"The work that went into developing these recommendations has been nothing short of monumental.”

Former Colorado State Sen. Betty Boyd, chair, Community Living Advisory Group

Client Success Story

Community Living Advisory Group

Background

In 2012, Governor John Hickenlooper issued an Executive Order aimed at addressing the state’s growing population of residents who will be accessing Long Term Services and Supports (LTSS) and who wish to live in the community of their choice. The Executive Order formed the Community Living Advisory Group and tasked its members to redesign all aspects of the state’s LTSS system. In particular, the committee’s work would tackle:

  • Service models.
  • Payment structures and data systems.
  • Silos of service.
  • Restricted opportunities for self-direction and a limited adoption of the core concept of person-centeredness.

Engaged Public's Lisa B. Carlson, partner and director of facilitation, was hired to serve as the principal facilitator. Over two years of intensive work, the group faced a host of complex issues and challenges, and during this process, Lisa additionally served as a key advisor and a process architect.

Lisa's facilitation was initially focused on creating a culture and group structure, which aided the Advisory Group in coming to difficult agreements on recommendations. Additionally, the facilitation role encompassed:

  • Bringing together an advisory committee of 35 people.
  • Forming six additional subcommittees ranging from 20 to 40 people.
  • Corresponding with participants on an individual basis to ensure ongoing engagement.
  • Leading monthly calls with committee chairs.
  • Facilitating regular advisory committee meetings.
  • Hiring partner facilitators to manage subcommittee meetings.
  • Managing public and non-public comment meetings.
  • Documenting the agreements reached.

Perhaps the ultimate job commitment was to build trust among the various parties so the group could reach consensus on a final report to be issued in the fall of 2014 to the Governor's Office.

Challenge

The Community Living Advisory Group faced challenges because of philosophical differences between the different constituency groups, which included the aging and disability communities, as well as the agencies and systems serving those communities. Participants were understandably passionate about their lives and cultures and brought those passions into the process. Many members of the groups had not previously worked together and used different terms within their own systems, requiring Lisa to create exercises that built and improved communication.

The work was also on a timeline, with the group's sunset and report due to the governor in September 2014. Lisa had the challenging task of keeping the committee on track with this deadline while respecting and paying close attention to the detail of the recommendations coming from the committee.

lisa giving a presentation

Solutions

Lisa and the Engaged Public team used a number of practices to provide neutral facilitation for the Community Living Advisory Group over the course of a two-year meeting schedule:

  • The group first agreed to ground rules, which included their decision-making method of consensus (everyone understands and can agree with the decision), with a fallback of a supermajority of 70% of those present, if consensus could not be reached.
  • To reach consensus, Lisa advised the subcommittees and larger Advisory Group to send recommendations back and forth to build on agreements and refine areas that needed improvement.
  • Early in the process, the group was asked to envision a wildly successful future to identify the common inspiration fueling the diverse stakeholders. Engaged Public enlisted the assistance of a graphic recorder who captured the group's ideal picture of the future.
  • Two intensive all-day workshops were conducted with the advisory group and the committee chairs during the two-year process to solidify agreements reached and better define the work still required. On these occasions, keypad polling was used to efficiently identify the degree of agreement. Maureen Wolsborn, program manager with Engaged Public, helped craft the relevant questions to put forth. Engaged Public has learned that the nuance of what and how questions are asked is essential for keypad polling to be effective for group problem solving.
  • Leveraging the leadership of the Advisory Group, Engaged Public worked closely with its chair, the subcommittee chairs, the state’s staff, consultants, and others that had shared leadership responsibilities for the success of the Advisory Group. A top-down approach is never as effective as a collaborative approach in solving complex public policy issues.

An Engaged Public guiding principle is that effective facilitation must provide a sense of hope and aspiration to the process; that heavy doses of optimism and well-timed humor can greatly impact positive change. "Studies have shown that when people are having more fun, and when the right brain is triggering, you really can be much more creative and collaborative," says Lisa. “It’s also important to celebrate the successes.”

Over the course of many months and meetings, the Community Living Advisory Group participants were guided through a section-by-section process. That extensive work culminated in a final report that met the Governor’s needs: widely agreed-upon recommendations to improve the system.

poster for final recommendations

The Advisory Group voted unanimously to submit the report to the Governor’s office, a major milestone for the group and an affirmation of the process.

"I was elated and I think they felt it, too," Lisa says. "They’d come such a long way, and while I certainly needed to be tenacious at times, all of the participants really had to be tenacious too. We hung in there together and it was not always easy."

Lisa also notes that in such a large facilitation environment, it is important to pay attention to the process, even if it can sometimes be exhausting. "If you don't have those things in place, it is really hard to talk about the substance of the issues at hand. But if you spin your wheels on the process, you burn people out.

Results

The Community Living Advisory Group was successful in delivering its final report and recommendations to Governor John Hickenlooper on Sept. 30, 2014. The group's recommendations are designed to create a Long Term Services and Supports system for the future, one that meets the needs of individuals to stay in their communities of choice among family and friends while also achieving long-term fiscal sustainability. "While the final report has been delivered and is a very important benchmark, the hard work really is just beginning to implement these recommendations," Lisa says. "Working together, I am confident positive changes will be forthcoming."

Citizen Engagement by the Numbers

  • 10:Shared principles.
  • 2035: Year by which one in four Coloradans will be age 65 or older.
  • 45: Current and former members of the steering committee.
  • 6: Subcommittees.
  • 36: Recommendations in the report made to the governor.
  • 100: Percent of members who voted to approve the final report.
  • 80: Percentage of adults 65 and older with at least one chronic condition.

Engaged Public: Capabilities and Expertise

The Engaged Public team brings a specific and unique set of skills to the table that help make public engagement campaigns a success, including:

  • Comprehensive leadership
  • Impeccable understanding of the policy environment
  • Negotiation, consensus and relationship-building skills
  • Conversation architecture creation, logistics, and group facilitation
  • Transparency to ensure integrity of process
  • Research, report writing, policy analysis and content production
  • Public relations and media relations support
  • Innovative methodology utilizing technology tools, including:
  • Rapid response, flexibility and adaptability to change process to meet changing results
  • Synthesis of old tools (written analysis) with new tools (keypad polling, budget simulation)
  • Political "savvy" to develop implementable recommendations
  • Ability to facilitate ideologically diverse viewpoints and opinions for any organization, event or community
  • Responsiveness to parties whose views may or may not carry the day
  • Delivery of meaningful, actionable policy recommendations
  • Willingness to go the extra step and work harder, even outside original template