Members of a governing body can come together to learn how to function as a team and better meet the needs of the community through these retreats. These programs offer a relaxed, informal atmosphere with plenty of time to discuss issues and concerns.
What is a retreat?
A retreat is an opportunity for the governing body to come together in a relaxed setting away from daily pressures and distractions in order to regroup, refocus, and plan to better meet community needs. Unlike most regular meetings, a retreat allows for plenty of time to discuss issues and concerns. ("Advance", "planning session", and "planning workshop" are other terms frequently used to describe this type of event.)
What do we do at a retreat?
Each retreat is unique and is structured to meet your commission/council and community's needs. Some retreats focus on board/council member roles, responsibilities, and relationship building, with officials discussing ways to work together better to achieve goals. Other retreats take more of a planning approach, with participants setting specific goals to accomplish during their term and beyond. Other subjects covered may include financial planning, managing change, conflict resolution, and communications with the media and with citizens. Most retreats cover multiple topics.
What is a facilitator and why do we need one?
A facilitator will assist you in planning and conducting the retreat. The Governmental Training, Education, and Development Division of the Institute will provide a staff member to be your facilitator. The staff member is familiar with the issues and problems you confront as an elected government official. The facilitator's job starts prior to the retreat. He or she will work with you to plan a process to meet your specific needs. At the retreat, the facilitator will provide structure to keep things moving, but will remain flexible and open to all ideas that emerge. The facilitator, a neutral person not involved in or connected with your community, chairs the meeting. This allows everyone to participate fully and equally in the retreat. The facilitator understands it is your retreat and wants to make sure your needs are met.
Where would we have the retreat?
The decision of where to meet is made by your group. We suggest that you consider meeting away from your local community. Participants are able to focus their attention on broader issues and concerns when they are away from the day-to-day distractions and interruptions that occur "back home." They also are more attuned to their relationships with each other. The simple fact that participants take the time and trouble required to travel to a different site demonstrates a commitment to invest themselves in the retreat process.
Who should attend the retreat?
Ideally, a retreat requires the participation of the entire governing body. In order to build an effective team, all members should take part. The council/commission and the manager/administrator should be at the retreat. Other key staff members such as the attorney and department heads may also attend. Who attends depends on what you want to accomplish.
How long is a retreat?
Although the exact length depends on the objectives for your time together, most retreats last from one and one-half to two and one-half days. An underlying assumption is that if participants get to know each other better outside the daily work environment they will be able to work better together for the good of the community. You will not only participate together in work sessions but in group meals and social activities. We conduct retreats during the week and on weekends in order to best meet your specific needs.