Expert Panel

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Engagement range

Inform/Consult/Partnership

Difficulty level

Medium to Hard (reasonable level of skill in communication, media public event organising)

Cost

Medium ($1000 to $10,000)  to High (more than $10,000)

When you might use

  • To showcase a product, plan, policy

  • To discover community issues

  • To communicate an issue

  • To develop community capacity

  • To develop action plan

  • To build alliance, consensus

Number of people to organise

One to three, depends on the audience size and level of complexity

Audience numbers

Medium (11-30)

Timeframe

Medium (six weeks to six months)

Issues/resources

Publicity; Venue; Catering; Staffing; Moderator/facilitator; Audio and visual recording and amplification; Overhead projector; Data projector/screen; Furniture; Children’s requirements

Innovation level

Medium to High

 

Description

Expert panels are engaged when highly specialised input and opinion is required for a project. Generally, a variety of experts are engaged based on various fields of expertise to debate and discuss various courses of action and make recommendations. Expert panels are not as interactive as Fishbowls (where expert panels are seen as the fish in the bowls). They are used often when the issue is highly contentious and decisions are likely to have possible legal ramifications or where the best possible results (based on expertise) are required.

 

Objective

To hear a variety of informed (expert) viewpoints from which to decide on recommendations or courses of action in relation to an issue or proposal.

 

Desired outcome

A series of recommendations on a proposal or community environmental issue. Such recommendations or proposals can then be forwarded to decision making bodies.

 

Uses/strengths

  • Useful when an issue is complex and contentious.
  • Useful where conflict exists to provide opinions which may have more credibility, and hence may assist in resolving the conflict.
  • Useful when a variety of opinions are present, to provide a credible alternative opinion, based on credible expertise.
  • Useful when the possibility of legal ramifications is present, as the experts’ report or opinions may carry weight in any future court case.

Special considerations/weaknesses

  • Experts can be expensive.
  • A long lead time may be needed to book appropriate experts.
  • Format of the panel must encourage participation and dialogue between all panellists.
  • Generally, this is used at the conclusion of participatory program where all available information has been considered.
  • Public input may not be available.
  • Used mostly where specialised knowledge is required rather than public opinion.
  • A highly skilled moderator is required.
  • Expertise in relevant and complementary areas will be needed to produce an ‘expert opinion’ which will be credible with the public, and which can be drawn on in the case of legal action.

Step by step guide

  1. Select panellists on the basis of expertise, ensuring issues/groups of relevance are represented.
  2. Allow time for contacting experts for the panel, and negotiating a mutually suitable time. For very busy people, this can mean planning some months in advance.
  3. Employ a skilled and unbiased moderator.
  4. Provide background briefing information to panellists.
  5. Determine ground rules for the panel.
  6. Allow public input if possible and appropriate.
  7. Determine course of action.
  8. Present the outcomes of the panel discussions.

 

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