Kilfenora has recently been chosen as one of 50 communities across County Clare to participate in an area-based Community Development planning process. The planning will be sponsored by the Clare LEADER programme which is managed by Clare Local Development Company (CLDC).
By the end of 2018, the aim is to produce a plan prepared by the people of Kilfenora for the development of Kilfenora, spanning economic, social, cultural and environmental issues – and prioritising groups with the highest levels of need within the community. The plan will span at least the period 2019-21, and potentially further.
After an initial information meeting on 21 March 2018, a local planning group was formed, comprised of 11 volunteers (reflecting the diversity of Kilfenora’s population). This group is undertaking extensive consultation with all sections of the Kilfenora and Inchovea community in developing this plan, aided by a project facilitator provided by LEADER. See here for who’s on the planning group, how they came together and how they hope to achieve their task.
The context – rural communities face threats
We are all aware that there are increasing challenges facing communities in rural Ireland – from cut-backs in services to rising costs and general under-investment. Kilfenora is no exception.
Kilfenora has many latent strengths – a proud history and historic traditions, stretching back centuries. However, it is also experiencing a decline in population, and in the number and range of local businesses and employment.
Communities that pull together to address these kinds of pressures have a chance of continuing to survive, perhaps even prosper. Those that don’t will likely waste away. There are some stirring examples, in Ireland and elsewhere, of communities that have organised themselves to remain vibrant places to live and work.
This planning project offers Kilfenora an opportunity to rise to the challenge. See here for some important background information, including a presentation from LEADER that was provided to start the project. This information will answer many questions about the project; however the group is keen to hear and respond to any additional queries.
Consulting the community
The planning group started by defining its purpose as “Putting in place a road map – inclusive of objectives, activities and resources – that would lead to the development of Kilfenora parish in all aspects of its community, in order to improve the quality of life for all people living in Kilfenora.”
A wide ranging consultation is now underway throughout Kilfenora’s population to identify needs and concerns, ideas and opportunities. This begins with inviting everyone in the community to respond to a simple questionnaire by 22 July. An on-line version can be accessed here and an alternative paper version will be distributed locally.Thereafter, the aim is to develop a strategy for a cohesive, strong and vibrant Kilfenora. This includes improving the capacity to plan for the longer term, to be imaginative, to turn ideas and plans into action, and to make best use of resources.
- This is a plan to be developed by the people of Kilfenora for the people of Kilfenora. Inclusivity is key – every section of the community will be asked to contribute.
- At the same time, we must share experiences and insights with other communities in Clare undertaking the same task and facing similar challenges. This is a learning experience for everyone.
- The Planning Group is not a ‘committee’ – it is a project team, convened to undertake a task. Its members are diverse individuals, but are not representatives of local organisations. Other volunteers may be sought to help complete that task.
- The Group is committed to operate in a highly transparent manner. Its members are all contactable and happy to talk about the task. And as much information as is useful to the community will be posted on this website.
- It is important to integrate the efforts of local groups towards a common purpose. Villages such as Kilfenora will not create collective strength if everyone just ‘does their own thing’. LEADER’s purpose in working with communities is to facilitate greater coming together and inclusivity.
- The plan must be based on evidence of need – hence the importance of thorough consultation. It must also be realistic, costed and achievable.
- Once drafted, the plan will be presented back to the community for further consultation.
- Where possible and justifiable the plan will aim to obtain external funding. However, the primary point of the exercise is to increase the capability of Kilfenora to help itself, and make best use of its people and resources.