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What is a consultant?

___A consultant is an individual (or, occasionally, a group or organization) that brings experience and expertise about an issue or process to an initiative, organization, group, government entity, or community.

___A consultant might have knowledge relating to an issue (theoretical, experiential, or both), knowledge of a process (usually both theoretical and experiential), or a specific skill.

Why might you serve as a consultant?

You might serve as a consultant…

___To facilitate a particular intervention or initiative.

___To benefit or have a positive impact on a population you serve or are concerned with.

___To nurture an organization that will provide a needed service to the community.

___To cement relationships with other organizations, and encourage collaboration rather than competition among health, human service, and community workers.

___To gain recognition and credibility for your organization, or establish it as an “expert” in the field.

___To earn needed money for your organization.

___To help solve a longstanding community problem.

Who might serve as a consultant?

___Current or former program directors or other staffers who have direct experience with an issue, with a population, or with organizational design, development, and management.

___Current or former local or state officials, legislators, and others who’ve dealt with issues from the policy standpoint.    

___Community activists.


___Members of the target community or population.

___Academics – including students – who work on a particular issue or process.

___People with organizational and process skills – counselors, mediators, social workers, psychologists, etc.

When might you serve as a consultant?

You might be asked to serve as a consultant…

___At the beginning of something new.

___When an organization or group is having a problem.

___When the community sets out to tackle an issue you’ve been working on.

___When you see an opportunity to help, and believe you have the knowledge, expertise, and skills to do so.

___When your acting as a consultant would clearly benefit the population you care about, or add to the credibility and reputation of your organization.

___When you’re asked.

How do you serve as a consultant?

___You define your role as

  • Advisor
  • Facilitator
  • Expert Specialist
  • Trainer

___You define your relationship with the group you’re working with.

___You do your homework, learning all you can about:

  • The organization or group you’re working with
  • The community
  • The issue at hand

___You tailor your guidance or work to the organization or community you’re working with.

  • Adjust your style, your suggestions, your guidance, etc. to what people will accept.
  • Take the group’s unique circumstances into account.
  • Examine the issue at hand in relation to the particular group, organization, or community you’re working with.
  • Pay attention to the potential consequences of any advice, action, process, etc. that you propose.
  • Be flexible.
  • Keep your eye on the long term.
  • Institutionalize your work.