What We've Found
Citizens Advisory Groups(CAGs) can play a vital role in
the strength and success of a project. Consistently meeting with CAGs will
promote strong stakeholder
relationships and a better understanding of issues
concerns. The members serve as important links between KYTC and the community
at-large and provide meaningful discussion, viewpoints, or feedback. They also
serve valuable roles as assisting in planning public involvement activities and
making recommendations on project decisions particularly in Phase I design. Once
the Phase I design is completed, this core group (if applicable) can form the
basis for a second CAG that would serve during Phase II design. A CAG can also
be utilized to develop context sensitive solutions.Just the Facts
CAGs should be composed of a broad cross-section of
stakeholders including local citizens, government officials, local businessmen,
and any other organizations that may have an interest in the project. It is
important to include citizens who may be opposed to your project as well as
those who are in favor of the project.
If people come to the CAG with
different interests, the group will be stronger, especially if controversial
issues arise. This smaller subset of the community is better able to discuss and
come to agreement on actions that may diffuse controversy. Besides
self-interests, CAG members offer their technical expertise and community
knowledge and insight.
CAGs are usually involved in the planning and
Phase I design processes but can be useful in other phases also. Regardless of
the focus, the CAG is charged with assisting the Project Team by discussing
issues and concerns, and sharing findings and recommendations with the Cabinet
and the general public.
How To Do It
1. Define the CAG's role
- What is the mission of the group?
- Is the group going to be responsible for selecting an alternate or corridor
or act more in an advisory capacity by making recommendations on the
- How will recommendations and/or selections be documented?
- What is the life span of the group?
- How will it be determined when the work is completed and the mission
- How much time commitment will people need to make including large meetings,
subcommittee meetings and actual assignments?
- Will members be compensated for travel expenses or other costs incurred
while performing duties?
2. Recruit Members
Memberships may be open to the
public, made by invitation or appointment, based on an application process, or a
combination of methods. However it is done, it is vital that the group reflect
many interests. For instance, make sure that all potential stakeholders are
represented such as minority and low-income groups, business people, elected
officials, landowners, conservation groups, recreation groups, historical and
cultural groups and technical areas such as engineers or scientists. You need to
look at the overall potential impacts of your project and determine who the
stakeholders are and then base your CAG membership on that. Also, consider the
desired purpose of the group when deciding on the ideal size for the
Look for citizens who are, or were in the past, active in their
community such as serving on boards or hosting events. Ask people for referrals.
You want people who have shown commitment to hard work but who are also not over
extended. Make potential CAG members aware of the group's purpose,
responsibilities, and time commitment.
3. Organize the
The first time that the CAG meets in the time to establish
ground rules and make decisions. For instance,
- Who will act as a facilitator and key contact person?
- Who will fill other roles such as note-taker for the subcommittees?
- How will the group discuss topics and make decisions?
- How will the group communicate outside the meeting?
- Provide a contact list for all members
- How should meeting summaries or announcements be mailed: electronic or
- Can or should subcommittees meet on their own without a KYTC
- In looking at the project schedule, what are the key tasks that need to be
done and by what date?
4. Set a Meeting Schedule
An effecting CAG should meet
regularly to assure continuity. Establishing a regular schedule such as the
third Thursday of the month helps everyone plan better. It is always easier to
cancel a meeting than it is to find a common date when everyone is free. Don't
meet just for the sake of meeting. If there are no current items on an agenda to
discuss, then cancel the meeting until there are items to discuss. Remind
members of upcoming meetings with phone calls or emails. Provide a meeting
summary to those members who are unable to attend.
If possible, meet in
the same place to avoid confusion and start-time delays due to people getting
lost. It is also a good idea to send out a postcard or
as a reminder of the upcoming meeting.
ALWAYS have written agendas with expected results. Though CAG
meetings are not operated in the same manner as a public meeting, these meetings
should be open to the public. There should be ample notice and advertising in
the newspaper or
The purpose of the CAG meeting is to allow discussion
between the Cabinet and the public. The Non-CAG members can be allowed to attend
and listen but should not be "active participants" in the meeting. The CAG
should be able to finish the items on the agenda without disruption from the
5. Never Take Them for Granted
are, after all, volunteers. They play a vital role in the success of your
project. Provide regular updates to the CAG on throughout the decision making
process. Explain how their ideas and input have factored into project planning
and design. This could be achieved through phone calls, emails, websites, or
newsletters for the CAG.
Don't wait until a planning or design process is
finished to show your appreciation, especially if it is a multi-year project.
Send personal notes, give printed hats or shirts, provide meals on meeting
nights or any other tribute that shows how much they are appreciated. (These
tokens of appreciation should be considered as you develop your scope of the
project for your consultants. It is much easier for a consultant to provide
meals and drinks than the Cabinet.)
At the end of the project, them
members should all be publicly recognized for their roles.
A representative group of stakeholders that regularly
meet with and assist the Project Team during the planning and design of a
You need a strong public
involvement base for a planning or design process.
You are aware of several
strong interest groups that have already voiced opposition to any
You want to gain a better understanding of issues in the community
and build consensus.
You cannot get a broad representation
of views and citizens.
You do not want to set yourself up as only listening
to those who agree with you.
You really just want a stamp of approval on what
you are doing. CAGs can take a project in an entirely different
You aren't prepared to hear different viewpoints other than your
own or the Cabinet's.
Timing is Everything
A Citizen's Advisory
Group should be established in the very beginning of a project, before other
community outreach is done. In fact, the CAG may be able to help decide the
extent of community outreach needed for the project.