The Community Planning process is now well underway in each of the councils across Northern Ireland. Led by the District Council, this process involves a variety of statutory bodies and community groups joining together to deliver on a long term vision for community life and to improve services across Northern Ireland.
Whilst each council area has have taken a slightly different approach to community planning, the core themes running through all are a connected community that is inclusive and safe for all, a prosperous economy and sustainable environment for each of us to live in.
How much did we do?
Sport NI is delighted to be a statutory partner in each of the 11 councils’ community plans, working towards the Outcomes established in each of the plans for improved health and wellbeing, safe and confident communities, physical activity, an ageing population, and environmental development.
Sport NI’s contribution is measured in terms of financial, development and staff resources. Our primary investment tool has been the Every Body Active 2020 programme; this programme, initially developed in 2015 and premised on partnership working with the district councils, is aligned to and focussed on enabling implementation and delivery of the community plan priorities.
Every Body Active 2020 involves the delivery of sporting opportunities, the expansion and improvement of outdoor spaces for sport and recreation, and the development of increased capacity for clubs and sporting groups through small grants funding. Examples of projects that Sport NI has assisted through community planning include ‘Take 5’ (Steps to Wellbeing Initiative), Age Friendly Alliance, Fire Fitness programme and Tennis for Free.
How well did we do it?
The Every Body Active 2020 programme is currently in Year 3 of a four year investment cycle. The programme aims to increase sustained participation in sport and physical recreation, especially among women & girls, people with a disability and those living in areas of high social need. Based on end of year reports from Years One and Two, the programme is successfully engaging higher percentages of women and girls and people with a disability than any previous SNI programme. Perhaps more importantly, the programme appears to be challenging and changing organisational cultures and personal behaviours and there is growing evidence of increased connectivity and collaboration between many of the organisations involved in delivery.
Is anyone better off?
At the heart of community planning – what sets it apart from ‘just another planning theory’ – is Outcome Based Accountability. OBA challenges organisations involved in the community planning process to think outside their own sphere of influence and see the bigger picture, to focus on what is intended – making life better for every citizen in a community, a council area and the whole country. This is necessarily a long term goal, in some cases up to 20 years – change on this comes slowly but the evidence to date suggests that each of the community planning processes has made a good start. Through the next phase of community planning (3-5 years), Sport NI aims to stay involved and strive for excellence. Hopefully by then, we will be able to answer the question ‘is anyone better off’ with a resounding ‘YES’.
Information about your local council’s community plan can be found at http://www.sportni.net/get-active/community-planning/ or by visiting your local council website.