Joint Steering Committee to establish the Consumer and Community Advisory Councils

A National Health and Medical Research Council Capacity Building Grant enabled the shared appointment of the Consumer Advocate between the School and the Institute. Having this position formalised existing consumer and community involvement activities at the School and the Institute. Following two workshops with staff and community members, a consumer and community involvement strategy was developed and endorsed in 2005. The second phase of the strategy included establishing a Joint Steering Committee (Committee) to undertake the necessary planning and development associated with establishing the Consumer and Community Advisory Councils at the School and the Institute. The Committee was to have a short life and be phased out with the establishment of these councils.

Who was on the steering group?

The Committee members consisted of:

  • High level staff and researchers from both organisations
  • The Consumer Advocate
  • Six consumer and community representatives who had an interest in research at the School and Institute
  • A representative from the Health Consumers' Council of WA

How was the Committee established?

  • A proposal for the Committee was written in July 2005 and included a budget which was to be shared equally between the two organisations. The proposal was endorsed by the School’s Executive Committee and the Institute’s Executive
  • The consumer and community representatives came from a range of backgrounds and were generally associated with the research at either organisation
  • The Steering Committee commenced in August 2005 and met monthly for six months
  • The Consumer Advocate was responsible for all administrative tasks associated with the meetings
  • A quorum and chair was established at the first meeting of the Committee
  • Consumer and community members were paid an honorarium for meeting attendance and associated out of pocket expenses

What tasks did the steering group undertake?

The steering committee discussed and advised the development of:

  • A business case to fund the establishment of the Councils
  • Terms of Reference for the Councils
  • The structure and membership of the Councils
  • The governance of the Councils
  • Selection criteria and application forms
  • A glossary of research terms
  • Payment structure for consumer and community members of the Councils

What were the benefits of the Steering Committee?

Convening the Committee with short-term specific goals meant the group was focussed and outcome orientated. There was also awareness amongst the members that the establishment of Consumer and Community Advisory Councils in research organisations was a new and exciting initiative that would have long-term benefits for the advancement of consumer and community participation in research. It was also the first time the community had been given the opportunity to have input into the strategic directions for both organisations. Bringing together senior staff, researchers, consumers and community members put into practice the philosophy of partnerships and developed a model for the future of the joint Involvement Program.

Comments from the Joint Steering Committee members:

"I agreed to join the Steering Committee on the proviso that it would be of value. I only wanted to be involved if it was going to make a difference. I felt it worked really well – there was a good balance of researchers and consumers, and there was a commitment from everyone to make it work"

 Jackie Softly - consumer

"The good thing about the Steering Committee was that there was a planned approach. It was good to have a framework and to work through it. The Steering Committee brought researchers and consumers together as equals"

Kathie McLure - consumer

"I think the steering committee has developed a model that is useful, sustainable and practical. The Steering Committee enabled researchers and consumers to get behind a concept that was realistic and, to work through our disagreements" 

Ben Horgan - consumer

"Early on we recognised that we wouldn’t succeed if we went for a “one size fits all” arrangement, and so we aimed to establish an Advisory Council that could accommodate diversity in the ways in which consumer and community participation could enhance research programs" 

John Finlay-Jones - researcher