Facilitating experts and technical teams

In some circumstances, progress in a matter or conflict is difficult because of fundamental differences about scientific facts or theories, or technical data. In some such cases, Collaborative Processes has helped stakeholders create an expert or technical team – often with one expert from each key stakeholder. That expert team can work in facilitated sessions to answer specific questions – the answers to which could be useful for all stakeholders in moving forward.

The process goal: Better engaging with science and technology issues for improve decision

Intended outcomes:

  • Get the full benefit of scientific evidence
  • Use science/evidence as a path to good decision making
  • Eliminate unnecessary conflict
  • Improve risk assessment and understanding of risk
  • Reduce any “your science” vs. “my science” conflicts (where at times the argument is not really about science)
  • Improve the exploration of scientifically feasible options

A common approach is as follows:

  1. Stakeholders agree to use of an expert or technical team and identify the questions to be answered
  2. A document identifies the selected stakeholders, the questions to be answered (the “terms of reference”) and time table for completion
  3. Expert team meets in facilitated sessions to work toward consensus on the issues (or at least to clarify areas of agreement and disagreement).
  4. With facilitator assistance, the expert team drafts its report to the stakeholders
  5. Expert team presents its report and responds to questions from stakeholders
    In some instances this is done with a facilitator’s meeting summary and in others includes the joint expert report
  6. Negotiations among stakeholders resume having new scientific knowledge

Collaborative Processes has facilitated these teams on issues such as water, environmental risks, monitoring, mining and economic matters.

Case example #1: Collaborative Processes facilitated a multi-year multi-phase geotechnical process with experts nominated by several agencies, environmental NGO, community and a Superfund PRP to assist in the design of a minesite remediation program. The process provided several written reports provided to stakeholders to clarify the related science.

Case example #2: An expert team was given an assignment to meet in facilitated sessions with Collaborative Processes to assess a geotechnical theory advanced by one government stakeholder on ground water preferential pathways.

Case example #3: Assisting a mediation concerning fracing, each party’s expert team was given an assignment to meet in facilitated sessions with Collaborative Processes to assess a geologic and drilling issues to reduce factual disputes.

Case example #4: In a dispute over accounting matters, a technical team was set up to take thousands of individual and detailed accounting transactions and create large categories of combined transactions which then could be assessed as a group by senior negotiators – the effect of which was to avoid having senior negotiators dealing with immense detail.

Case example #5: EPA, State agency and environmental NGOs nominated experts to address designated questions and report back to the senior stakeholder representatives on competing theories on groundwater movement and geology.

Case example #6: On several endangered species matters, scientists and biologists met to confer and find where they agreed and disagreed about the conditions for species survival, and to thereafter present to the plenary meeting of stakeholders the key points of agreement and disagreement.

Article on Using Technical Teams