In March 2005, the New Hampshire Department of Transportation (NHDOT) officially kicked off their CSS implementation effort, which has involved: extensive training for NHDOT staff, and regional planning and local agencies; establishing a formal CSS process and a staff committee to work on CSS implementation; developing a website with CSS resources for staff; and initiating several pilot projects implementing the CSS process.
When the consultant team began discussions with NHDOT staff in September 2008, they had already experienced a range of successes and challenges with the CSS pilot projects, many of which were still underway. NHDOT staff were particularly interested in taking an in-depth look at these pilot projects to discuss which strategies and processes had worked well (and which had not) in order to build upon those lessons learned for upcoming projects. Identifying effective public involvement strategies and adapting the CSS process to projects of different scales were also of particular interest to staff.
Another area of concern to NHDOT related to CSS was communication skills, particularly within the department. An internal survey of NHDOT staff identified communications as the lowest-rated category in effectiveness. Although CSS is most often applied to external communications such as those with stakeholders, the principles can also be applied to internal communications between bureaus, between districts, and among different levels of staff.
The Technical Assistance developed by the consultant team consisted of two parts:
A "Lessons Learned" one-day interactive workshop in Concord on April 13, 2009 for 27 DOT staff with presentations and discussions on three ongoing NHDOT CSS pilot projects as well as presentation of several effective public involvement strategies. Speakers from outside NHDOT (e.g., town selectmen, regional planning commission) were brought in to share their viewpoints about each of the three pilot projects.
Two 90-minute discussions with different groups of NHDOT staff (about 15 participants each) on April 14, 2009 in Concord to explore the nature of the communications gaps identified through the internal departmental survey. The participants were selected from various levels within the department, the consultant conducted phone interviews prior to the group discussions, and a briefing paper summarizing challenges, problems and gaps was distributed prior to the group discussions. The purpose of the sessions was to confirm the issues identified through one-on-one phone discussions, to explore how, ideally, internal communications should work in the agency and to brainstorm approaches to meet challenges and bridge gaps identified.
No formal policy has been adopted, but the Department's leadership has publicly embraced and expressed support for CSS and has established an in-house committee to promote it throughout the Department.
Other Public Involvement Techniques:
Although not established specifically for CSS, we use citizen advisory committees, charettes, workshops, and web sites to involve the public.
CSS Projects (in addition to those listed as Case Studies on this site):
Initially, a cross-section of NHDOT personnel (design engineers, planners, environmental personnel, maintainers, construction engineers, etc), local community representatives, regional planning personnel, and resource agency representatives will be trained. Furthermore, the Department will be engaging consultant services to develop and deliver a more comprehensive three-year training program, as well as to assist in applying CSS principles to the planning and project development processes and to demonstrate how to apply CSS principles to ongoing projects.