Ennis 2020 Community Visioning with University of Limerick
What is it?
Using input from the community and independent advice from University of Limerick, the people’s vision for Ennis in the year 2020 was drawn up in 2011. The democratic process was led by Cllr. Johnny Flynn and Clare Active Citizens. Full details from www.ennis2020.ie and www.JohnnyFlynn.ie .
The resulting five action areas are:
- The town centre, including older residential areas,
- The Economy,
- Employment and the Retail sector
- Tourism & Hospitality,
- Quality of Life and Infrastructure and sustainability
Action Areas outlined in the Ennis 2020 visioning document:
- Ennis recognised as a Vibrant, Attractive and Living Town Centre
- Dynamic and sustainable economic and Employment base enhanced
- Enhanced capacity to support tourism / hospitality in Ennis and its surrounding areas
- Sustainable Quality of Life improvements for residents of and visitors to the Town
- Ennis as a sustainable environment supported by high quality infrastructure
What does it mean for you?
The outcomes from the Visioning have been summarised into a framework document, which has been adopted by Ennis Town Council. Any elected councillor can use the framework to work toward what the people of Ennis themselves have asked for.
Reaching Out (including Notice of M, Jny)
Facilitation methods and Partners
This initiative aims to create a document including different thematic areas and the actions and future plans for these areas to be discussed in workshops by the people of Ennis. This document wants to create the basis for the upcoming Hub Town Plan and as such a mirror of the needs and wants of the people for the future of their town.
Background and Introductory Information
National Spatial Strategy (NSS)
The National Spatial Strategy (NSS) identified a network of cities and larger urban areas and designated as Gateways whose development was to be promoted as part of the Government's overall framework for achieving more balanced regional development. Nine medium to large towns, including Ennis and Mallow, or pairs of towns were also identified in the NSS as Hubs to ensure that the positive effect of the Gateways in the regions would be extended to areas between the Gateways, and provide a link to the rural parts of the region.
Representatives of Mallow gave a presentation to Ennis Municipal Policy Committee prior to Christmas on progress they have made and the results achieved.
In Mallow a more reserved/traditional version of PP was used, whereby councillors went to the people with their ideas to get input/feedback.
The “Reaching Out” Guidelines were published in 2004 and have since been available to Government Departments and other Public Bodies such as Local Government in its function as a forum for democratic representation of the local community. In plain English this guideline states that anyone with an interest in the topic (in this case the future of Ennis town) will be invited to voice their opinion and contribute to future plans. The aim of the guidelines is to strengthen the dialogue with citizens and create greater transparency of the work of the Public sector by recognizing that public policy-making can be enhanced through the active involvement and contribution of all interested parties. The expected results are the increased focus of public bodies on the actual needs of the public and the empowering of the individual and communities, which in turn aims to lead to a shared understanding of issues and work towards agreed solutions.
On 03rd Jan 2011 Cllr. Johnny Flynn put forward a motion to use these guidelines in the town’s consultation with the town’s population.
The motion was unanimously accepted by all nine town councillors and was acknowledged by the town clerk as a “practical guide for use by public sector organisations to consult with stakeholders”.
As a result, an opportunity is now presenting itself to the town council to discuss the implementation and format of Public Participation for upcoming plans and projects.
Objective/Goal of Initiative
To create a documented review on public opinion of the town’s population on their views and opinions of how the town should be shaped into the future.
At a minimum this document will be made available to councillors with the hope that they will use it as a basis for the development of the Hub Town Plan.
Sub Goal 1:
To use this plan as an example of what is possible with the use of PP and further the effort to have more plans in more counties drawn up in this manner.
Sub Goal 2:
To get more people involved in local politics and lay the foundation to further initiatives.
Sub Goal 3:
To give people hope and pride in difficult times.
The partners in the project included:
- Ennis Town Council, both elected representatives and officials;
- University of Limerick (including students from the Politics and Public Administration Department and the Department of Languages, Literature, Culture and Communication, particularly the MA in Technical Communication and E-Learning. The project was also supported by the Clare Active Citizenship Network.
To achieve the objective of involving Ennis residents and other town users in the development of the Hub Plan, the project undertook a number of participatory exercises / interactions, designed to access perspectives in a number of different ways and in a manner that provided opportunities for a variety of population groups to participate.
These are described below:
Public Meetings – These were designed as general sessions for members of the public to discuss their vision and ambition for the town‟s future development up to 2020. They were facilitated using a World Café methodology (see www.theworldcafe.com) which combines a small number of inputs with conversations on „questions that matter‟. Attendance at these sessions was less than anticipated, with approximately 60 people participating. However, while the numbers were less than anticipated, the volume and depth of feedback was of a very high quality.
Targeted interactions – Two types of targeted interaction took place
i. Decision makers – These sessions, again using the World Café methodology, were designed to secure the views / perspectives of those who currently occupy decision making roles, in particular, elected representatives and public officials. These sessions provided a space for these groups to engage in a discussion on their vision for the development of the town. Approximately, 15 people participated in session for elected representatives and 20 in a separate session for officials.
ii. Engaging with younger people – This element of the project was designed to engage more directly with another group who are often absent from broader public meetings. In this case, by providing support to the Clare Youth Services, one very successful World Café session was organised, involving over 30 young people. In addition, one targeted focus group was held with 11 participants on the Leaving Cert Applied programme at the Ennis Youth Centre.
Public Space Interactions – These sessions took place in the Dunnes Stores Shopping Centre on a Thursday evening and a Saturday morning and were designed to access the views of those who may be reluctant or unable to attend public meetings. These proved to be very successful and approximately 180 public space conversations took place, recorded by the facilitators or directly by participants themselves. While these engagements were inevitably time limited they did provide very valuable opportunities to solicit a wider range of views and opinions. These sessions were supported by a number of Ennis Town Councillors, by members of the Clare Active Citizens Network and by staff and students from UL.
Virtual Space Interaction – The use of this final interaction space was designed to enable virtual participation for those who do not wish to participate in face to face discussions and was facilitated by the creation of a Facebook site and a capacity for Twitter comments. However, take up on this option was very limited.
The partners involved in the process also developed a set of “rules of engagement to guide the process”. These are outlined in appendix 1.
Thus, from these various sessions the opinions of over 300 people were accessed. These opinions, as expressed in each of the different participatory fora, have been meticulously harvested and recorded and will be made available on a website dedicated to the initiative in the coming weeks. This report draws heavily from this harvesting process and presents perspectives on:
- A vision for Ennis, essentially what Ennis will look and feel like it 2020. As part of this the future image of the town is envisaged as are the facilities that are likely to be available to its residents and other users (section 1).
- Strengths and assets, upon which this vision can be built (section 2)
- Enhancing Ennis, setting out a range of areas in which the town might be further improved (section 3) and
- Inclusive Ennis, outlining how Ennis might be further developed as an inclusive town with an emphasis on quality of life (section 4).