Community Leadership Programme impacts local communities

The external evaluation for the IFI Community Leadership Programme, delivered by NICVA, UU and Stellar Leadership from 2009, highlights the impact that the programme has had on community groups and their local communities.

From 2009 through to 2012 NICVA, in partnership with Stellar Leadership and University of Ulster, delivered the International Fund for Ireland’s (IFI) Community Leadership Programme (CLP) to 97 grassroots community groups from across Northern Ireland and the six border counties of the Republic of Ireland. The aim was to work with groups in areas of disadvantage and weak community infrastructure.                                                          

At the end of the three year contract NICVA, Denis McCoy Consulting and associates conducted an external evaluation of the programme to review if it had been successful in meeting its objectives and if the package of training, support and development had benefitted the groups that took part.

The objectives of the CLP were:

  • Building leadership and management;
  • Facilitating groups to have a positive social, economic and community relations impact;
  • Encouraging locally based community development activities.

The impacts for the community groups participating were clear. The CLP helped them to bond as a team. It improved their confidence and their processes and gave them better understanding of their roles and responsibilities as committee members. Group processes were improved with more effective delegation of tasks and better networking.

There were also marked impacts on the communities where groups worked; groups began to consult and communicate more widely within their local areas to find out what services were needed and to let people know about their work. In turn, participation from the local community increased with more people taking part in activities and volunteering. Participating groups felt that after the CLP they had an improved standing in their local area and were more likely to be taken seriously; they also found they were more likely to be asked to give input into other local projects and development strategies. They groups said they felt better able to undertake cross-community work and to tackle anti-social behaviour locally.

In terms of their own sustainability, groups had improved their use of volunteers and their processes of forward planning. The improved business processes and focus on professional ways of working and good governance were helping groups to make more successful funding applications and most were generating at least some of their own income and diversifying their methods of fundraising.

In June of 2012 IFI were able to extend the CLP for one additional year. NICVA are currently delivering this final year of the programme to 30 additional groups, and the programme will end in December 2013. The external evaluation found that in the first three years the programme had successfully met its objectives and recommended any future programme be largely similar and focus on groups in crisis, or in areas of deprivation, with possible follow-on support for low capacity groups in the year after their programme engagement.

NICVA hopes to continue this important engagement with grassroots community groups. Currently funding is only secure for this final extension year, but it is hoped that the immense learning from the programme across its 20 years of delivery though IFI will not be lost and that a new source of funding for CLP can be found to continue to support and improve the vitally important work of volunteers in their local communities.

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