledge about the proposals prior to the meeting.
Skip the meeting and send an email summary
Tends to just be a confirmation of the prioritizations that were derived from the compilation of individual review results. Email confirmations very rarely elicit additional discussion about projects and are a good option if you only need affirmation that the funding recommendations and notes reflect their views. This approach relies heavily on the individual review and does not typically factor in additional information from due diligence or comments/questions from other reviewers.
It is important to confirm attendance for the call or meeting as reviewers submit their scores. While they may have received the meeting information several times before this point in the process, there is always the chance that it never made it on their calendar or a scheduling conflict has come up. A quick confirmation helps to get an idea of who will be at the meeting, enabling the appropriate amount of refreshments and print materials to be readily available. This also allows program staff to switch to an email confirmation if there are no longer enough people available to have a meaningful discussion.
Create a Meeting Script
The meeting script helps to keep all of the important information in one place. It typically includes an overview of the number of proposals that were reviewed along with the scoring summary, comments, and due diligence for each of the proposals being discussed. While the high level or summarized version of this information may be what is actually said at the meeting, it is helpful to have all of the details at hand to help answer any questions that may come up during the meeting.
Host the Meeting
Using the scores and comments provided as a starting point, applications should be discussed frankly and openly at the decisionmaking meeting, with respect for varying opinions and willingness to compromise. Most decisions break down to the equivalent of a stoplight:
- High priority likely to be funded
- Medium priority let’s discuss!
- Low priority or not fully developed; definitely can be set aside
At the meeting, the committee is asked if there is any additional feedback for projects below the threshold before taking them out of consideration for the current round. Projects above the threshold are then discussed until there is no longer any funding left to be allocated for that round or all projects that the committee can come to a consensus on have been recommended for funding. Confirm recommendations both as they are made and also at the end of the meeting to ensure that everyone is on the same page.
The Facilitator will steer the group through discussion on each of the proposals above the threshold. The following are guidelines for moderating the conversation throughout the meeting:
- Conversational Awareness: Sometimes you may need to be the center of attention, while at other moments you may need to stand back and let the conversation run itself. It will be important to hear what’s left unsaid, draw out those who may be holding back, and reign in those who may be grandstanding.
- Separating Process from Content: You will need to keep track of the substance of the conversation as well as your group’s progress through the activity. You may have to redirect the discussion to stay focused and on schedule. Check in with the note-taker to make sure they are able to keep up with the discussion.
- Managing Multiple Viewpoints: Participants will bring different viewpoints. It is the Moderator’s responsibility to balance everyone’s input and to look for ways to build consensus between people who may seem to be speaking different languages.
Collect Feedback & Questions
Feedback and questions that come up during the decisionmaking meeting along with the recommendation for each of the proposals discussed is then transcribed in the Funding Round Report and sent out the next day. This process provides committee members that were not able to attend the meeting to review the notes and recommendations. It also allows for those that attended to confirm that the information is correct before the applicants are notified.
By the end of the meeting, all high and medium priority applications should have been discussed in detail and a general consensus reached about which awardees to recommend for funding. This information will then be summarized in the funding round report and presented to the board for approval before applicants are notified of the funding decisions.
It is important to communicate that all application review and decision-making discussions are strictly confidential and privileged, and may not be shared or appropriated with others outside of the Advisory Committee or staff, even after the funding recommendations have been made public.
Methods We Love
Hosting in-person evening meetings. Unless it is known that all reviewers are participating as part of their jobs, it is recommended that the meetings take place outside of regular business hours to accommodate for work schedules. This also create a more casual atmosphere, as it feels more community-based instead of related to daily work.
Skip the meeting and trust the scores.
Not prioritizing proposals in advance of the meeting. It is not recommended to have the committee come to a meeting without having the applications first reviewed and then prioritized based scores and feedback.