Southill Stronger Together
“This document is a report on the collaborative strategic planning project initiated by the three organisations based in the community of Southill – Southill Hub, Southill Family Resource Centre and Tait House Community Enterprise, supported by PAUL Partnership, Limerick. The project was developed by the three organisations to identify community needs and to identify a collaborative strategic response to the local needs.
Key findings include:
o A Sense of Community. Southill residents, past and present, participating in the consultations expressed a strong sense of attachment to Southill, despite the considerable challenges in the area. Many former residents retain a strong sense of identity with the community, and many people who no longer live in Southill are employed in the various programmes operated by the three services. Residents are active on a number of organisations, voluntarily giving their time and energy for the benefit of the community. This sense of community and attachment is also noticed by the agencies as a strength of Southill.
o Continued Disadvantage. The community of Southill continues to experience considerable levels of disadvantage. All the key demographic measures for the area such as size of population, age dependency, families headed by one person, health, employment, education and disability, point to cumulative disadvantage and implicitly to social exclusion. In consultations, the issues of population decline, the closure of the junior school and disappointment with the Regeneration project were particularly highlighted as negatives in the area.
o Focus on Children & Youth. A common concern featured in discussions and survey feedback was the absence of play and safe spaces for children and youth. At the time of undertaking this consultation progress had been made in providing a playground. A site had been agreed, a budget had been approved and the project was at design stage. There are still concerns however on the need for wider age-appropriate facilities for young people across the age groups. There was further concern about the challenges facing young people in Southill trying to complete education and secure employment.
o Consensus on need for Cooperation and Collaboration. All consultations agreed on the critical importance for the three services to ensure strategic cooperation and collaboration for the benefit of the community. There was a consensus that, to date, cooperation and collaboration was ad-hoc. The three boards, the managers, the staff, the service beneficiaries and the agencies that participated in this project all prioritised this issue in particular as the key priority to ensure best results for Southill.
o Common Organisational Goals. Some conversations acknowledged explicitly, and some implicitly, that all three services have a common goal to build a sustainable and vibrant community in Southill. There was a high degree of consensus on this issue articulated by members of the boards of the three services and by the members of the Steering Group throughout the consultation process. The desire for a more strategic, cohesive and collaborative approach is clearly evident.
o An Agreed Communications Strategy. Feedback from the community, from staff in the three services and from agencies also highlighted the need for effective communications. This referred to communications at a community level, internally between the three services, and coordinated communications with the various partner agencies and funders
o Leadership Development. This emerged in discussions as necessary for building community in the coming years. It was stated that there is a need to facilitate leadership courses, for both adults and young people and to foster the emerging leadership. Sustained community development will depend on investment in the leadership skills of the local community.
o Volunteering – An Underdeveloped Resource. One of the survey questions explored the topic of volunteering. The responses indicate a potential pool of creativity and untapped resources the three organisations can draw upon as they implement their work plans. Research tells us that people are more inclined to respond positively when personally invited.
o Potential for Increased Partnership. This consultation project received a high level of responses from agencies and stakeholders, keen to support development in Southill. As already mentioned, agencies had perceived a lack of formal collaboration between the local organisations but were very pleased to support the joint consultation and planning process. They are keen to continue developing their services in conjunction with the three organisations. To support this, they suggest clear communications of the distinct roles of the three services, greater coordination to make best use of resources, and the preparation of joint proposals as opportunities arise.”