Community Participation

“On the day that a new Mayor is to be chosen for this City, the Black guards assemble themselves in the High Street and come there charged with their Pockets full of meal and Flower, which they throw into harmless People’s Eyes as plentifully as Beggars at Paris bestow holy water in Churches. My ill fate forced me from home on this important Day, and I had not gone many paces beyond the North Gate before a Ragged Groupe of shoe Boys blinded me in a most furious manner with this emblem of snow.” Lord Orrery, letter to Dean Swift, October 1735

Community Participation - Policy

European Poverty Programmes and community initiative programmes had a major influence on the development of community development in Ireland and the community and voluntary sector during the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s. These programmes “.....supported the number increase of organisations, the professionalism of the sector and their role in confronting policy issues that led to better standards of governance, management and administration...”[1]

Community development in Ireland, originated in rural Ireland in the 1960’s, and grew later as a local response to high levels of unemployment, educational disadvantage and poor housing and lack of public services during the 1970’s and 80’s. The country experienced a growth in women’s groups in the 1980’s in response to “....the women’s liberation movement, the changing nature of the labour market, the need for childcare; and the isolation of women in deprived urban communities. This influenced the upsurge of Travellers’ rights and disability rights organisations, anti-drugs support groups and more recently migrant rights groups.”[2] 

The Department of Environment and Local Government’s strategy  Our Communities: A Framework Policy for Local and Community Development in Ireland, 2015, is the national policy that seeks to harness all the potential resources at the disposal of communities by bringing together people, groups, and agencies, voluntary and statutory bodies to make a positive difference in the development of sustainable communities.

The Cork Volunteer Centre has been in place since 2010 providing a volunteer placement service. The Volunteer Centre matches individuals who would like to volunteer with non-profit organisations who involve volunteers in their activities.   Advice and support is offered to both volunteers and non-profit organisations through a range of services including information, consultation, volunteer management training and Garda vetting administration. The research study “Improving Local and Community Development Structures and Programmes” (2008), commissioned by the Rapid Programme, Cork City Council, Cork City Partnership and Cork City Community Development Projects, set a number of recommendations on how to improve and strengthen community participation in local policy and development structures. One of the actions was the development of two toolkits, which provide guidance on how to effectively represent a group and how to effectively manage a group.

 

Cork City has a long history of local level community participation, with the more recent establishment of city wide structures creating a wider remit. The research study “Improving Local and Community Development Structures and Programmes” (2008), commissioned by the Rapid Programme, Cork City Council, Cork City Partnership and Cork City Community Development Projects, set a number of recommendations on how to improve and strengthen community participation in local policy and development structures. One of the actions was the development of two toolkits, which provide guidance on how to effectively represent a group and how to effectively manage a group. 

The Cork Volunteer Centre has been in place since 2010 providing a volunteer placement service for the city. The Volunteer Centre matches individuals who would like to volunteer with non-profit organisations who involve volunteers in their activities.   Advice and support is offered to both volunteers and non-profit organisations through a range of services including information, consultation, volunteer management training and Garda vetting administration. Public libraries are now vital community hubs at a local level, with the resources and spaces offered by Cork City’s public libraries making a significant contribution to the vibrancy and level of community participation in the city.

Community Participation – Stats and Facts

62% of Cork Citizens feel there are too few opportunities to engage in public issues and volunteerism

The Cork Smart Gateway project recently facilitated the IERC “CorkCitiEngage" public survey of the CASP and Mallow area’s (2015-2016), measuring the public’s willingness to engage/participate in public issues and volunteerism. The survey rated opportunities for people to participate in local decision making in Cork, finding that: 62% felt that there were too few opportunities, 17% felt that there were enough and 19% didn’t know. This survey also asked why participation in public issues is important in Cork, finding that 36% felt it improves collaboration for common good, 35% felt that it co-creates useful ideas and 25% felt that it develops shared goals.

Cork City’s long history of community participation remains very much active today with a broad range of vibrant community groups, initiatives and activities driving the many community development programmes throughout the city.  The Public Participation Network (PPN) has recently been formed to allow groups operating in the city the opportunity to consider issues of public policy and to facilitate the public's participation on city wide structures such as Joint Policing Committee, Strategic Policy Committees and the LCDC. Recognition scheme’s such as the Lord Mayor’s Community & Voluntary Awards and the Pride of Place Awards play an important part in highlighting and rewarding civic participation in the City. The Healthy Cities Initiative and the RAPID programmes are examples of city wide programmes that actively engage with the public. The Cork Equal and Sustainable Communities Alliance (CESCA) is a collection of a number of community and voluntary organisations working in the city that have come together to actively address issues of disadvantage. Community engagement forums such as Cork Age Friendly City, Comhairle na Nóg and the Community Development Groups also play a central role in focused civic participation.

 

[1] Our Communities: A Framework Policy for Local and Community Development in Ireland, 2015, Department of Environment and Local Government). 

[2] Ibid