Carnegie UK Trust has announced that it will provide financial and in-kind support to the Community Planning Partnerships (CPPs) of Armagh Banbridge Craigavon Council, Derry & Strabane Council and Lisburn & Castlereagh Council as part of its new Embedding Wellbeing in NI programme. Each of the successful applicants will receive financial support worth over £350k in total, as well as ongoing peer support from the Embedding Wellbeing network until the project’s completion in 2020.
The project aims to effect real change, improving the community planning process within the participating councils and, consequently, the everyday lives of each citizen in Northern Ireland.
The Community Plans that have been produced by each of the CPPs outline strategies to improve wellbeing within a 25-year timeframe across categories such as community, the economy, health, regeneration and youth. Implementation of the community plans will take dedication and diligence so the Carnegie Trust’s decision to invest money and resources in these projects is good news.
A key challenge for the community planning partnerships will be to create a process that is participative; that is, one in which the citizen has an active role beyond that of mere consultee. DTNI is currently campaigning for the introduction of community rights legislation, like that which exists in Scotland and England, which would give communities the right to buy assets and to challenge planning decisions. Rights ought to be a central feature of the planning process. Engaging local anchor community development organisations in the process of planning – from social and economic development, to place shaping, to wealth building – will be a critical measure of success.
DTNI member organisations are key community development groups in their towns and villages. They are the anchors for good community and economic development practice. They respond to an identified need in areas where regeneration is most sorely lacking. They are staffed mostly by local people and have a deep understanding of the needs and proclivities of residents of the areas in which they operate. Asset-based community development gives local anchor organisations a strong basis – a physical basis – for the continuation of their work into the future.
Community rights legislation embedded in the community planning process would also give communities the right to participate; that is, the right to be involved in decisions that affect them, a foundational principle of civic democracy. And where it is identified that services could be improved upon, it would give them the right to challenge that existing service provision.
The Community Plans speak of the provision of opportunities to engage with local authorities and shape decision-making, but legislation would guarantee this.
Economic development through entrepreneurship and innovation, is another common theme across community plans.
DTNI, in partnership with the Centre for Local Economic Strategies, is currently consulting on the formulation of a Community Charter; a document intended to outline what needs to be done to create resilient local economies. The DTNI membership (comprised, largely, of community anchor organisations), as well as the wider third sector and local authorities are being consulted in this initiative. Keeping wealth local through, for example, the procurement of goods and services locally, including by local authorities themselves, will help to create economies that are self-sustaining and attractive to outside investment without becoming dependent on it.
The Embedding Wellbeing programme will provide for the creation of a new peer-to-peer support network, allowing the participating CPPs to learn from each other and that of international best practice. Ultimately, healthy, prosperous and culturally vibrant communities are the goal for everyone concerned and partnership working can promote inclusivity in the pursuance of this goal. DTNI welcomes the intervention by Carnegie and we look forward to emerging good practice and working with our members to embed new community planning practice across NI.
 Comprised of: Education and Library Boards, Health and Social Care Trusts, Public Health Agency, Health and Social Care Board, Police Service of Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland Housing Executive, Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service, Invest Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland Tourist Board, Sports Council for Northern Ireland, (SportNI), Libraries NI & Council for Catholic Maintained Schools