These are good resources available about how to conduct a study – In League and Empowering Citizens: A Guide to Influencing Public Policy (LWVUS), as well as your own local policies.
There are a great many positions in place on all three levels of League that can be used to address issues. They tend to be broad enough to not soon be outdated. New and emerging issues may not be addressed, however.
Local Leagues do not seem to be doing as many studies as before. Why not? Many of our local Leagues are small, older, have more employed people, making it hard to find people willing and able to serve on a committee. Often, in the enthusiasm of adopting program, people will volunteer, only to decide later that they aren’t able to participate. Ideally, a study committee will be made up of people with diverse views. The chair, appointed by the board, basically acts as a neutral facilitator to keep the committee on task and on time, without promoting a personal view. (Remember, it’s from Study to Action!)
So, you can’t get enough committee members. What can you do? In a study committee, tasks are usually divided up, with each one or two members taking a piece to work on, for later inclusion in the study. If you can only get, say three members, why not do the study incrementally, working on one piece at a time? It will take longer, but it will be a study.
Some Leagues do a white paper, or an informational update as a basis for member discussion of an issue. One person pulling some information together with discussion questions is not a study. It may or may not be factual and balanced. No position can be adopted, but these writings can raise awareness.
A note about discussion questions. They are meant to elicit general member feelings or perceptions about an issue. Consensus questions are designed to determine member consensus on specific aspects of the issue. If there is a two-part study, often both are used.
Whose study is it? Sometimes, a committee can get so immersed in their work that they feel ownership of the study. League guidelines are very clear. The board has final authority for study content and approval of consensus questions.
The board appoints readers to read the study draft for balance, bias, completeness, clarity and organization. They do not edit or re-write. Disagreements between the reading committee and the committee are settled by the board.
Today’s communication makes studies easier to manage, but you still need a committee. Do not despair. For other ways to educate or work on issues, see Empowering Citizens: A Guide to Influencing Public Policy (LWVUS).
from Judy Goldberg, Ruth Shur Fellow, #509-627-5347, firstname.lastname@example.org