Indigenous Advisory Committees – Strong Engagement

Indigenous Advisory Committees – Strong Engagement

Indigenous Advisory Committees – Strong Engagement

At Niibin Advisory Services, we’ve had the privilege of collaborating with clients aiming to strengthen 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 participating in organizational activities. A strong Advisory Committee fosters meaningful relationships within the communities it serves and can contribute to meaningful change in the organization.

In this series, we’re exploring key strategies for maintaining an engaged Indigenous Advisory Committee, and this post focuses on tips to avoid committees becoming dis-engaged.

Tip 1 – Scope Creep

The committee has identified its purpose and objectives but then over time, new topics might find their way (“creep”) into agendas, diverting the committee from its core, strategic focus.   Organizations tend to turn to their advisory committee for all Indigenous matters and expand the committee’s scope. While seeking input from the Advisory Committee is important, organizations should also consider leveraging Indigenous Relations team, consultants, and community engagement as additional ways to gain insight and feedback.   Heavy reliance on the Advisory Committee can dilute the committee’s core purpose, leading to dissatisfaction or frustration.  We’ve heard it in many cases, advisory committees don’t want to serve as a ‘check box’.

Tip 2 – Operational Updates

Transparency and community accountability are vital, and Indigenous Advisory Committees do play a crucial role in providing that space for an organization.   While you may wish to share details of what your team has accomplished since the last meeting, common feedback we’ve heard is that members want to get to decisions and matters that are strategic, sensitive, and impactful.

Avoid spending too much time on your operational details and focus on how the committee can help make change, tackle challenges, celebrate achievements.  Gauge the preferred method of sharing operational information with committee members, whether through written reports, audio notes, video clips, or over a meal together.

Tip 3 – Lack of Onboarding and Mentorship

Dedicating time to onboarding new members is essential to prevent assumptions and creates an environment for learning and asking questions.  Onboarding is a good time to find out what new members need to participate fully and demonstrates that their time is valued and appreciated.

Mentorship between experienced and new members is equally important for sustained engagement.  Acknowledge that your committee members have competing priorities and mentorship can help distribute responsibilities effectively, such as chairing, and sub-committees.

Tip 4 – Forgetting Your Terms of Reference

As committees progress, there’s a tendency to refer to the Terms of Reference less frequently.   Committee work is all very similar, isn’t it?  However, regularly revisiting these documents is crucial, especially when faced with new challenges or changes.   Stay consistent in following procedures such as attendance and decision-making and identify when a procedure is no longer necessary.  See our earlier post on creating an effective Terms of Reference.  Neglecting these details can lead to a decline in committee membership and engagement.


When any combination of these scenarios occur, membership or engagement can decline.  Put yourself in a member’s shoes – a committee that appears unable to accomplish its objectives, may become a lower priority against other demands.  While coordinating an Advisory Committee is unlikely to be your full-time role, adopting positive practices can enhance its functionality and engagement.  Our team at Niibin Advisory Services enjoys problem-solving to support Indigenous Advisory Committees. Reach out to us for further insights.

Upcoming: Stay tuned for the next installment in our series on Indigenous Advisory Committees, where we’ll focus on ways to center Indigenous approaches.