The Public Participation Network (PPN) was established in 2014 and is the main link through which local authorities and communities interact.
The PPN was set up in Donegal in 2016 and is the main link through which Donegal County Council connects with the community, voluntary and environmental sectors. The Network aims to strengthen the capacity of the groups to contribute positively to the community in which they reside; to facilitate opportunities for networking, communication and the sharing of relevant information, and to encourage and enable public participation in local decision making and planning of services.
All groups are organised into 3 electoral colleges - environmental, social inclusion and community, and voluntary. Linkage groups are specific sub interest groups and are the driving force behind public participation. There are 8 of these - social inclusion; heritage; community policing and joint policing; environment; tourism; older persons forum; fishing and aquaculture; community and voluntary. Each linkage group meets and elects representatives to statutory meetings. A representative will put forward the interests of the linkage group, meet that group regularly and report back on pertinent issues.
There is a single Liaison Officer employed. Funding is split between the Department of Rural and Community Development (€50,000) and Donegal County Council (€30,000).
Evidence of success
The Network in Donegal currently has 487 groups with 53 representatives on 22 bodies who bring issues/submit to their meetings and report back to the linkage groups. in 2017 631 groups participated in 4 workshops, 3 events and 62 meetings on different levels. The Network produced a Work Plan, constitution statement, a memorandum of understanding, media policy, representative charter and a PPN vision statement. These statistics are clear evidence of the level of activity generated by the Network.
There are challenges around dealing with a broad spectrum of community groups each with specific interests and ensuring that all interests achieve similar levels of discussion and input.
Potential for learning or transfer
The organisational structure of the Public Participation Network is an embodiment of a bottom up approach that evidence has demonstrated is the most effective form of decision making. It allows all members of a community to be an inclusive and informing part of decisions that could affect and effect where they live, how they live and to have all voices heard on an equal basis.
This approach is transferable and could be of practical use in areas where there are a number of unconnected groups administering within a single geographical region. In terms of the Hericoast project, Best Practices from Vest Agder, Leartbai, Molise all demonstrate the establishment of a single entity to incorporate multiple interested parties in a geographic region.
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