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Getting Key Stakeholder Participation

by Jim Olshefsky and Joe Hugo

The success of any standard is tied directly to its relevance in the marketplace. A sure way to create a standard with market relevance is to have all of the key stakeholders involved in its creation. A “key stakeholder” can be defined as a manufacturer, customer, or any number of other interests such as government or academia that is involved in and has expertise in activities under the scope of a subcommittee or committee.

ASTM International has provided its technical committees with several tools that make it easier to attract the participation of these key stakeholders. By using electronic communications, participants from anywhere in the world have access to the standards development process. And now, with the avaiability of Virtual Meetings, people from any location can attend a meeting and make a contribution to the quality and content of the standard in development. Membership in ASTM is not required to take part in task group activities.

Here are some ideas to get you started in increasing key stakeholder participation.

Analysis and Planning

It is each committee’s responsibility to continually review its list of participants to ensure key stakeholder participation. One opportune time to focus on attracting new stakeholders is when there is a specific industry problem or safety concern. Seize moments such as this to make a special effort to attract interested new participants.

Whenever you choose to expand your stakeholder participation, any plan to do this should include a targeted scope, objective, and implementation process. For example, your methods may be distinctly different if the plan’s scope is to increase activity by federal government employees versus increasing the number of laboratory members on a committee.

A “gap analysis,” as it is commonly called, can be done to determine where there may be gaps in industry participation. The Executive Committee may perform this analysis or it may be assigned to a smaller task group or strategic planning subcommittee. The analysis can even be subcommittee specific. ASTM’s Strategic Planning Manual, which you can find on the ASTM Web site under Technical Committees, details a committee self-evaluation.

Here are a few questions that your committee may use at the start of its analysis:

1. What ASTM committees have similar, parallel, or related standards and standards activities? Is there sufficient crossover in membership?
2. Are there relevant regulatory and trade agencies that are not represented on the committee?
3. Is there a need to promote membership that better mirrors the global marketplace?
4. What membership segments are not now represented on the committee (students, trade groups, and so forth)?
5. What talents are required for specific standards development activities? Are there specific key industries and organizations to be represented?

Once information regarding existing participation is gathered, the group performing this analysis can begin to develop a plan for improvement.

Develop a List

The most important step in any process meant to improve stakeholder participation is developing a targeted list of prospective new participants. Existing committee members are the best resources in generating these targeted lists. Your committee staff manager can provide your planning group with an Excel roster of complete committee membership to sort and track existing members. Current members may be able to identify key customers or suppliers and members of other organizations, trade groups, or government employees who can be invited to participate. ASTM staff can help, as well, by providing information from:

• Customer lists;
• Symposia attendance;
• Lists of countries that have signed memorandums of understanding with ASTM;
• Technology transfer programs;
• Technical and Professional Training course attendance;
• ASTM’s European office; and
• Lists from other organizations or outside events.

In addition, ASTM’s Corporate Communications department can provide industry media lists. These are lists of magazines, journals, newsletters, etc., specific to each committee, to which press releases about committee activities are sent.

Making the Invitations and Capturing the Data

It is critical to develop appropriate ways of sending invitations to prospective participants and to provide a convenient way for them to respond. In a traditional new member promotion, the staff manager works with the committee and ASTM’s Member Services department to develop a mailing that includes pertinent information on the committee. A personal cover letter from the committee chairman that includes the benefits of membership and a request to return the committee application is recommended. Such a promotional mailing may also include information such as a list of the committee’s standards, a fact sheet on the subcommittees, committee officer list, and a “What Is ASTM International?” brochure.

Thanks to increasing worldwide use of the Internet and e-mail, national borders are no longer an impediment to participation on ASTM committees due to travel expense or restrictions. In cases where the targeted list of key stakeholders is international, a less traditional invitation-to-participate method may be used. Committee D30 on Composite Materials was one of the first committees to use this approach in their standards coordination and globalization initiative. (See the article by Rich Fields in the March 2000 issue of SN.) D30 developed a list of over 150 key stakeholders in the composites industry from around the world who were not yet participating in the committee. At the same time, the committee was developing a plan to easily capture new participants’ contact information via a Web-based application posted to the D30 home page on the ASTM Web site. A list of D30’s standards, along with questions about their use and other needs, was posted on an ASTM Interactive Forum. Each new participant expressing interest was entered as a Forum participant and invited to comment.

Through this approach, 34 new technical specialists from nine different countries signed on to D30’s work. These specialists contribute to the work of task groups of their choice at no charge and without official vote. At the same time they are encouraged to join Committee D30 as official members if they wish. In this way, the committee draws upon these specialists’ expertise to participate in their areas of interest, using electronic means to review and draft composite material standards.

Not only can committees develop plans for additional participation, but individual ASTM members are also encouraged to invite key stakeholders to participate. ASTM has developed another electronic tool by which members may personally invite others via the ASTM Web site. In the Membership area of the site is a link to “Invite a Colleague.” This new tool makes it easy for members to send an e-mail to a colleague whom they would like to consider joining the committee. The dialogue box can be used to personalize your message, but the e-mail text is automatically filled in with the benefits of joining ASTM.

Keep New Stakeholders Engaged

Your committee’s plan should also include a way to keep new members actively engaged in committee activities. Regular and prompt communication with new participants is likely to develop a better rapport and establish credibility with the new stakeholder. It may be a good idea to send new participants a personal note when a ballot opens or new activity in the committee begins. Follow up with a phone call to new participants and promptly answer their inquiries. Be careful to avoid committee jargon such as referring to standards and committees only by their alphanumeric designations.

Some committees have established a mentoring program as part of their plan. They identify new members and “buddy them up” with more experienced members of the committee for their first few meetings. Committee E18 has a well-developed mentoring program involving personal contact before the meeting and introductions to activities at the meeting. Make a new member orientation a regular part of your committee meetings and have the officers participate in welcoming the new stakeholders. For electronic participants, helpful “voice-over” PowerPoint presentations on ASTM policies and procedures are available in the Membership area of the ASTM Web site.

International Stakeholders

ASTM standards are recognized around the world as being market relevant and the most technically up-to-date. Standards are playing a more important role in the global marketplace. As the marketplace expands, it becomes increasingly important to develop stakeholder participation that represents that expanding marketplace.

Be especially sensitive to cultural differences when working with stakeholders from different countries. New stakeholders from outside of North America may not be used to the direct participation made possible through the ASTM process. Some new members may be reluctant to share constructive criticism, unless encouraged to do so. Some new members from the same country may feel more comfortable submitting their comments as a group.

Be aware that English, the language in which ASTM conducts its business and writes its standards, may not be the first language of many new participants. Speak clearly during committee meetings. When communicating by e-mail, why not try one of the free translation tools available on the Internet to communicate effectively in another language? Services on the Internet such as Alta Vista and Google offer free language tools.

When working with stakeholders from different countries, be willing to consider standards revisions that may be extremely important for their country of origin. Work with your staff manager and consult the Form and Style Manual for ASTM Standards to review guidelines on “Supplementary Requirements” sections and “Appendices” that can provide a place in existing documents for the consideration of local conditions.


As you implement your plan to increase key stakeholder participation, keep in mind that ASTM staff is poised to assist you with the use of various electronic means that will make participation easier and more convenient. Barriers to international participation have been removed. Your success is determined by your ability to attract new participants and keep them engaged in the standards development process. //

Copyright 2003, ASTM

Jim Olshefsky is director of Committee Services in ASTM’s Technical Committee Operations division.

Joe Hugo is a staff manager in ASTM’s Technical Committee Operations division.

Getting Worldwide Participation:
One Committee’s Example

In the early 1990s, ASTM Committee E17 on Vehicle-Pavement Systems began a concerted effort to attract stakeholders from around the world to its standards development efforts. Today, 20 percent of this committee’s members hail from 13 countries in Europe, Asia, Latin America, Australia, and North America. Garnering international participation was important to E17 as it was considering research into a safety issue regarding airport runways that required feedback and cooperation from around the world. How did this committee, which began with primarily U.S. stakeholders involved, reach out to professionals in vehicle-pavement systems worldwide? The committee:

• Recognized a pressing issue with international implications. On wet and icy runways everywhere there was no standard method of determining if conditions warranted a no-go decision on the part of the pilot, and runway “fender benders” although infrequent, were upsetting to passengers, dangerous, and costly.

• Ensured that existing committee members actively requested the participation of their colleagues from around the world.

• Held membership drives. See the body of this article for methods of holding membership drives with the help of ASTM staff.

• Took part in a research program with international participation to pave the way for useful standards. E17 participated in several international experiments, in particular the “Joint Winter Runway Friction Measurement Program” that included numerous government and industry organizations from North America, Japan and Europe, as well as manufacturers of both aircraft and friction testing equipment. Many of these participants have joined E17 or gone on to participate in the committee’s standards development as well.

If your committee or subcommittee would like to increase participation in its standards development efforts, speak with your staff manager, who can supply you with the ideas and tools you will need.