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WELCOME??? DEBATE

WHAT CAN AN EVIDENCE-INFORMED APPROACH CONTRIBUTE TO COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT POLICY AND PRACTICE IN IRELAND?

The Centre for Effective Services responds to comments [published in the Winter 2009 issue of Le Chéile]about its recent work helping to develop the new Local and Community Development Programme in Ireland.

In a recent article in this magazine, Ann Irwin of the Community

Workers Co-operative (CWC) was critical of the role of the Centre for Effectiveness in helping to develop the new LCDP, formed by government out of the LDSIP and CDP. Whilst the Centre understands the anxieties and concerns of the field at a time of considerable change and uncertainty, her article reflects substantial misunderstandings and misrepresentation of the work of the Centre and the brief we accepted in relation to the review of the two programmes.

The Centre for Effective Services was set up in 2008, funded jointly by the Atlantic Philanthropies, The Office of the Minster for Children and Youth Affairs and The Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (D.CRGA). We are a non-profit organisation governed by an independent Board, and we exist to contribute a non- partisan, non political, and evidence-informed perspective to the debate about how best to promote the well being of children, families and communities on the island of Ireland. As one of our first pieces of work we responded to a request by D.CRGA to assist them with a review of the two programmes with the following components: a rapid evidence review to ascertain what the international (including Irish) literature identified as key principles of effective practice in community development programmes; a benchmarking of the two Irish programmes against these principles; and advice, based on the findings, on

the remodelling of the programmes to maximise their potential to achieve good outcomes for communities. Despite a very fast timetable that inevitably placed constraints around the process, we were happy to accept this brief as consistent with the Centre’s mission.

“The design of the new programme, as set out in the logic model that has been widely shared, places community development at its heart…”

It is claimed in the article that “the new programme …will significantly reduce the capacity for the participation of the most marginalised and disadvantaged”, and that it reduces the complex processes that characterise a community development approach to a signposting function for other local services. Even more fundamentally, the article contends that ‘community development’ as a concept

Le Chéile

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