Local Strategies, Regional Goals: District Council Regional Shared Learning Forums


Article written by Jim McArdle, DCGRP Support Officer

The District Council Good Relations Programme (DCGRP) team in The Executive Office (TEO) recently co-ordinated a series of Regional Shared Learning Forums, bringing together TEO staff, Community Relations Council representatives, and local government Good Relations officers. These events provided a platform for attendees to get together to discuss a range of cross-cutting issues and to share information on Good Relations delivery.

All those in attendance are responsible for implementing aspects of the Together: Building a United Community (T:BUC) strategy, focussing on the strategy’s key priorities to build more united communities across their local areas. The DCGRP sits within the T:BUC strategy as a match-funded programme, jointly delivered by TEO and the District Councils to support local solutions to local Good Relations issues. TEO provides strategic oversight of the programme, while the councils have responsibility for the design and delivery of individual projects that comprise their local DCGRP action plan.

The first regional forum took place in Dungannon, where the local Mid-Ulster District Council graciously offered up the use of their council chambers for the day. Along with the host council, this regional grouping also saw attendance by Good Relations officers from the Fermanagh & Omagh and Armagh, Banbridge & Craigavon Borough council areas.

The day began with a number of brief updates from TEO colleagues working on in the areas of Peace Plus, T:BUC Trees, and Planned Interventions. 

Discussion flowed in the following session, which saw attendees break into smaller groups to allow for more voices to be heard. This session involved a focussed workshop led by TEO officials, where attendees were encouraged to provide thoughts on several topical matters. A wealth of ideas, experiences, and feedback was shared during this exercise. ABC council Community Development Manager Nicola Mahood noted that the session was, “A good learning experience and an opportunity to meet people in person, with good facilitation within the small groups to allow that flow of conversation to evolve.”

TEO officials noted many of the challenges encountered, and innovative solutions employed, by council officers throughout their local areas. This information was subsequently collated into a Shared Learning Report by the DCGRP team and distributed to key stakeholders and Good Relations staff across all 11 council areas.

The day concluded with an informal, open conversation between council Good Relations officers. Council officers led this final session, creating a relaxed space for networking, for exploring collaborative opportunities, and for further sharing of specific Good Relations knowledge and resources. Mid-Ulster District Council Good Relations officer Sean McElhatton expressed his support for the event: “I found it really engaging and useful to meet in person Good Relations officers from ABC and FAO council. We share many issues and challenges and an informal opportunity to discuss some good practice and projects is invaluable.”

The DCGRP team were delighted that event attendees took away so many positive insights from the day. The team were also greatly impressed by the energy, dedication, and creativity of the council Good Relations staff working to maximise the positive impact of the DCGRP within their local areas. Following the success of this first series, these regional forums will now be held on a biannual basis, allowing those involved to build on connections and to continue to share good practice. The Community Relations Council also plan to convene plenary shared learning events, where learning and experiences from regional forums can be accumulated and distributed more widely.

If you are interested in any aspect of the DCGRP, get in touch with the team at District.CouncilGR@executiveoffice-ni.gov.uk.