“Local knowledge is key to life in rural areas. It’s gathered, protected and passed on from generation-to-generation.
It becomes innate and shapes decisions.”
INVOLVING CITIZENS IN CREATING BETTER PUBLIC SERVICES
Northern Periphery and Artic Programme
It can be intrinsically useful knowing which roads and lanes get flooded in the winter, the waters to avoid, the impact a rolling storm can have on exposed terrain or the land to side step when building or planning that new sports field. This knowledge can have a huge bearing on public services too.
In Letterkenny, Co Donegal, Jose Manuel San Emeterio of ERNACT, and colleagues in Donegal County Council, understood the value of this knowledge and how it, and other elements, could be harnessed to see an increase in the level of innovation in technology-driven public service solutions.
ERNACT, which focusses on interregional connections and regional development, launched the IMPROVE project thanks to funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).
Commencing in mid-2015, the programme operated across six Northern Periphery and Arctic Regions, including Ireland, enabling co-production on issues such as eHealth services and spatial planning.
“We were very eager to involve the community in the process from the very start. We wanted to enable local communities to use online services to participate more fully in the long-term planning and development of their area. This two-way street would allow them to engage on issues of public debate such as the balance to be achieved between sustainable energy and protecting the natural environment versus the case for large scale mining projects,” explains Mr. San Emeterio.
In Donegal there was a particular focus on ongoing public consultation in relation to local planning issues. Thanks to EU funding, the onus now is on councils in the North West to reach out to the communities they serve to invite more consultation, innovation and local knowledge.