LWV GUIDELINES FOR LEAGUE STUDIES
adapted by Sherry Zachry, 2019, & revised by Carolyn Caywood, 2021, for LWV-VA. from Guidelines for LWVUS Studies
“These are general guidelines for LWVUS studies and may vary somewhat from study to study according to personnel and issue. Local and state Leagues may adapt whatever parts they feel are pertinent.” https://www.lwv.org/league-management/other-issues-tools/guidelines-lwvus-studies
Notes on Program Planning by Frances Schutz, is appended.
Suggested Timeline: (Two-year time frame, primarily for consensus study)
- May/June, odd-numbered year LWV-VA Convention adopts study. (5/2021)
- June-August—Program director/board appoints Study Chair/Co-chairs who then solicit/confirm members for study committee.
- By August Board meeting (8/9/2021)—Study Committee has formed and communicates with Program Director who reports on status to the board. Board approves scope, if changed from wording adopted at Convention.
- August-December—Study Committee meets, reviews detailed scope, develops a detailed timeline, outline of study and recommends to to the Program Director/ board either a consensus or concurrence process for the study, unless otherwise determined by the Convention delegates. Note: all processes must be concluded by three months before the next Convention (June 3-4, 2023), to allow board to approve final wording of consensus/ concurrence statement.
- January (2022)—Board adopts specific timeline with dates when Leagues will receive consensus materials and deadline for reporting to results to LWV-VA.
- October-March(2022)—Study Committee gathers and disseminates information; suggests activities, speakers and reading material; and appoints subcommittees if needed and begins preparing written material. Local Leagues should be apprised by Program Director of timeline and furnished any preliminary materials.
- March-May —Study Committee develops and widely distributes overall summary of issues involved in study in easily printable format with links to references presenting various sides of the issues involved; local Leagues hold meetings on topic.
- May-July (2022)—Study Committee develops consensus questions or concurrence statement, submits to board which approves and/or modifies the preliminary statement; then Program Director/committee disseminates to local Leagues. Local Leagues plan their study/consensus calendars to complete report before the reporting deadline established prior year.
- August-February (2023)—Local Leagues continue learning, hold consensus meetings and report results before reporting deadline.
- February-April—Program Director works with Committee Chair to, tabulate results to determine areas of consensus; Study Committee drafts a proposed position. Program Director may assist with drafting.
- March-April— Program Director recommends position statement to the Board; Board adopts final position, announces position and posts online with info on local League participation, areas of agreement, etc.
- May-June—Results of study are reported to (the 2023) Convention, discussed. Position is adopted as part of Convention program adoption (either as a new position or a revision of a position already in Positioned For Action. Program Director is responsible for updating Positioned For Action with any new or reworded positions, once adopted.
Study Committee Appointment
As soon after Convention as possible, the President/Board will appoint a Study Chair and, in some cases, a co-chair. The Study Chair(s) will distribute the study motion adopted at Convention and invite members to apply for the Study Committee, being mindful of the DEI lens. The Study Chair(s) also may invite members with expertise or skills valuable to the Study Committee to apply.
The appointed Study Committee will be as neutral or as balanced as possible, with members on all sides of the study issue. Experts in the study subject, as well as generalists and members knowledgeable about the League of Women Voters, should be considered, as well as representatives from different areas of the state and different types of communities. The size of the committee will depend partly on the complexity and scope of the study. An ability to work within a diverse group is essential.
Study Committee Operation
The Study Chair(s), in consultation with Program Director, will develop a preliminary project management plan. In order to determine where each committee member might best fit into the research process, it is recommended that the Study Chair consult with each member to define that individual’s specific roles. The Program Director and Chair’s contact information should be provided to the Study Committee members to enable direct consultation if necessary. The Study Chair(s), in consultation with Program Director will identify resources needed by the study for communication, document storage, etc. Since issue study and position development are essential to League process, some state League support may be requested.
Communication between the Study Committee and the Board through the Program Director will be ongoing, with feedback loops at every stage of the process to facilitate identification and solution of any problems. Brief periodic written summaries or minutes will be shared with all Committee members, and the Program Director. The Study Chair(s) will report directly to the Program Director and attend board meetings, if necessary. Any subcommittees will communicate regularly with the full committee.
The LWV-VA Board will adopt a Scope of Study based on the action and intent of Convention to adopt the new study or to update an existing position. The Scope of Study statement provides information to allow local Leagues to plan programs and gather materials early in the process. During the entire process, the Study Committee is encouraged to provide suggestions for engagement of both members and the community. The Scope may be adjusted as needed as the study progresses.
Tasks and Products
The Board, with input from the Study Committee and the Program Director, will choose early in the study between a consensus or concurrence process, unless previously determined by the Convention delegates. This depends in part on how simply the issues of the study may be presented to members. The first research step, therefore, is a survey of what League studies of the issue already exist.
The Study Committee will write a limited number of brief issue papers on the topic or prepare introductory or summary comments when referring to existing material that can be accessed on line. They also will prepare a Leaders’ Guide, which is a guide for consensus or concurrence meetings, including tips for conducting the meetings and clear pointers or links from the questions to the materials.
All reports produced by the committee will be balanced and based on data from valid sources. If committee members lack training needed to evaluate materials from specialized disciplines, they should seek outside assistance. For complex studies, a summary with analysis of issues involved and suggestions for further reading, will be prepared to educate the members prior to their consensus meetings. A single-page handout for meetings also is advised. Materials will be designed to allow easy distribution by local Leagues. A meeting-ready summary of the study, possibly including visuals, may be made available to Leagues in time for use in meetings preparing for consensus. Videos, webinars, and other formats for presenting material also may be considered. All materials should be readily available on the LWV-VA website.
A summary of the results of each study will be posted online in a timely manner to allow members to become familiar with the material. The next Convention will include time early in the Convention and prior to any votes on program items to discuss the results of any studies completed during the preceding biennium. Suggestions for potential advocacy will be presented.
Two online discussion groups may be established, a closed one for the Study Committee and an open one to support members involved with the study and provide a forum for exchanging ideas and locally produced materials. The Study Chair or designee will monitor the open discussion. It is suggested that the monitor not be too quick to jump in, but let the participants take care of the question/issue, if they can. However, blatant violations of policy must be addressed immediately. In other words, use good judgment for each situation. The monitor may start the conversation if things are moving slowly. In case of technical difficulties, the monitor should contact the Program Director.
No member of the committee should monopolize the conversation in the open forum. The forum is for members to discuss and pose questions. When committee members participate in the open member forum, they speak as individuals, identifying themselves as committee members, but adding that each is speaking as an individual. Only the study chair speaks for the study group. The study chair can designate a committee member to speak for the committee on specific issues.
Local League Role
Early in the process, local League boards are encouraged to recruit members for the study committee, and to appoint local study committees to implement and conduct the study in their local areas. This is an ideal time to engage state or local experts on the topic and to investigate potential impacts of the study on their own local area. Local Leagues may take advantage of local speakers and resources and plan and conduct general meetings. All Leagues are encouraged to prepare and conduct local consensus or concurrence meetings, as well as using studies as an opportunity to engage and educate their members and the public in depth, to hear expert speakers and to attract new members.
The Study Committee will propose consensus questions through the Program Director to the Board with adequate time for the Board to consider and adopt them. The writing of the consensus questions is a critical task in the study process, so the Study Committee will want to allow time for the Board to consider the questions carefully. It is often helpful to test consensus questions with people who are not members of the Study Committee.
Consensus questions ideally are written so that the answers lead directly to a statement of position. Each consensus question is framed so that it is neutral and not intended to lead to a conclusion. Each consensus question is limited to one topic or idea to ensure that no confusion exists as to the intent of the answer. Each consensus question allows for discrete answers that can be easily tallied. The consensus form will contain text boxes to allow for general comments.
If the Board or Convention has recommended a concurrence process, then the Study Committee will propose a concurrence statement to the Board. A concurrence statement is a proposed statement of position on which Leagues or members may only agree or disagree and cannot be reworded at time of vote. The proposed concurrence statement follows the same process used for consensus questions. It is recommended that the proposed concurrence statement be disseminated to local Leagues before final adoption in order to allow for some changes, if members suggest. Study Committee and Program Director will consider any proposed changes and create final wording for board approval. Once approved by the board, the statement goes to Convention for final adoption without further changes to wording. (In some situations, a concurrence statement may be adopted by Convention without a study, and in those cases, these guidelines do not apply. The process would follow different guidelines set out by the respective League.)
Consensus or Concurrence Meeting Reports
The Study Committee and Program Director will prepare a survey form with consensus questions, with a deadline for Leagues to use to as their meeting reports.
Determination of Consensus/Concurrence
The Program Director, with help from Study Committee, recommends to the Board whether or not consensus has been reached. Consensus is defined as agreement by a substantial majority. Criteria include a minimum number of Leagues participating and some diversity of Leagues, including geographical distribution and size of Leagues. If consensus is determined to have been reached, the Study Committee and Program Director, write a draft position statement and propose it to the Board. Since many League positions are retained for decades, they should be worded generally and flexibly so they can be used in a variety of advocacy situations. The first paragraph is very important. Often it is an overarching statement of the position. Specific details, such as references to legislation or technology, must be avoided in a position statement, since they could limit League advocacy in unknown future situations.
Position Adoption by the Board
After receiving the recommendations of the Study Committee and Program Director, the Board will review and then recommend the new or updated League position as part of the board’s Recommended Program to be approved at Convention. Publication will include an electronic notice to the membership and inclusion in the next edition of LWV-VA’s Positioned For Action. It could also include a press release to the public.
NOTES ON PROGRAM PLANNING, the start of the League Program process,
from Frances Schutz, LWV-VA Program Director, November 2016, to local Leagues.
League Program includes the process by which positions are adopted (selecting an issue, studying the issue, consensus / formulating a position, and using the position to influence public policy) and the existing positions of that respective League. The “program planning” stage is selecting an issue or position(s) for study, restudy and/or advocacy in the respective League’s next biennium. The process culminates in delegates adopting a program for the next biennium at our Convention.
Remember that “League Program” includes both study and action and sometimes can be composed entirely of advocacy (action) on the League’s positions. Advocacy can be holding a forum or seminar on a “hot-button” issue in the community (on which the League has a position) and/or organizing a lobbying effort composed of letters to the editor, lobbying elected officials on legislation and other efforts.
When considering items to propose, be guided by the following: Is there widespread member interest? Is this a timely issue? Are there already League positions (at the LWVUS level) on the issue? Is government action the most effective way to address the problem? Are there members willing to work on the issue? Is work on this issue likely to attract new members?
For LWV-VA program planning, members are asked to review the positions and decide:
1) are there any new issues that should be studied;
2) do any of the current positions need updating (restudy);
3) are there any positions/issues that should have priority for action;
4) are there positions that should be abandoned (deleted) because they no longer apply or have been accomplished; and
5) who is willing to work on the issue?