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Facilitating efficient and productive privacy discussions is one of the most crucial skills necessary to understanding the privacy issues surrounding the integration of justice information systems and developing sound policies to effectively address those issues. A single agency cannot develop a truly comprehensive privacy policy on its own. Only by working with representatives from justice agencies, the courts, and victim services groups can the privacy implications of an integrated information system be identified and addressed. Moreover, an agency developing a privacy policy of this nature should seriously consider inviting members of the academic community and the press.

Working with stakeholders of an integrated justice information system necessarily means bringing individuals with contrasting viewpoints into the same room and trying to reach consensus.

Working with stakeholders of an integrated justice information system necessarily means bringing individuals with contrasting viewpoints into the same room and trying to reach consensus. Bringing together people of differing viewpoints and learning from participants variety of backgrounds has been the most fulfilling part of my career. The purpose of this page is to provide some guidance on how to facilitate the types of privacy discussions that can help justice agencies develop sound policies that anticipate the potential privacy harms of new information systems.

Convening any meeting carries with it a substantial amount of baggage. Everyone has attended meetings that were poorly planned, even more poorly executed, and accomplished absolutely nothing worthwhile. The following recommendations and examples are provided to help justice agencies overcome common obstacles to facilitating productive meetings. The recommendations have the added benefit of increasing the level of participant involvement and encouraging frank and open conversations.

1. Understand the goals of each meeting before it is called.
Productive meetings are called for a number of reasons, including: (1) to convey information to participants; (2) to gather information from participants; (3) to answer participants questions; (4) to make decisions as a group; and (5) to brainstorm. Understand these goals and communicate them to meeting participants when they are invited. The most effective way to communicate goals to participants is to develop a detailed agenda.



2. Prepare to facilitate a productive meeting.
The vast majority of the work that goes into any meeting takes place before it is even called. When privacy issues are the focus of a meeting, it is best to identify, in advance, each stakeholder groups primary concerns. The best way to do this is by meeting with each groups representatives individually. Then, when the stakeholders convene at the meeting, the facilitator is able to better focus the conversation and achieve the goals of the meeting.


3. Set concrete objectives and outcomes.
Meeting checklists can be a valuable tool to identify and keep track of the meetings accomplishments. The time will come when the group has to review and comment upon a draft version of the agencys privacy policy. Developing a worksheet that is distributed to participants in advance of the meeting is a way to direct the discussion and resolve issues.



4. Respect everyone's time.
Holding endless, unproductive meetings is a sure way to alienate participants. Acknowledge early on that meeting participants are invited for their expertise and experience. These are valuable assets that need to be respected. Set a two-hour time limit for meetings. This makes the facilitator run an efficient meeting while allowing some time for thoughtful discussion. Announce meetings at least three weeks in advance and coordinate with members when choosing a meeting date.



5. Break down complex information into easier to digest information without sacrificing detail.
Developing a privacy policy and facilitating productive discussions involves a substantial amount of research and communicating complex information to meeting participants. Whenever possible, develop one- to three-page summaries of research that could be valuable to participants privacy discussions. Additionally, consider providing copies of short articles that may help inform policy deliberations.



6. Make meetings productive, interesting, and fun; break the mold.
Break the mold of the typical government meeting. Experiment with new room arrangements and develop meeting materials that are informative yet entertaining. Seek creative ways to present information to or obtain information from participants. Design presentations to get members to let their guard down a little, to ease tension, and to fight boredom.



7. Follow up on questions raised and decisions made during meetings.
Your credibility will depend substantially upon how you follow-up on the meeting. Quickly prepare meeting summaries and distribute them to members. Meeting summaries should not be transcripts; rather, summaries should list key discussion points, action items, and who is responsible for completing which tasks. Make certain participants comments are reflected in updated work products. This demonstrates to participants that their comments and opinions are valuable and that their contributions to the privacy policy development process are important.