Wisconsin Geospatial News

Commentary: What to expect at the WIGICC listening sessions

Jim’s WIGICC homework assignments

1. If you plan to attend, RSVP to gc_comments@lists.wisc.edu

2. Visit the “related documents” section on the WIGICC Web site.

3. Before you arrive, think critically about what you see as the primary functions of a coordinating council.

4. As an exercise, develop your own organizational structure for the council, based on your own biases, beliefs, and needs. How does it compare to the models presented by the working group?

For more information

Visit the WIGICC Web site or contact Dave Mockert at (608) 261-5042.

Also see: Members of the ad-hoc working group

Last week I attended the first of five statewide "listening sessions" on the proposed Wisconsin Geographic Information Coordination Council (WIGICC).  In the spirit of sharing, I wanted to give you my take on how things went.

The first obvious question you may have is, should you go?  Absolutely!  I felt my time was well-spent. The facilitators did a nice job keeping the process moving along quickly, and made sure that everybody had a chance to say their piece.

The session began with a 15-minute overview of GIS, which I honestly didn’t feel was necessary for the 22 people in attendance.  In fairness, the thinking behind the "GIS 101" presentation is to provide background information to any elected officials or GIS neophytes that might show up. 

The real meat of the session began with introductory remarks by David Mockert, State Geographic Information Officer.  Dave gave us a history behind the council proposal, and the goals for the afternoon.  Harry Webne-Behrman, a professional facilitator, further described the process to the group.

The afternoon was broken down into two distinct but related small-group sessions. 

We began with a small-group discussion of criteria to be used for evaluating council organizational models.  The goal here was to develop the thought process for eventually defining the most appropriate council structure.  After reporting back to the larger group, there was considerable discussion on the most critical evaluation criteria.

(Note: I don’t want to unfairly bias future listening sessions, so I won’t go into the specifics discussed at the Madison session.)

After a short break, we re-convened for a focused discussion on potential models for the coordination council.  Dick Vraga and Steve Ventura gave a nice overview of two very different models developed by the ad-hoc working group.  They made it very clear that these are only options to spur further thinking— picking the "right" model wasn’t the point of the afternoon exercise.

As you might guess, there were many questions during this part of the session, and just as many opinions on how the council should be organized.  Although we were specifically asked not to pick Model A or Model B, as they are called, many of us naturally gravitated toward discussing the “best” model based on our own biases.   In the end, I thought we had a great discussion on the key elements that should be considered for a future council.

It pays to be prepared

There are some things I regret not preparing ahead of time, so I’d like to propose some homework for future attendees.

The organizers felt it was best to focus on the organizational structure of the council during the listening sessions, and not get bogged down in details of specific tasks, functions, and responsibilities.   With limited time available, I understand that decision.

That said, before you show up, I recommend you think critically about what a coordinating council should do to help your own organization.   In other words, think selfishly!  Then, use those thoughts to contribute to the discussion of how a council should be structured to meet your own “selfish” functional requirements.

Also, many of you have questions about the council, and it’s natural to bring them up during the session.  In truth, no decisions have been made about the future makeup of the council, so many of your questions may go unanswered.  For example, rather than asking “will the WI Department of Administration have a role in the council?”, you might instead assert “I do/don’t think DOA should have a role because ______.”  Phrasing your concerns in the form of a statement will provide the organizers with the tangible feedback they need.

If not now, when?

If you think the council concept is a good idea, show up and give your opinions.  And if you have concerns about the council, it’s equally important that you show up and clearly state your point of view.

Taking a half-day out of your schedule is hard, especially when you tack travel time on top of that.  Based on my own positive experience, I encourage you to take the time to show up, listen, and share your opinions at an upcoming listening session.