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New Programme being shaped from top and bottom
by Allen Meagher

The future direction taken by the Community Development Programme is being led by the bottom-up as well as the top-down, as it should be. The Programme is 18 years old and the projects within it – all working in areas of disadvantage – bring positive change to hard-pressed communities throughout the country. Around 2000 local volunteers are part of the Programme and it is a key part of the new NDP. Last year, a consultation process was begun and it has taken on a life of its own.

When regional CDP conferences promised for early this year did not materialise, projects sought and got a half-dozen meetings at regional level with then-Minister Carey and with senior officials. The Eastern Region Network meeting with the Minister, for example, was hailed by projects as being “very positive.” The Network has followed it with a July 15th meeting with the new Minister of State, John Curran.
The catalyst for calling regional meetings was the ending of contracts with Regional Support Agencies and a perceived lack of full consultation with projects about what would replace them. The regional meetings also provided a space for projects to make their views known about the Programme’s development.
Sometimes, in face-to-face meetings, more can be conveyed. Projects had already contributed to the 110-plus submissions made to the Department late last year (which are now publicly available and fill a good-sized box).

Currently, the old model of contracting Regional Support Agencies to assist projects on corporate governance, legal and human resource issues is being replaced with a new model – the tender has been issued. New centralised support arrangements should be in place by the end of September. A separate tender competition is due to be held for community development training and support. In the interim, the Department says it will provide and pay for support as appropriate to the needs of projects.


Meanwhile, on the ground - in Ballymun to be precise - a CDP has written to every project seeking funding support for a feasibility study to show how and why the Programme would benefit from having a national office. The Community Action Programme CDP say they have got a positive response from projects and that the study should be complete by December.

However, there was fall-out over the way the model for supporting projects was changed by the Department without, say project representatives, proper consultation. In May, the volunteer and staft representatives on a national consultative committee resigned. They said they felt “excluded” from the process of developing the Programme.

However, Minister John Curran argues that over 2007 the consultation process - including the “contribution” from the project representatives - proved “very beneficial to the Department in its efforts to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Programme.”
He said it has led to better budgeting arrangements for projects and to a new ‘Governance and Good Practice Checklist’ for projects. And, over the summer, he promised new procedures in respect of corporate governance, financial management and control.

Significantly, from a participation viewpoint, the Department is proposing to introduce “formal networking arrangements at local, regional and national level as part of the future support structure for Projects.”
This is likely to be very much welcomed by projects. In the meantime, the Minister written asking the members of the National Consultative Panel who resigned to consider engaging with the new networking arrangements once they are put in place.


Furthermore, a national conference is promised by the Department (a date has yet to be set).

The volunteers and staff in the Programme’s 180 projects and the Ministers and their officials will work together, over the coming months, to map the way forward for the Programme. It will be interesting to see how the mapping unfolds and in which direction the Programme goes. If anyone is looking for further reading, the 110-plus submissions on the matter are publicly available. They fill a good box mind!
(posted July 2008)


Minister of State,
John Curran TD

John Curran is new Community Minister

Dublin Mid-West TD, John Curran, is the new Minister of State with special responsibility for Drugs Strategy and Community Affairs at the Department of Community, Rural, and Gaeltacht Affairs. Taoiseach, Brian Cowen, appointed Pat Carey, who held the position for 11 months, as his new ‘Chief Whip’.
John Curran’s base is Clondalkin and he was first elected to the Dáil in 2002 and was returned last year in a landslide win.
He graduated from UCD with a degree in Commerce and ran his own business for almost 20 years. He rates his work with a number of youth work projects and charity fund-raising ventures as “amongst my proudest achievements.”
John is married to Shauna with two school-going children.
You can contact Minister John Curran by writing to him at the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs
.
T: 01-6473042 (Department) and 01-618 3792 (Constituency).

Tender out for new support services
- as Department provides for interim support

The Department of Community, Rural & Gaeltacht Affairs wishes to establish “three multi-operator framework agreements over a four-year period for training and support services” to CDPs.
In a new tender document issued on June 16th, the Department seeks “expressions of interests for training and consultancy support services” to projects funded through the Community Development Programme.”
The tender names three lots of support, in the areas of: Corporate Governance, Financial management, and Human Resources.


Sean McLaughlin, DCRGA
TWO TENDERS
The tender specifies that the eventual service providers will have to “provide quality support in the form of direct and indirect training and development support to volunteer board members and staff of Projects. It will be possible to provide support on a regional or national basis,” it adds. The tender is open to regional support agencies that worked with the Programme before as well as other interested parties.
There will be a separate tender competition for the community development training and support. In the Limerick area, for the time being, CDP co-ordinators are discussing the idea of providing training to volunteers in neighbouring projects.

NEW NETWORKING STRUCTURE
Meanwhile, the Department’s Assistant Principal Officer, Sean McLaughlin, has written to projects, saying: “Considerable skills and talents of both volunteers and staff that have been developed over the years. As part of the overall support structures, we intend to harness this experience and learning through formal networking arrangements at local, regional and national level and I will advise Projects in this regard at a further date.”
In addition, the Department is progressing towards the introduction of formal networking arrangements at local, regional and national level, as part of the future support structure for projects. He said that plans are being laid by the Department for a national conference.
“We remain fully committed to the development of volunteers and staff of Projects and to providing support services where needs are identified,” he added.

PROVIDING ONGOING SUPPORT
Sean has confirmed the Department will step in to provide support, including funding to CDPs, in the interim period while a new support structure is being put in place.
“We are positively disposed to project’s needs, once they specify what those needs are,” declared Sean.
“New centralised support arrangements should be in place by the end of September. In the interim, projects have been afforded some flexibility by providing them with, albeit limited, resources to procure services that meet their training and development needs.
He urged people “not to hesitate to contact your Departmental contact if you have any further queries, particularly where any matter arises that you consider may require additional assistance.”

 

Volunteer reps resign from Panel
By Maurice McConville

Regional representatives – staff and volunteers - of the National Consultative Panel (NCP) have taken the very difficult decision to resign from NCP. The reasons for our actions are laid out in the letter we sent to Minister Éamon Ó Cuív, Junior Minister John Curran and Department officials informing them of our decision.
The representatives are appalled by the Department’s decision to make major changes to Community Development Programme without the input or knowledge of the NCP representatives. Despite having agreed to a collaborative process, the Department chose to undermine that same process, by taking an arbitrary decision to make major changes to support structure to projects.

FELT LET DOWN
We had worked closely with officials on the content and process of the consultation and we had also encouraged regions and project to engage with the process. Representatives felt let down by Department’s action.
It was agreed by representatives that the Department’s action had made the process of consultation meaningless. It would be wrong for us to remain within a process where our input as regional representatives is not respected. We did attempt to meet with the then Junior Minister, Pat Carey to put our case for a fair and open consultation process, however we were not afforded this opportunity. We therefore had no other option but to resign from the NCP.

LETTER OF RESIGNATION
In their letter of resignation, the representatives said:
“The National Consultation Panel was set up with the purpose of shaping the new programme for the Community Development Programme 2007 -2013… and we met with staff of the Community Development Unit Dept, of CRAGA formally 3 times in 2007.
“A cornerstone of Community Development is consultation with those affected by policy and programme changes. However after the initial engagement with the Consultation Panel in relation to the scope of the consultation we have neither had access to the responses from the consultation questions nor any role in moving the consultation process forward.
“(We now) withdraw our representation and this letter is to confirm to you that we are resigning from the National Consultation Panel.
“We feel that the Panel has not been put in a position to fulfil its role and we do not wish to continue and thereby give credibility to a process from which we have actually been excluded.”
The letter was signed by Mattie Sheridan, a volunteer with Larchville/Lisduggan CDP in Waterford, on behalf of the other volunteer and staff representatives on the national committee.

Dublin CDP pushes projects for national office

Programme and has asked each CDP to contribute to a fund that should help make it happen.
“A national office would give the Programme a voice on national issues, such as the recent finding that there was a 30% price differential in shopping baskets north and south of the border. Issues like this hit the marginalised in society most and we should be saying something about it,” said Emma Freeman of Ballymun.
For years, projects in the Community Development Programme talked of the need for a national office, but this time there is movement.
Tender documents will be drawn up in early July, the steering group will then be established, and the tender will be advertised by late summer.

STEERING GROUP
Project co-ordinator, Emma Freeman is doing the leg-work and Emma’s employer, the Community Action Programme in Ballymun, has agreed to manage the finances and report back to the steering group if the idea takes off.
There have been “a lot of enquiries” from people interested in joining the steering group and Emma says she has only had one negative reply to the cash-appeal to date.


Emma Freeman
Emma hopes the study will be launched by December (and not September, as she initially hoped for). A CDP in Dublin is pushing hard to set up a national office for the Community Development
Each management committee in the country was asked to discuss the proposal, so Emma’s argument needed to be strong. She wrote to say a national office is required as a matter of urgency:
“Despite a ‘review’ of the Programme having taken place, there is no indication that a clear understanding of future development priorities has emerged. This is even more serious given the important developments taking place in the local development environment overall (through the cohesion process for example). Given its long-standing history and acknowledged impact, the Community Development Programme should provide a very strong and informed voice in this process. Instead of this it remains silent.”

KEY RECOMMENDATIONS
She said the sense of powerlessness arises, to some extent, from a lack of understanding of both the nature and significant contribution made by community development: “Even though the last evaluation of the Programme (by Nexus in 2000) clearly demonstrated the very positive impacts of CDPs, there was no effort since at Programme level to follow through on this report’s key recommendations.”
She says there is now a very real danger that the programme’s future may be shaped by a misunderstanding of its key strengths and that any chance of addressing these challenges rests in the hands of projects.
A national office would mean the Programme has some say at national policy level and the office would help to promote the Programme’s achievements.
She invites projects to pay €200 each towards the cost of a feasibility study to see how best to move the proposal forward.
For more information, contact:
Emma Freeman, Programme Manager, CAP, Axis Community Centre, Ballymun, Dublin 9.
T: 01-8832162.
F: 01-8832161.
E: info@cap.ie
W: www.cap.ie


Integration Minister of State

In June, 2007, Conor Lenihan from Dublin South West was appointed Minister of State with special responsibility for Integration Policy at the Department of Community, Rural, and Gaeltacht Affairs, the Department of Education and Science, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. He was re-appointed to the position in May of this year.

Keep challenging us, says Minister at launch

- Moyross magazine is a “voice” for the sector

The Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Éamon Ó Cuív, has praised ‘Changing Ireland’ for providing community development workers and volunteers around the country with a "voice" and a "central forum" for debate on issues relevant to the sector.
Minister Ó Cuív, whose Department funds the magazine, was in Moyross, Limerick on April 24th, to launch the web and print versions of the 25th edition.
“‘Changing Ireland’ not only gives people working in community development a voice, it also provides a central forum for the exchange of knowledge, experience and ideas," he told a 40-strong group.


Minister Éamon Ó Cuív checks out our 25th Issue
HUMOUR
With humour, he described what happened most publications he receives, but assured everyone that ‘Changing Ireland’ was one magazine that does not hit his waste-paper basket as soon as it comes in.
The articles were “very readable, they are interesting, they relate to ordinary people’s lives and they are practical, they talk about the way it is. And yes, you sometimes say things we mightn’t agree with, but… as a politician, when somebody really challenges you, it does perk you up and maybe make you think in a new direction and that needs to happen all the time.”

STRUCTURAL DIVIDE
During his speech, the Minister talked of “a big divide in our society” and, in reference to urban deprivation effecting young people in particular, he said that education and activities were key. He drew attention to the way society is “very much structured against” young people from urban disadvantaged areas going on to third level education.
He also spoke of achievements under RAPID, the full country coverage by the Partnerships and about the Community Development Programme’s permanent place in tackling disadvantage within communities.

HEALTHY DEMOCRACY
Editor Allen Meagher said, “It is a sign of a healthy democracy and a credit to Minister Éamon Ó Cuív and his Department that they fund a magazine that sometimes reflects critical views on local and national social policy. They value communities having a voice. ‘Changing Ireland’ is proud to be the voice for many of the so-called ‘disadvantaged’ communities. And when we name a problem, we can also name a proven solution.”

PROVEN SOLUTIONS
Over the years, he said ‘Changing Ireland’ had highlighted "proven responses to suicide, antisocial behaviour, rural isolation and many other solutions to supposedly impossible problems".
The launch took place at the AGM of the Community Development Network Moyross, which manages ‘Changing Ireland’ on behalf of the Community Development Programme. During his visit, the Minister met with CDP volunteers and packers from the area.


Fresh report shows what CDPs are up to


What CDPs do and how they do it is often best explained by examples and the new ‘Rekindling The Fire’ report provides plenty to choose from.


Promoting volunteering

For instance, in some cases, people who volunteer to help out in on a specific issue, or people who join a course or group set up by the CDP, go on to become Voluntary Management Committee members of the project. Here’s how that works from a project perspective:


“Many of the members of our Board of Management’s initial contact with the organisation was through using the resources of the organisation. (As a result, there are) two lone parents on our fundraising sub-group, two on the steering committee for the Teen Parent Support Initiative and one co-facilitating activities with a staff member.”
- Doras Buí CDP

“We have supported three Traveller parents, two of now whom volunteer their time for the project. This has led to greater involvement by Traveller parents in their children’s educational progress.”
- Tallaght Travellers CDP


Establishing new groups

FACT: CDP projects in the Eastern Region were directly involved in establishing 84 new groups or initiatives in their communities in 2003 alone. In over half these cases, the projects were mainly responsible (or the lead agency) in the new initiatives.

The level of achievement reached in establishing new groups, initiatives or networks in their local communities shows how very important it is for CDPs to engage in the woolly-sounding yet crucial work of ‘capacity building’ (rather than just providing services). Many of the new groups progress to be self-sustaining projects in their own right– frequently securing funding and support from mainstream services and programmes.

Here’s how it happens:
“Two people that participated on a voter workshop have gone on to set up an action group to address issues that have arisen within a local school. Three local people have joined this group.”
- Blakestown CDP

“We have recruited residents as members of working groups and management
committees to work on a variety of issues concerning the area, such as a childcare committee to work on a (funding) application to the Department of Justice to establish an affordable and quality childcare centre in Cherry Orchard.
- Link CDP

“The CDP has worked with the parent and toddler group and has assisted them in
setting up regular meetings of the parents. Two local women have taken lead roles in
this group and have opened a bank account, applied for funding and have drawn up
rules for the group.”
- Blakestown CDP

Policy work can reap rewards
CDPs in the Eastern Region – as elsewhere – network and participate in various conferences aimed at contributing to policy debate. In some cases this leads to direct responses from services and agencies. For example:
“There were very successful outcomes in 2003 to this work with Dublin City Council agreeing to change their original plans considerably in response to the expressed wishes of the community for the provision of serviced bays and community facilities.”
- Ballyfermot Travellers Action Project

CDPs in the regions are also typically involved in a range of partnerships with local service providers. It works both ways:
“It helps that there are other services which can support us, and to whom we can refer
people, as we have access to so many people on a daily basis.”
- Ronanstown CDP



Publication is “very timely”, says Ahern

The publication of ‘Rekindling The Fire’ is “very timely”, noted Noel Ahern, Minister of State at the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.
He wrote the foreword for the document.
“The report sets out a provocative agenda for projects and policy makers to consider in developing ideas for a 2007-2013 programme,” he writes.
“The rising tide has not carried all boats. We continue to have particular individuals, communities and localities encountering disadvantage and social exclusion, sometimes on an inter- generational basis. The achievements highlighted in this report reflect the importance of Community Development Projects in tackling these and other issues.”
He said the report marked “a real contribution to the development of a future programme.”

Welcoming the report, the Minister noted: “We have not been good at highlighting the achievements of the Community Development Programme at either a regional or national level.”
However, ‘Rekindling The Fire’ proved it is possible to raise the public profile of CDPs and the report won regional and national headlines and featured on RTE 1’s main evening news.
Rita Fagan from Inchicore, a passionate CDP worker, said at the launch of the report, “What we do throughout the country on a daily basis is reach out to those in our society who are on the margins, disadvantaged and excluded, often very vulnerable people. We build relationships with them, support them, work with them, involve them in groups. We build their skills and their ability to analyse the issues which affect them and their communities and we develop their voice to take up these issues. We come in all forms - networks, direct projects, communities of interest - but we all work from the same method, community development which is about social change.”

 

Better than any bookie – CDPs triple your money

Of a total of 65 projects in the Eastern Region, the ‘Rekindling The Fire’ report looked at a sample of 36 CDPs to demonstrate the range of activities engaged in, impacts and challenges. The report also measures their income-generating ability and CDPs are a better bet than any bookies – because they triple the money they get.

Using 2003 as a baseline, the 36 projects received just over €1.1m in core funding from the Community Development Programme (representing an average of just over €87,000 per project). The projects went on to generate more than twice that amount in other funding for the same year.


Two-thirds of these projects are geographically-based, while 12 are issue-based and work directly with particular communities of interest (eg women). Here’s an outlay of the money they brought into their communities and it shows that FÁS were the major source of additional funding:


Eastern Region Project Funding in 2003 (36 Projects)

Funding Source

 

Amount(€)

 

   

CDP Funding
Health Board
FÁS
Partnership
VEC
Local Authority
National Programmes
EU Funding
Other Funding


Total

3,133,810
368,927
2,969,674
155,984
186,349
340,018
533,895
111,749
2,101,380


9,901,786

 

 

 


Yearly evaluation findings feed into report

Rekindling The Fire’ was largely compiled from yearly evaluations (under an internet-based evaluation system called SPEAK). Most of the content outlines and describes the activities and work-practices of 36 sample projects in the eastern region.
The was drawn up following discussion between representatives of Eastern Region projects in the Community Development Programme and Nexus.

The report aims to:
• Provide a resource that will assist projects in the acknowledgement and promotion of the work undertaken in their own areas and with their own communities.
• Contribute to building a sense of identity in the continuation of this work locally and regionally.

The report comes in six sections:
1. Section One - a short programme history.
2. Section Two - a description of what the projects do.
3. Section Three - outlines the common or shared characteristics between projects.


4. Section Four - a summary of the main achievements of projects in the region and the principal impacts for communities.
5. Section Five - an analysis of how these achievements were possible; what helped and what hindered the work.
6. Section Six - some pointers as to what all this means for the future of Eastern Region projects.

Brian Dillon of Nexus Research and Tony O’Grady of Partners CDP did the bulk of the writing.
The group who worked on the report also included: Joe Grennell, Jennifer Flynn, Eve O’Connor, Sarah Kelleher, John Kiely and Sean Lambe.
Allen Meagher of ‘Changing Ireland’ provided editorial advice.
The Community and Voluntary section of the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs financed the printing and launch of the report.
The Eastern Region Network meets regularly and consists of CDP staff and volunteers. Geographically, the Eastern Region comprises Dublin City and the greater Dublin area including Fingal, Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown, parts of Kildare and Wicklow.
There are 65 CDPs in the Region.

 

 

Projects hosted 3,500 meetings in one year


Project workers and volunteers are, for the most part, working directly with people who are frequently isolated and marginalised from even basic social interaction.
So, project premises are being successfully used as a ‘safe’ and friendly environment which often act as a first point of contact for the most excluded.
Even though projects spend less than 22% of their total time commitment in providing resources, advice and information, levels of activity are extremely high.
For example, in a single year, among the 36 groups surveyed in Dublin:

  • There were 81,603 visits by individuals, and 5,698 visits by community groups to use the facilities of 36 projects in the Eastern Region.
  • Project premises and meeting spaces were used 3,501 times by local community groups for meetings.
  • Projects gave information or advice to 23,060 people, and referred approximately 8,655 of these on to other services or agencies.

Recommendations for 2007-2013

Rekindling The Fire’ argues that many community development projects need access to funding for extra staff.
And since community development is a long-term process, the document recommends contracts based on 5-year plans.
It argues for the establishment of a national office which would create a national profile that the Community Development Programme sadly lacks.

Rekindling The Fire’ strongly proposes the development of a relationship framework between the community sector and the Government which respects the values, approaches and practices of each side. In this context
• copper-fasten the independence of the sector and its right to challenge government policy.
• agree the development of a Code of Practice for funding the sector.
• Government would commit itself to consulting the sector on issues likely to affect it.
• a commitment to an annual appraisal of the relationship between Government and the community sector would be agreed in a ‘Compact’ between the community sector and Government.

By far the most important factor – as identified by projects in their SPEAK returns – is CDPs’ capacity to become and remain familiar with local organisations and individuals. Continuous outreach is seen as essential across the whole range of working methods – allowing for the project to remain familiar with local issues and local groups; as well as for local organisations and people to become and remain familiar with what the CDP is doing.
A number of projects specifically refer to the need to maintain ‘trust’ in their local working relationships.

 

What if there were no CDPs?

CDPs are at the centre of the ‘social inclusion development infrastructure’ in Ireland. Without them, according to ‘Rekindling The Fire’, the following would happen:

• opportunities for social participation and progression for a large number of people would be lost;
• a range of programmes aimed at including the most excluded would become impossible to deliver;
• a range of other local organisations and projects would cease to exist;
• very important lessons on the causes and responses to disadvantage would be lost.

The Community Development Programme, since its inception in 1989, has undergone significant change and has grown from 15 projects to 180 projects. Now, CDPs are at the centre of a ‘social inclusion development infrastructure’.
“The CDP is a unique Programme which is right at he heart of the nations struggle against poverty and social exclusion,” wrote one stalwart of community development in Dublin.

Writing in ‘Rekindling The Fire’, Rita Fagan of St. Michael’s Resource Centre CDP said: “This document is a celebration of what we have achieved as well as a beacon of hope regarding what is possible in the future to overcome these problems of inequality which are a blight on our society,” .
She is one of a small group of people in the Eastern Region who have been in the Programme since it began in 1990.