Advisory committee, board or council

$15k to $75k
estimated cost of external help
  • Scope and plan
  • Prioritise options
  • Confirm options
  • Deliberate
9 weeks or more
estimated run time
6-8 weeks
estimated lead time
Adept organiser
recommended experience
A group of appointed persons, established to provide short- or long-term advice on a specific issue or project. The people are typically a diverse mix of stakeholder representatives and subject-matter experts. They may be used to consult on, or collaboratively solve, specific challenges and may also oversee other engagement work being conducted.

Advisory committees, boards or councils bring their own networks of stakeholders to the table, which can benefit a project by providing avenues for engagement or access to hard-to-reach stakeholders. They should be a diverse-enough group to produce helpful tension in the decision-making process and provide fair representation for the project’s stakeholders.

In 5 steps...

  1. Establish a terms-of-reference document that clearly describes the purpose, intent and authority of the advisory committee. This should be explicit enough to provide clear direction, while not prescribing how the committee should achieve its objectives. Importantly, it should state the level of influence the committee will have over the final decision.
  2. Begin recruiting your committee. Your selection process and criteria should be openly communicated and transparent. Ensure you get a good, diverse mix of representation on your committee. It can be helpful to include known stakeholders in the selection process to ensure their interests are represented.
  3. Host regular meetings to tackle issues that need to be addressed to complete your project.
  4. The committee may have the discretion to appoint sub-committees or other persons to undertake pieces of work required by the project (if they have been allocated a budget and the authority to do so).
  5. The committee is usually tasked with overseeing the production of a final recommendations document or similar report to mark the end of their role in the project.

When to use it

Advisory committees are effective in high-risk engagements where a strong connection to, and collaboration with, the community or interest groups is desirable. They can be beneficial in gaining participation from a broader committee and bringing important specialist knowledge to the table.


  • Establishes the principle of collaboration with stakeholders.
  • Enables access to a range of knowledge and expertise.
  • Safe space to develop or test ideas and how they might be perceived by the community.
Long term
  • Improved reception of the final output.
  • Better relationships between the project team and key stakeholders.


  • May not provide a diverse enough or representative voice if not carefully selected,
  • Likewise, if not carefully vetted, members may be disconnected from the real needs of those they are supposed to represent.
  • Can be expensive if members expect compensation for their time due to the calibre of the individuals often included.



  • Establish criteria by which you’ll select committee members. This might include endorsed expertise in the subject area, strong ties to the community, and a grounded understanding of the systemic relationships.
  • Work with the committee to codesign a code of conduct before they commence. This will ensure everyone has a shared understanding of how they are expected to behave and work together.
  • Provide the information required for decisions or discussion prior to meetings, so that the group can get straight to work.

During the process

  • Commence each meeting by reminding members of their purpose, to help keep them on track.
  • Keep and distribute minutes from each meeting so that members can review them.
  • Use a facilitator or appoint a board chair who can take responsibility for ensuring the committee stays on task.
  • Keep the agenda focused on areas in which the board can have an influence.


  • The names, expertise and affiliations of board members should be included in your final report.

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