Data

Links
http://mrsc.org/getmedia/72061479-9ba8-48b4-ab1f-cfa62cf7d4f1/Local-Government-Citizen-Advistory-Boards.pdf.aspx?ext=.pdf
https://www.epa.gov/international-cooperation/public-participation-guide-citizen-advisory-boards
https://www.energy.gov/pppo/paducah-site/paducah-community-outreach/paducah-citizens-advisory-board
Facilitation
No
Scope of Implementation
name:scope_of_influence-key:local
Level of Polarization This Method Can Handle
name:level_polarization-key:high_polarization

METHOD

Citizen Advisory Board

First Submitted By Jcourter

Most Recent Changes By Jaskiran Gakhal

Citizen Advisory Boards are a local government entity which consists of volunteer citizens from the community they represent. Citizen Advisory Boards add to the deliberative quality of a democracy by involving everyday citizens in political processes that help shape policies.

Problems and Purpose

Citizen Advisory Boards are a method for engaging local citizens in deliberative processes by allowing them to examine relevant issues in depth. The responsibilities of a Citizen Advisory Board include but are not limited to “the study of critical issues, taking public testimony, performing independent research, and reviewing staff reports and recommendations [which prepares] the advisory body to discuss, analyze, formulate, and forward well-developed, thoughtful recommendations to the legislative body.”[1] While there are many different way to organize a Citizen Advisory Board, the majority are comprised of small groups of volunteers that are interested in getting involved in both local politics and the issues facing their community.[2]

Origins and Development

Due to the local nature of Citizen Advisory Boards, it is difficult to determine when the first of these boards occurred. At this time, the earliest Citizen Advisory Board appears to be the 15-member Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board in Arlington, Virginia which was established in 1976.[3] Since then there have been thousands of Citizen Advisory Boards created across the United States from Kirkland, Washington to Dunedin, Florida.[4]

Participant Recruitment and Selection

Both recruitment and selection for citizen advisory board members is generally expected to be an open and fair process for interested citizens.[5] According to the Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington, screening of volunteers is focused on seeking out individuals “with a strong interest and a willingness to contribute the necessary hours” as well as specific experience or expertise if required for the purposes of that specific board.[6] Applicants are often asked why they are interested in serving on the specific board they are applying for as well as what personal and professional experience they can offer.[7] Sometimes, questions regarding “residency and conflict of interest” are asked and Tacoma, Washington asks about ethnicity in pursuit of “racial balance on its boards.”[8] The Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington suggests that volunteer’s reasons for participation vary widely, with some of the most common including “feeling that they can help shape policy; looking for a change of pace or to add variety to their life; fulfilling a civic duty; desiring to become involved and give something back to the community.”[9] Media used to publicize board member positions are often advertised in the area’s local newspapers, press releases, local community organizations and libraries, as well as on the Internet.[10] The selection process varies by locale as well, with some processes being more simple than others.[11] According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency Participation Guide, “boards range from 12 to 25 persons in size” ideally.[12]

How it Works: Process, Interaction, and Decision-Making

Citizen Advisory Boards are most frequently created by city governments, but there are instances where they are created at the state level in order to assist the state with issues that are best dealt with at a more local level.[13] One of the key distinctions between boards is their decision making capacity. Some boards operate in a strictly advisory capacity while others hold administrative powers that allow them to make policy decisions.[14] It is also important to keep in mind that cities and states are not limited to having just one Citizen Advisory Board. A city or state may have a number of Citizen Advisory boards in order to receive input on a number of different topics.[15] “The method for creating them, by ordinance, resolution, or motion, tends to vary from one jurisdiction to another.”[16] In most cases, members of the board are appointed by the mayor.[17] While there is no ideal number for a Citizen Advisory Board it is important that the group is large enough to have a broad range of ideas while remaining small enough that it is easy to manage.[18][19]

After establishing the board, the responsibilities of the board must be clearly defined.[20] Without clearly defined responsibilities the board is likely to lose focus on the assigned task and as a result will be less effective.[21] Additionally, there must be support staff provided in order to assist with the administrative elements of the operation of the board.[22] Once the responsibilities have been assigned, a support staff has been put in place and an orientation explaining the legalities involved has taken place the board can begin to operate.[23]

After the board has been formed, procedural guidelines must be established.[24] Some governments are less restrictive in terms of how their Citizen Advisory Boards operate and allow them to establish their own procedures as long as they are in accordance with the rules that have established the board in the first place.[25] Other governments are stricter and require that their boards follow parliamentary procedure.[26] Some feel that following parliamentary procedure rules enable the board to operate more efficiently while others feel that it creates a less comfortable environment which can stifle discussion.[27] Typically, “boards will designate a chairperson to run meetings, set agendas, and provide general leadership [with] advisory boards elect[ing] their own officers, [in some jurisdictions while] iin others, the board chair or officers are appointed.”[28]

The final piece of the process is the Citizen Advisory Board reporting out to the governing body.[29] This is essentially the final product that the board was created for in the first place. Advisory boards typically “meet once per month” for about 12 to 18 months in order to discuss issues in sufficient depth and develop recommendations; depending on the complexity of the specific issues, they can take longer than 18 months.[30] According to the Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington, “provisions for periodic reporting of boards and commissions to the governing body provide a tool for oversight and policy evaluation, and can be used to enhance communications with constituents.”[31] 

Influence, Outcomes, and Effects

Citizen advisory boards serve a number of purposes including allowing “for an in-depth examination of issues.”[32] As Citizen Advisory Boards are often created to address a specific issue, they are able to perform a more in-depth analysis of the issue than the typical local government may be able to perform.[33] As such, Citizen Advisory Boards are a useful resource for local governments to use when tackling very specific local issues. Citizen advisory boards also provide a “communication channel between elected officials and the community.”[34] By involving volunteer citizens in the process, Citizen Advisory Boards can act as a conduit to communicate the thoughts and ideas held by the community members to their local government officials.[35] 

According to the Florida League of Cities (FLC), the boards “bring a broad range of ideas and expertise to public decision making.”[36] Due to their composition of people from the local community, they are often able to represent the diverse ideas and expertise that exist within the community.[37] Doing so further enhances the deliberative nature of the local government. The FLC also writes that the boards offer assistance for conflict resolution.[38] Citizen Advisory Boards are equipped to be able to deal with conflict as they are able to utilize the aforementioned broad range of ideas and expertise to deliberate through such conflicts in order to reach a well-reasoned resolution. Another purpose that the Citizen Advisory Boards serve is offering leadership training.[39] Citizen Advisory Boards can be used as a way for citizens to get their first experience in politics and government. This affords citizens the opportunity to experience political life without having to run for office.

Analysis and Lessons Learned

Citizen Advisory Boards have become a staple of democracy nationwide.[40] Case studies involving Citizen Advisory Boards have taken place throughout the US, including in Fernald, Ohio and Clearwater, Florida. They increase the deliberativeness of our governments by engaging volunteer citizens and allowing them to be part of the political and governmental processes that occur in their local community.[41] This serves to “overcome citizen apathy and disinterest by crafting lively and engaging participation programs.”[42] Ultimately, if local governments are able to clearly communicate the purpose of a Citizen Advisory Board in addition to finding the right people and providing them with training, these boards can be a valuable process in a deliberative democracy.

Berry et al. examined citizen boards from five different cities, finding that they “were effective in getting citizens issues addressed” and providing participants with a stronger sense of community, trust in public officials, and confidence in local government.[43] Furthermore, a study by Marlene Rebori indicated that the recommendations from citizen advisory boards were successful in influencing local decision-makers.[44] Similarly, Dr. Lucie Laurian finds that board members “feel well informed about community concerns” and able to express such concerns to the relevant agencies.[45] 

However, in her examination of five case studies, Laurian found that public input did “not significantly influence agency decisions.”[46] As a result, she suggested that communities systematically gather feedback in order to address this deficiency as well as increase agencies’ accountability to the input.[47] Additionally, Laurian suggests that citizen advisory boards are “limited by the lack of public awareness of participatory opportunities.”[48] Therefore, she recommends greater public outreach in order to ensure the participatory process is meaningful.[49]

See Also

Fernald Citizens Advisory Board 

References

[1] “Local Government Citizen Advisory Boards Examples, options, and model practices for the effective and efficient use of advisory boards by local governments,” Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington, last modified August 2008, http://mrsc.org/getmedia/72061479-9ba8-48b4-ab1f-cfa62cf7d4f1/Local-Government-Citizen-Advistory-Boards.pdf.aspx?ext=.pdf, 6.

[2] “Local Government Citizen Advisory Boards Examples, options, and model practices for the effective and efficient use of advisory boards by local governments,” 41.

[3] “Advisory Groups and Commissions,” arlingtonva.us, accessed February 23, 2019, https://commissions.arlingtonva.us/historical-affairs-landmark-review-board/members/ 

[4] The Florida League of Cities, the Florida Conflict Resolution Consortium, and the Florida Institute of Government, “Successful Citizen Advisory Boards and Committees,” accessed February 23, 2019, https://consensus.fsu.edu/citizen_advisory_boards/index.html 

[5] “Local Government Citizen Advisory Boards Examples, options, and model practices for the effective and efficient use of advisory boards by local governments,” Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington, last modified August 2008, http://mrsc.org/getmedia/72061479-9ba8-48b4-ab1f-cfa62cf7d4f1/Local-Government-Citizen-Advistory-Boards.pdf.aspx?ext=.pdf, 18; 22.

[6][9] “Local Government Citizen Advisory Boards Examples, options, and model practices for the effective and efficient use of advisory boards by local governments,” 18.

[7][10] “Local Government Citizen Advisory Boards Examples, options, and model practices for the effective and efficient use of advisory boards by local governments,” Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington, last modified August 2008, http://mrsc.org/getmedia/72061479-9ba8-48b4-ab1f-cfa62cf7d4f1/Local-Government-Citizen-Advistory-Boards.pdf.aspx?ext=.pdf, 21.

[8] “Local Government Citizen Advisory Boards Examples, options, and model practices for the effective and efficient use of advisory boards by local governments,” Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington, last modified August 2008, http://mrsc.org/getmedia/72061479-9ba8-48b4-ab1f-cfa62cf7d4f1/Local-Government-Citizen-Advistory-Boards.pdf.aspx?ext=.pdf, 21-22.

[11] “Local Government Citizen Advisory Boards Examples, options, and model practices for the effective and efficient use of advisory boards by local governments,” 22.

[12] Shereen Kandil, “Public Participation Guide: Citizen Advisory Boards” United States Environmental Protection Agency, accessed February 24, 2019, https://www.epa.gov/international-cooperation/public-participation-guide-citizen-advisory-boards

[13][14] “Local Government Citizen Advisory Boards Examples, options, and model practices for the effective and efficient use of advisory boards by local governments,” Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington, August 2008, http://mrsc.org/getmedia/72061479-9ba8-48b4-ab1f-cfa62cf7d4f1/Local-Government-Citizen-Advistory-Boards.pdf.aspx?ext=.pdf, 3.

[15][16] “Local Government Citizen Advisory Boards Examples, options, and model practices for the effective and efficient use of advisory boards by local governments,” Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington, August 2008, http://mrsc.org/getmedia/72061479-9ba8-48b4-ab1f-cfa62cf7d4f1/Local-Government-Citizen-Advistory-Boards.pdf.aspx?ext=.pdf, 6.

[17] “Local Government Citizen Advisory Boards Examples, options, and model practices for the effective and efficient use of advisory boards by local governments,” 7.

[18] “Local Government Citizen Advisory Boards Examples, options, and model practices for the effective and efficient use of advisory boards by local governments,” 10.

[19] Shereen Kandil, “Public Participation Guide: Citizen Advisory Boards” United States Environmental Protection Agency, accessed February 24, 2019, https://www.epa.gov/international-cooperation/public-participation-guide-citizen-advisory-boards

[20] “Local Government Citizen Advisory Boards Examples, options, and model practices for the effective and efficient use of advisory boards by local governments,” 11.

[21] “Local Government Citizen Advisory Boards Examples, options, and model practices for the effective and efficient use of advisory boards by local governments,” 41.

[22] “Local Government Citizen Advisory Boards Examples, options, and model practices for the effective and efficient use of advisory boards by local governments,” 12.

[23] “Local Government Citizen Advisory Boards Examples, options, and model practices for the effective and efficient use of advisory boards by local governments,” 26.

[24] “Local Government Citizen Advisory Boards Examples, options, and model practices for the effective and efficient use of advisory boards by local governments,” 6.

[25][26][27] “Local Government Citizen Advisory Boards Examples, options, and model practices for the effective and efficient use of advisory boards by local governments,” Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington, August 2008, http://mrsc.org/getmedia/72061479-9ba8-48b4-ab1f-cfa62cf7d4f1/Local-Government-Citizen-Advistory-Boards.pdf.aspx?ext=.pdf, 28.

[28] “Local Government Citizen Advisory Boards Examples, options, and model practices for the effective and efficient use of advisory boards by local governments,” 29.

[31][35] “Local Government Citizen Advisory Boards Examples, options, and model practices for the effective and efficient use of advisory boards by local governments,” Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington, August 2008, http://mrsc.org/getmedia/72061479-9ba8-48b4-ab1f-cfa62cf7d4f1/Local-Government-Citizen-Advistory-Boards.pdf.aspx?ext=.pdf, 31.

[30] Shereen Kandil, “Public Participation Guide: Citizen Advisory Boards” United States Environmental Protection Agency, accessed February 24, 2019, https://www.epa.gov/international-cooperation/public-participation-guide-citizen-advisory-boards

[32][34][36] Marilyn Crotty, “Cooperative Achievement Elected Officials and Advisory Boards Work Together to Strengthen Their Cities” Florida League of Cities, last modified January 9, 2007, http://mrsc.org/getmedia/A09B734C-D079-4CA5-86CB-698DEBF968B5/m58fladvisory.aspx

[33] “Local Government Citizen Advisory Boards Examples, options, and model practices for the effective and efficient use of advisory boards by local governments,” Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington, August 2008, http://mrsc.org/getmedia/72061479-9ba8-48b4-ab1f-cfa62cf7d4f1/Local-Government-Citizen-Advistory-Boards.pdf.aspx?ext=.pdf, 1.

[37] “Local Government Citizen Advisory Boards Examples, options, and model practices for the effective and efficient use of advisory boards by local governments,” 18.

[38][39] Marilyn Crotty, “Cooperative Achievement Elected Officials and Advisory Boards Work Together to Strengthen Their Cities” Florida League of Cities, last modified January 9, 2007, http://mrsc.org/getmedia/A09B734C-D079-4CA5-86CB-698DEBF968B5/m58fladvisory.aspx

[40] John Reece, “Citizen Advisory Boards in Contemporary Practice: A Practical Approach in Policing,” IACP, accessed February 23, 2019, http://www.policechiefmagazine.org/citizen-advisory-boards-in-contemporary-practice-a-practical-approach-in-policing/ 

[41] Marlene K. Rebori, “The effectiveness of citizen participation in local governance: A case study of citizen advisory boards (CABs),”ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, (2005): 5.

[42] Brody et al, quoted in Gafar Olatunde Gafo, “Citi participation,” accessed February 23, 2019, https://www.academia.edu/3984612/citi_participation_1_5, 5.3

[43] Jeffery M. Brent, Kent Portney, and Ken Thomson, The Rebirth of Urban Democracy, (Washington, DC: The Brookings Institute, 1993), quoted in , Marlene K. Rebori, “Citizen advisory boards and their influence on local decision-makers,” Community Development, no. 42 (2011): 86, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/233130852_Citizen_advisory_boards_and_their_influence_on_local_decision-makers

[44] Marlene K. Rebori, “Citizen advisory boards and their influence on local decision-makers,” Community Development, no. 42 (2011): 95, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/233130852_Citizen_advisory_boards_and_their_influence_on_local_decision-makers

[45] Lucie Laurian, “Deliberative planning through citizen advisory boards: Five case studies from military and civilian environmental cleanups,” Journal of Planning Education and Research no. 26, 4 (2007): 429, https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0739456X06298819

[46][48] Lucie Laurian, “Deliberative planning through citizen advisory boards: Five case studies from military and civilian environmental cleanups,” Journal of Planning Education and Research no. 26, 4 (2007): 415, https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0739456X06298819

[47][49] Lucie Laurian, “Deliberative planning through citizen advisory boards: Five case studies from military and civilian environmental cleanups,” Journal of Planning Education and Research no. 26, 4 (2007): 430, https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0739456X06298819

External Links

USA EPA - Public Participation Guide: Citizen Advisory Boards: https://www.epa.gov/international-cooperation/public-participation-guide-citizen-advisory-boards

US Department of Energy - Paducah Citizens Advisory Board Meeting: https://www.energy.gov/pppo/paducah-site/paducah-community-outreach/paducah-citizens-advisory-board

Notes

Lead image: "Paducah Citizens Advisory Board Meeting" US Department of Energy, Protsmouth/Paducah Project Office https://goo.gl/Ppf435