This two-page issue brief written by The Forum for Youth Investment reviews four guiding principles for building a group of stakeholders to address community issues.

Guiding Principles

1. Be intentional about who to involve.

Identify a diverse group representing the organizations and public agencies whose support and active participation is required to accomplish your goals. Members of this core group should hold formal or informal positions that allow them to make decisions on behalf of the group they represent; you are looking for people with the capacity, motivation and authority to move resources and mobilize people. While the definition of “diverse” may vary, being intentional about who you involve makes sense whether you are creating a steering committee to oversee a large-scale planning effort, selecting programs to participate in a quality improvement pilot, or inviting 100 people to attend a briefing.

Before you anoint a new group – pause to consider whether there is an existing group that can and should be redeployed. If you can build on an existing coalition, group or structure, do so. If not, be careful to acknowledge what exists and know how to explain your connections to existing groups.

Check your work. All of us operate in silos to some extent. It is not uncommon that an important type of stakeholder (e.g. libraries) is left out just because no one thought about them. The “stakeholders wheel” is an easy way to check your work. Of course, you can decide not to include certain groups (no media) or to concentrate on others. The most important thing to do is to be intentional and transparent. The “stakeholders wheel” can also help those in the room identify themselves, identify key actors who are missing, and discuss the pros and cons of expanding the group.

2. Be specific about what you ask the group to get involved in.

It is important that everyone in the room not only understand the ideas but be on board with the goals and the plan. Painting the “big picture” can inspire people to act, but it will be important for everyone you engage – on committees, in conferences, in informational meetings –to have a practical understanding of the real work you hope can be accomplished with their help. Clarifying goals, roles, timelines and deliverables will help members stay engaged.