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An ad hoc committee is a group set up to consider a specific issue and generate recommendations or work on a resolution. Such organizations are typically temporary in nature and disband when they satisfactorily achieve their objectives. Membership in an ad hoc committee may be diverse and can include representatives of multiple agencies and organizations.
One reason to establish this type of committee is when a larger organization wants to address an issue, but does not have an appropriate committee or working group in place to handle it. To create a mechanism for expanding the reach of the organization or focusing on an issue of importance, it can set up an ad hoc committee. Members may be drawn from existing membership and the organization could also recruit outsiders if it is covering a new or unfamiliar issue.
Legislative bodies use these committees when they want a temporary group to focus on a particular topic and come up with legislative recommendations. They are typically offshoots of permanent committees and will take their findings to the larger committee so it can address the issue on the floor. For example, if a legislature has a committee on employment and labor rights, it might form an ad hoc committee to discuss employment of people with disabilities as part of a government effort to promote opportunities for disabled people.
Resources available to an ad hoc committee can vary. Some have substantial funding and can call upon outside experts and sources of information to accomplish their aims. Others may not have large resource bases to draw upon and could be more limited in scope. Charitable organizations often limit funding to temporary committees to avoid the creation of a drain on their finances. Committees may apply for grants or funding from outside sources to make up for funding shortfalls.
The power of an ad hoc committee is also variable. A committee may have the ability to set regulations, develop a framework for enforcement, and take other concrete steps. In other cases, it can only make recommendations to a larger committee or organization. The larger body will decide which actions to take, if any, after considering presentations and reports from the committee. Proceedings can be open or closed. Some committees prefer to work in closed session to focus on complex topics and develop a polished, thorough report for the public. Others may be open and could welcome public testimony and input as they work on an issue of interest and importance.
I remember our pastor formed an ad hoc committee at our church to decide what to do with an unexpected and substantial donation from an anonymous donor. Ordinarily there were standing committees who made decisions for one aspect of the church, like worship or fellowship or finances. In this situation, however, all of those committees wanted access to that funding and no one could agree on a fair way to distribute it.
The chairpersons of all existing committees, as well as the pastor and selected members of the congregation formed an ad hoc committee to decide on what to do with this donation. Some members argued that the church building needed some expensive repairs. Others said the money could
be used to upgrade choir robes and musical equipment. One committee member suggested buying food and other supplies for our community pantry.
We eventually came to a consensus and gave each existing committee a certain percentage of the donated money. Once the ad hoc committee disbanded, its decisions were considered final and binding.
I was an ad hoc committee member one time when my company was considering moving to a larger facility in another city. We were outgrowing our current building, definitely, but the other building was significantly larger. We had to decide if making a bid for it would make sense economically, and also consider what impact moving 50 miles away would have on employees.
I represented the office workers on this special committee, and there were other members who represented the factory workers and upper management and vendors and so on. We met once a week to discuss all of the issues a move like this would generate, like the wholesale uprooting of employees' families and the additional cost of utilities. We ultimately decided not to move, but to keep an eye out for other properties closer to home.
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