Improving Public Meetings with New Facilitators and Policy Statement

Lance Rakovan
Senior Communications Specialist

It’s been a while since I first addressed the topic of NRC facilitators in a blog post; however we recently brought a new group of facilitators into the NRC’s In-House Meeting Facilitator & Advisor Program and I thought the occasion was worth mentioning.

The NRC's latest public meeting facilitators area ready to step into their new roles
The NRC’s latest public meeting facilitators are ready to step into their new roles.

The purpose of the program is to help make meetings and outreach more effective, inclusive and fair, and to increase NRC’s capacity to collaborate and solve problems with both internal and external stakeholders.

Program facilitators are NRC staff who assist in planning, preparing for and conducting meetings. They help with meetings as a collateral duty (in other words, in addition to their primary jobs). When asked why they would add to their workload by joining this program, facilitators said they’re looking for new challenges and to expand their skill set. But more importantly, they said they’re looking for new ways to help the NRC accomplish its mission.

The new facilitators, the fourth group of staff to enter the program, or “Gen4,” forged ties while completing four days of training. The training was intensive and, as you would expect, featured many opportunities for participants to test out their collaboration skills in a safe environment. Next step is for them to work with experienced facilitators for additional on-the-job training on their way to becoming “fully credentialed” members of the NRC’s Facilitator Corps.

While on the subject of public meetings, let me update you on the status of the Commission Policy Statement on Public Meetings. As I mentioned in my September 19, 2016, blog post, the NRC has drafted a new Commission policy statement on public meetings and sought public comment to make sure it hits the mark. The new policy statement is meant to re-affirm the importance of public participation in NRC’s public meetings and address a number of concerns noted previously by the public and NRC staff.

publicopinionnewI’ve seen some of the comments and there are some great ideas being provided. The policy statement is meant to be “50,000 feet” kind of guidance, so not all the ideas provided in the comments will be reflected in the final version of the policy statement, but the majority of them will certainly be incorporated into some level of NRC guidance, such as the next revision to NRC Management Directive 3.5, “Attendance at NRC Staff-Sponsored Meetings.”

Stay tuned for more information on the status of the policy statement. And look for our new facilitators at the next public meeting you attend.

Back to Basics – Seeking Comment on a New Commission Public Meeting Policy

Lance Rakovan
Senior Communications Specialist

We are always looking to make our public meetings better. To that end, we’ve drafted a new Commission policy statement on public meetings and are seeking public comment to make sure it hits the mark. The new policy statement is meant to re-affirm the importance of public participation in NRC’s public meetings and address a number of concerns noted previously by the public and NRC staff.

audienceFirst, some background. The NRC has had a formal policy regarding open meetings since 1978; the most recent revision was issued in 2002. The NRC assembled a task group on Enhancing NRC Public Meetings in June 2014. The task group recommended steps be taken to:

  • improve consistency of public meetings across the agency;
  • encourage increased management support for public interaction; and
  • seek out creative ways to effectively engage the public and promote participation.

In response to the task group’s report, the staff has begun implementing several enhancements to the existing public meeting process, including drafting the new policy statement.

The most significant proposed change to the policy statement is a revised meeting category system based on the level of public participation. The current categories of NRC public meetings are labeled 1, 2, and 3. Public participation levels for Category 1 and 2 meetings are essentially the same. However, public participation for a Category 3 meeting can range from the NRC simply engaging in dialogue with members of the public to receiving comments from the public (and responding later).

This has sometimes led to confusion over what to expect from a public meeting. The revised categorization system removes the 1, 2, and 3 labels and incorporates a clear description of the level of public participation planned for the meeting:

  • Observation Meeting
  • Information Meeting With Q&A
  • Commenting-Gathering Meeting

We hope these revised categories will help you prepare for and participate in NRC public meetings and will make more clear what you can expect. The table below compares the current categories to the proposed new categories. blog-capture_small

The NRC will be hosting a public meeting via webinar on September 29, 2016, to provide information and answer questions to help those interested in submitting comments. Formal comments, though, won’t be accepted during the meeting. To provide your comments on the draft statement, go here. Comments will be accepted until November 14, 2016.