In 2021, the Minister for Rural and Community Development, Joe O’Brien, announced a new pilot Community Development Programme in fulfilment of the commitment in the Programme for Government. At the launch in June 2021, a rare in-person event hosted by Longford Community Resources, the Minister stated that he was delighted to announce the launch of a €1million fund to pilot seven community-led CDP initiatives to address poverty, disadvantage, social exclusion and promote human rights. In an interview with Changing Ireland, the Minister stated that he felt that this was the start of something very important and indicated that he is committed to growing the €1m allocation to support the programme.
The aim of the programme is to use community development as an approach to address poverty, social exclusion and inequality, and promote human rights.
The programme objectives are to:
- Develop community development responses to a range of social, economic and environmental concerns
- Facilitate an empowering collaborative approach to building relationships and undertake cooperative initiatives between marginalised groups, mainstream services and decision-making bodies, and
- Showcase and profile the benefits of an autonomous approach to community development in relation to existing, new and emerging issues.
The pilot Community Development Programme has funding for three years, from October 2021 to September 2023. It is supported by a Project Team that is chaired by the Department of Rural and Community Development, with members from Pobal and Community Work Ireland. Community Work Ireland has been given the brief to support the programme. This includes showcasing the work of the projects, with a view to building the case for the expansion and extension of the programme.
The successful projects, seven from a total of 123 applications, are:
- Kilkenny Traveller Community Movement
- ICON Community Development Project
- Clare Traveller Community Development Project
- Longford Roma and New Communities Project
- VOICE Community Development Project, ILMI
- Donegal Intercultural Platform Community Development Project
- Cultúr Community Development Project
At a recent inaugural meeting between the projects and the Minister, he emphasised the importance of a community work approach, stating, ‘we know that your projects are working to address some of the most challenging social issues, but what makes these projects different is the community work approach. The benchmark for professionalism for this work is set out in the All-Ireland Standards for Community Work. These standards will be a key tool for you to drive the quality of your work.’ This approach, the Minister continued, requires participation, empowerment and collective action and collective outcomes, and he added, ‘My sense of autonomous community development is to give community-led projects the space and flexibility needed to build relationships with marginalised groups. It’s about promoting equal rights and opportunities, and participation in policy in the decision-making process.’