In the UK, one of our two flagship projects, the Heritage Lottery funded, King’s Cross Story Palace has benefited greatly from the input and advice of an external Advisory Board. The group meets quarterly with the purpose of grounding the project in the local area and supporting its success. As representatives of key stakeholder groups, the members help to ensure that activities remain relevant and inclusive to all communities in the project area. As such, keeping this group of highly knowledgeable and skilled volunteers engaged is crucial.
Here are the key principles we’ve been following and what we’ve learned in the process of building and hosting the board:
Laying the Groundwork
From the onset we knew the advisory board would be invaluable to the project. We wrote up a one-page Terms of Reference document that outlined what the active role of the board would be. This included laying out their responsibilities:
- Advising on the project’s strategic direction
- Providing feedback on the proposed activity programme
- Sharing specialist knowledge and relationships that could enrich the activity programme
- Proposing new opportunities or approaches that enhance the project and promote its outcomes
- Supporting fundraising and partnership development activity
- Helping the project maintain its relationships and relevance to local communities, individuals and organisations – through actively championing the project
Who to Invite
We then set about deciding who to invite. The project area is diverse and we needed to insure equal representation on the board. To help us devise the invite list, we looked to partners large and small as well as the target groups we planned to engage. For us this includes the local Bangladeshi community, young people, the unemployed and older people. We also wanted to insure heritage and archives representation, as well as having someone from the local government. In the end we invited twelve people to join, which was an ideal number as we aimed to have seven to eight attendees at any one meeting.
We set the meeting frequency to quarterly, and keep a strict time limit of two hours. In order to maintain engagement from the members, we always tie the meeting in with an event, tour or presentation to give them extra value. Lunch, snacks and refreshments are also always part of the proceedings. It’s a small gesture but an important one.
Preparation is important – to focus the group on a specific task or discussion point. We found this effective to best harness the input from the group and give everyone an equal chance to contribute.
The final and most important element of keeping the board engaged is communicating with them before and after the meetings. Saying thank you in different ways for the time and knowledge they are dedicating to the project.
King’s Cross Story Palace is a two year Heritage Lottery funded project, running until December 2018. The project is led by Historypin and The Building Exploratory. The project aims to build a community led history of the past 100 years in King’s Cross through conversations and dialogues – be it one-to-one encounters, small group gatherings and large scale events. The stories we gather will feature online at storypalace.org and in exhibitions, walks, maps and other printed materials.