Engaging with the community to revitalise village life
Key results include:
- Four new families have settled in the area (this is considerable given the small size of the community).
- Grants have been secured to the value of €85,000 with own fund-raising having raised €25,000.
- The whole process and final plan brought about great recognition, celebration and creativity. The plan launch featured in local and national radio coverage, and in numerous local and national newspaper features.
- The association now has a website asdeevillage.com with worldwide reach to over 50 countries and has received over 50k hits. The website also has an online shop.
- Two feasibility studies are underway. One is for the development of a river walk and recreation area. The other is to identify the most appropriate way to re-develop and re-purpose the community hall, so that it becomes a vibrant and inclusive hive of activity.
The final plan is a top-class, attractive and accessible publication with a detailed five-year roadmap for the development of Asdee with short, medium and longer-term goals and prioritized thematic actions.
Members of the association visited every home in the community to encourage participation, and as a result approximately 80% of households completed the on-line survey. There was high attendance with eighty people at the planning workshops (from a population of 611 in a community of 171 homes).
The project led to productive working relationships with state bodies: the local county council, County Councilors, and other state agencies and organisations key to the implementation of the plan. Agency staff now contact the association with updates on new opportunities relevant to our plans. The local authority has completed many village improvement projects including road safety, street lighting and village enhancement, and further works are committed to.
The facilitated consultation process brought people together, community relations were built, a sense of enthusiasm was generated. From more recent residents to long-term members of the community, everyone was afforded the opportunity to identify and collaborate on the proposed development projects for the area.
In addition to producing a plan, there is now a high level of community cohesion and a renewed community spirit. ACDA now has a volunteer base in excess of thirty members, who have undertaken a wide range of projects to enhance the village and approach roads. This has given the village a very welcome facelift.
Context and challenges
Asdee is a small, rural village in North Kerry, Ireland along the Shannon Estuary on the Wild Atlantic Way, with a population of 611 people, as of the 2016 census. The village and surrounding rural area had experienced a gradual demographic and economic decline, associated with outward migration abroad and to urban areas. As a result, many businesses ceased trading, pupil head count in the national (elementary) school reduced leading to the loss of a teacher, local sports clubs struggled with numbers, and the Community Centre lay dormant.
These challenges brought about an air of negativity and a loss of community spirit. Our community group – Asdee Community Development Association – was established to revitalise the village and develop a common vision for the future. This vision has a set of key objectives, such as making the Community Centre the centre of village life, making the village more attractive to live, work, and visit.
As the group was being formed, we were conscious of needing to be representative of the whole community. We needed the community to trust and to buy-in to the committee and our objectives. The group soon realised that the community needed fit-for-purpose facilities and improved infrastructure. As a group in its infancy, we needed to establish relationships and credibility with local government agencies and funding bodies. A key objective was to harness the natural beauty of our locality, with its ancient heritage, rivers, sandy beaches, and walking trail. These assets would showcase the potential of the village in attracting people to relocate to a tranquil, rural setting, with the option of working remotely.
- We wanted to receive support and guidance on how to undertake a community-led strategic plan, that would secure agency support, influence agency policy & draw down funding.
- We wanted an inclusive planning process with community participation, priorities & ownership.
- We wanted to revitalise village life and promote a greater sense of belonging and inclusion.
The Asdee Community Development Association was conscious of the considerable challenges that the village faced and deduced a need for professional assistance to prepare a strategic plan. The association was encouraged by a neighbouring community that had undertaken a similar process with Paul O’Raw & Associates a few years previously, and we wished to follow a similar planning process.
We felt the facilitators were providing a tried-and-tested approach, giving the association the confidence to trust and engage. The association committee met with the facilitators to clarify and understand the overall project approach and what their roles would be. It was to be a partnership approach. The association looked after the local publicity and promotion, inviting family, neighbours, friends and local organisations to participate. The facilitators ran the workshops, managed the survey and analysed census data for the area. They gathered all the project feedback and re-presented it to the community for further reflection and refinement of key local priorities. The facilitation used in the project allowed for everyone in the community to have their voices heard through the surveys and through the workshops. It allowed the community to map out and visualize the various actions. The facilitators empowered and encouraged the committee members leading the project.
Asdee Strategic Plan front cover.
Collage of media coverage of plan.
Planning workshop in community hall, Asdee.
Planning process collage.