In order to ensure collaboration from the largest and most diverse number of participants, the Coordinating Body designed multi-agency work groups with leaders who encouraged the participants to recognize their own self-interest was served by investing in the "greater good." The Standards and Data CoordinationWorking Group, for example, comprises about 30 core members of which 60% are from the state, 25% from local government and 15% from the private sector. The members work on ways to make data development easier and more collaborative by reducing data duplication and waste, and on developing or adopting data standards. The specific issues to which the group devotes its attention are usually assigned to it by the Coordinating Body (about 80% of the group's work) and a few are self-generated. The spontaneously generated work tends to be "low hanging fruit" that can be done quickly with a good payoff. The Coordinating Body assignments are more significant and difficult but very crucial. The working group usually divides in subgroups that have particular interest for specific issues. The group meets monthly and tries to draw participation from a large number of agencies by using video-conferencing. Meeting notes are also distributed to over 75 people from different levels of government, universities and the private sector that have an interest in the work group undertakings.
In addition to these working groups, the Coordinating Body also created three advisory committees representing local government, state government and the private sector. The Local Government Advisory Committee, for example, functions as advisor to the Coordinating Body from a local perspective. Standards, financial assistance, and technical assistance were early themes for this group. Today, the Local Advisory Committee seeks to set goals and develop programs to assist local government in integrating GIS in decision making, and develops and comments on policies of the Coordinating Body. The Local Advisory Committee also comments on the work of other work groups, especially the data standards and coordination group. Given the very wide diversity of local jurisdictions, no one member of the advisory group is willing to speak broadly on behalf of local government. However, each person does speak with a local government voice and the chairman uses formal facilitation techniques to try to reach consensus and incorporate all opinions. These techniques provide opportunity for input, prevent a few from dominating the conversation, and do not allow discomfort with large groups or lack of certain expertise to prevent people from speaking. Meetings have a participation section and a presentation section so there is always a chance to discuss ideas and then something to learn. At first there were 12-15 members, then 20, now about 50-60 people participate at meetings.
The most formal collaborative mechanism created by the program is the Data Sharing Cooperative. The Data Coordination Working Group developed an overall Data Sharing Policy for GIS which was issued as Technology Policy 97-6. This policy directs that a NYS GIS Data Sharing Cooperative be established in order to provide an organized mechanism to share GIS data easily. It further directs that all NYS agencies join the Cooperative by signing the NYS GIS Cooperative Data Sharing Agreement, created by the Legal Working Group. Through the Cooperative, member organizations gain access to GIS data of all other members at virtually no cost. Agencies do not need to have GIS data of their own to join the Cooperative; however, as Cooperative members, they are obligated to contribute corrections and enhancements that they make to any data set obtained through the Cooperative. State agencies signed the Data Sharing Agreement beginning October 1997. A comparable data sharing agreement for local governments and not-for-profit organizations was released in February 1998 and all local governments were invited to join. Agreements with federal government agencies have also been signed.Data sharing agreements between public agencies and consultants are currently under development.
The Data Sharing Agreement defines two levels of custodianship. A Primary Custodian is a member that developed or "owns" a data set made available for sharing. A Secondary Custodian is a member of the Cooperative in possession of data acquired from a Primary Custodian. Each data set has only one Primary Custodian designated by the Coordinating Body. The designated agencies are responsible for the maintenance of these data sets as well as their distribution to other agencies needing to use them. The intent is to eliminate duplication of GIS data sets across agencies.