In 2019, in discussions with the County and City Management Association (CCMA), the good work of local authorities in the delivery of the Creative Ireland Programme directly into communities was recognised by Ministers Josepha Madigan and John Paul Phelan. During these and subsequent discussions with Senior Government officials in the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media and the CCMA, it was agreed to jointly undertake an interim review of the Creative Communities initiative with a view to refining and strengthening its delivery in the coming years.
The interim review was led by Tania Banotti, Director of the Creative Ireland Programme and Daniel McLoughlin, Chief Executive of South Dublin County Council on behalf of the CCMA. It evaluated the effectiveness of Creative Communities taking account of the policy context, programme data, a review meeting with coordinators, case studies and evaluative surveys completed by 31 Creative Ireland Coordinators and 23 Directors of Services in local authorities, and reported its key findings and recommendations.
While local government has well-established approaches to community engagement through the arts, culture, heritage and libraries, their deployment creatively is a newer and more challenging concept. The review has shown that there is a shared ambition to innovate, improve the contribution of culture and creativity and its standing, and the feedback strongly supports continuing/extending the initiative, albeit with some enhancements.
The review revealed that Creative Communities is working well. It has created opportunities for communities through 2,658 projects across Ireland in 2018 and 2019 alone which would not be supported by other funding streams. These projects have enabled local authorities to reinforce a pride of place and a sense of belonging that helps to make our cities, towns and countryside attractive places to live and work. Creative Communities also demonstrated a capacity to enable local authorities to support community health and wellbeing through creative engagement. This success can be strengthened through clearer targeting of the programme and communication.
The interim review finds that in the first three years of the programme it has embedded well and is seen to be effective. In this relatively short timeframe, Creative Communities has seen significant collaboration between services such as arts, heritage, libraries and community development. In some local authorities, the composition of the Culture and Creativity Team now extends beyond the initial idea (arts, heritage and libraries) and includes, for example, climate change officers, community development staff, economic development, Irish language and Healthy Ireland officers. The successful innovation of Culture and Creativity Teams for the delivery of Creative Communities lies in their agility and multi-disciplinary make-up, and the interim review makes clear that they are the driving force of this initiative at local level.
The report demonstrates, through a series of case studies, that Creative Communities has enhanced the reach of local authorities, increasing their impact and visibility, and creating opportunities for communities. The report also reflects and reports on how Government Departments and local authority structures have provided support for Culture and Creativity teams and how the teams have demonstrated, through collaboration and strategic planning, how the creative and culture sector can be further embedded and supported locally in the long term.
Some really innovative projects demonstrate the richness and diversity of the work of Culture and Creativity teams in local authorities. The range of initiatives funded has activated citizens who may not normally participate in creative community activity and is hitting objectives for a range of other Government Initiatives i.e. Action Plan for Rural Development, Project 2040, Our Public Libraries, Healthy Ireland.
The full report can be downloaded here.