For 21 years, the Hanford Advisory Board (HAB) has evolved and matured to successfully meet its responsibility to deliver consensus advice and quality board products to the Tri-Party Agencies (TPA). That success rests securely on the board’s reliance on a set of well-defined values, a committed membership and a consistent respect for the informed recommendations and advice being developed. These essentials, in turn, also encourage the board to remain sensitive to changes in the HAB, the HAB community and the complex demands of Hanford cleanup.
In many respects, managing change became increasingly important for the HAB in 2015, and it will continue to influence the HAB in 2016. As the members occupying the 32 seats on the board become more youthful and more diverse — the HAB is beginning to look more like the interest groups and communities the members represent — the HAB is struggling with how best to involve this changing membership in HAB-related activities.
For example, scheduling activities or meetings to ensure the participation of board members has become increasingly important. Equally important is the need to explore whether the public will have an opportunity to participate in these same meetings on a more regular basis. Unfortunately, few calendars allow most people to easily attend all-day committee meetings or an evening workshop.
And while conference calls and webinars provide for some flexibility and freedom from actually traveling to a meeting, board members and members of the public find even that effort difficult.
Similarly, the HAB is also adjusting, slowly, to the demands of a membership that relies more and more on cellphones for exchanging and accessing information.
Fortunately, embracing these difficulties is a priority for the HAB. In 2015, when the HAB and the TPA adopted the 2016 Work Plan, it included three public involvement topics. The three Work Plan topics — Outreach, Public Outreach Recommendations and Youth Involvement — concentrate on how HAB members can improve their engagement with the varied interests of Hanford stakeholders and with the interests of the general public.
The Outreach and Public Outreach recommendations focus on the scheduling of outreach activities such as small, topic-specific workshops and public comment opportunities similar to the recent public meetings on proposed changes to the Hanford Central Plateau cleanup work schedule. Outreach and Public Outreach recommendations also focus on the development of outreach materials that consistently provide clear, accessible explanations about key Hanford cleanup issues.
Youth Involvement represents the HAB’s effort to formalize the development of a student internship program similar to those programs found at other Environmental Management Site-Specific Advisory Boards. The Nevada SSAB, the Oak Ridge SSAB and others have initiated programs to successfully increase student participation in and awareness of site-specific work. Preliminary discussions about introducing a similar program have begun, and those charged with identifying the benefits, the objectives and the best approaches for student involvement hope to have an initial report in the fall.
Fresh faces and fresh voices have certainly helped the HAB to see itself and its responsibilities refreshed.