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Studies are part of League Program and, in League parlance, League Program includes all of the positions the League uses to affect public policy as well as the procedure for adopting these programs. Program is such an integral part of the League that, according to League Basics, the League publication formerly titled In League, “Program is the League’s reason for being.”
Program has three parts: 1) selection of an issue, 2) study of that issue, consensus and formulating a position, and 3) use of that position to influence public policy. All LWVUS positions are included in the League publication, Impact on Issues, 2010-2012: A Guide to Public Policy Positions.
This guide briefly covers how we got here, and, secondly, the perspective of participating in a national study at the local level. The purpose of a study, at any level, is to educate members so that they can be informed participants in consensus and provide the necessary data for formulating the ultimate position.
Additional information about conducting a national study is on the LWVUS website with a power point entitled, “The ABCs of a National Study.”
Selection of an issue begins with the Program Planning each League is asked to do. This is where the local Leagues identify issues that deserve a study at the national level or updates of existing positions. These are issues where the LWVUS has no position, and, therefore, cannot act. Remember, Leagues cannot take action without a position.
Study and consensus begins right after Convention when the LWVUS Board appoints a study committee chair, sets up the process for selecting the committee, and approves the scope and timeline for the study. This sets the parameters for the study committee’s work. The scope is distributed to the local Leagues to give general direction to their preliminary work.
The study committee begins its work of refining the areas to be studied, researching and writing background information about the different areas contained in the scope, and preparing consensus questions and other materials to help direct local League discussion to consensus. All of these materials are/will be posted at www.lwv.org/member-resources/privatization..
As each local League reports its consensus (or lack thereof) the reports are consolidated, and, based on this information, the committee formulates the position which, when approved by the Board, can be used for action.
It is easier to say what consensus is not, than what it is. Consensus is not a vote; rather, consensus is mutual agreement of League members arrived at through discussion. During discussion, everyone has an opportunity to express their viewpoints, and the issue is examined from all sides. Consensus questions, created by the appropriate study committee and approved by the Board, provide structure for the meeting. Members discuss the pros and cons until it becomes apparent that consensus has/has not been reached on each question. The study committee analyzes the consensus responses and, using this information, creates a position statement.
Scope: The committee’s first task is to create a scope for the study. A scope describes the limits of the study, describes areas to explore and often includes focus areas. The culminating position will address only those issues delineated in the scope. The scope of the privatization study was approved by the LWVUS Board and distributed to local Leagues to give them direction during the study process.
Background materials: After establishing the scope, committee members research and write about various issues included in the scope, compile a list of resources, consolidate information, develop a glossary and create the consensus questions. The materials and other resources are posted at www.lwv.org/member-resources/privatization.
When the LWVUS Board of Directors approves the position for “Privatization,” it immediately becomes the League’s position and is the basis for action on the issue. This type of member involvement in the consensus process tends to ensure member commitment to the resulting positions. In addition, members have the opportunity at each Convention to decide whether or not to re-adopt these positions or update them.