Indigenous Advisory Committees – Tips for Terms of Reference

Indigenous Advisory Committees – Tips for Terms of Reference

Indigenous Advisory Committees – Tips for Terms of Reference

At Niibin Advisory Services, we’ve had the privilege of collaborating with clients who want to enhance their organization’s Indigenous Advisory Committee, Council, Circle, and similar bodies. These committees play a pivotal role by offering valuable community perspectives, providing guidance, making decisions and even participating in organizational activities. A strong Advisory Committee fosters meaningful relationships within the communities it serves and contributes to meaningful change in the organization.

In this series, we’ll explore key strategies for maintaining an engaged Indigenous Advisory Committee, beginning with our Tips for Terms of Reference.

Tip 1 – Identify the Mandate
When recruiting members for your advisory committee, clarity on the committee’s mandate is crucial. The mandate articulates the authority and responsibilities delegated to the committee, specifying its scope of work, decision-making powers, reporting structures, and any limitations on authority. It’s essential to distinguish the mandate from the committee’s purpose, which articulates its broader goals and reasons for existence.

Prospective members are likely drawn to the committee because of their belief in and desire to support positive change in the organization’s relationships with Indigenous communities. The mandate serves as a guide, indicating the level of influence committee members can exert in effecting change. Ensure the mandate is defined and communicated in your Terms of Reference.

Tip 2 – Write from the Member’s Perspective.
When drafting the Terms of Reference, put yourself in the shoes of a new member. Large organizations often use templates and procedures that may be unclear to external individuals and are centred on the organization’s needs. Imagine the questions a new member might have: Why am I here? What will this committee achieve? What is expected of me? How will I learn to meet expectations? How will we know if we are doing our job well?

Addressing these questions will help shape the purpose, objectives, responsibilities, onboarding, and evaluation sections of your Terms of Reference.

Tip 3 – Find Flexibility
While the terms “flexibility” and “Terms of Reference” may not seem synonymous, incorporating flexibility into the committee’s structure can enhance its success. Indigenous Advisory Committees often consist of respected community members and Knowledge Keepers in leadership positions, juggling various demands: their professional role, volunteer/advisory roles, and community responsibilities. In some cases, committee members end up belonging to several of the same advisory committees (long time, no see!).

Consider how to introduce flexibility for committee members. Does your committee truly need a quorum? Can quorum requirements accommodate flexible participation? Are there convenient locations for meetings? Can responsibilities like chairing, membership selection, and work plan creation be delegated and shared?

Our team at Niibin Advisory Services enjoys problem-solving to find positive ways to engage and support Indigenous Advisory Committees. Reach out to us for further insights.

Stay tuned for the next installment in our series, where we’ll explore strategies for enhancing engagement and participation to maintain a strong circle.