Towards the end of 2017, a survey was distributed to members of Cobourg’s advisory committees asking questions about satisfaction with their contribution. The results are now in and the only apparent actions are that members will get more training, their role will be more clearly defined and they will get a “user guide/manual”. Yet a significant number of committee members felt they were not making much difference. See the link below to download the full questionnaire complete with “long answers” – text responses that give an insight into the thinking of committee members. It’s likely that some committees work better than others but the survey lumped all responses together. At the risk of highlighting the comments of negative individuals, I have summarized the more critical survey results.
There are 63 citizens on advisory committees – of these, 27 completed the survey.
Of the 15 questions asked, I have highlighted just five.
Question asked: How much of an impact do you feel your volunteer work and experience as a local advisory committee and board member has had?
The largest group (46%) felt they had had a “moderate impact”.
Some respondents supported Town staff or made positive comments but others said: I too often have felt that I have been rubber-stamping pre-made decisions.
Question asked: Are you receiving adequate feedback on your local board’s and advisory committee’s recommendations from the Town?
Although 70% said they were getting adequate feedback, several commented that no feedback has been received, unless requested.
Question asked: In a typical month, how many hours do you spend as a member on a Town of Cobourg local board or advisory committee?
The answers ranged from 1-2 hours to 32-40 hours. From the answers, I calculated an average of 5.8 hours and a median of 3.5 hours. A few put in long hours; others just go to meetings.
Two separate questions were asked on most satisfying and “most dissatisfying aspect of your volunteer experience” Most were positive – a few were negative:
- The “advisory” nature of the committee makes it difficult and/or confusing when trying to determine how we can make a real difference in the community.
- The Town ‘talks the talk but doesn’t walk the walk’. We advise but I don’t sense that the Town/Council really understands and supports its advisory committee.
- Feeling as if we are just listening to reports of work done by staff – no, or at least, very few pro-active agenda items.
- Rarely asked to participate or give views.
- The committee as a whole is somewhat conservative. There is not a lot of “thinking outside the box.”
Since the overall comments were positive, the negative comments are in danger of being ignored. But in business, quality control programs target zero defects so they focus on the negatives – surely that’s worth doing here.
There are 12 committees:
Community and Civic Awards Advisory Committee
Cobourg Economic Development Advisory Committee
Cobourg Downtown Business Improvement Area Board
Cobourg Accessibility Advisory Committee
Cobourg Police Services Board (no independent citizens)
Cobourg Planning and Sustainability Advisory Committee
Cobourg Heritage Advisory Committee
Cobourg Public Library Board
Cobourg Environmental Active Transportation Advisory Committee
Cobourg Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee
Committee of Adjustment & Property Standards Committee
Downtown Coalition Advisory Committee