Public Participation Network Structural Review Report
Posted on Friday, 24 June 2022
The Department of Rural and Community Development recently published the PPN Structural Review Report. Stakeholders have been asked to submit views on the Report by the end of August 2022.
In 2014, the Local Government Act was amended to introduce Public Participation Networks (PPNs). The PPN recognises the contribution of volunteer-led organisations to local economic, social, and environmental capital. It facilitates input by these organisations into local government through a structure that ensures public participation and representation on decision-making committees within local government. These PPNs have been established in every local authority area in Ireland.
Local authorities and PPNs work together collaboratively to support communities and build the capacity of member organisations to engage meaningfully on issues that concern them. PPNs have a significant role in the development and education of their member groups, sharing information, promoting best practice, and facilitating networking. By bringing local knowledge and expertise to decision making groups, they work to ensure that many different viewpoints are heard, ensuring more robust outcomes and ultimately better communities. Local authorities also have a vital role to play in facilitating participation through open consultative processes and active engagement.
In 2021, on foot of the commitment made in the Programme for Government to “carry out a comprehensive review of Public Participation Networks to ensure that they are fit for purpose for climate action and community development”, the Department of Rural and Community Development commissioned an independent review of the Public Participation Network structures.
The aim of the review was to:
Consider the operation of the PPN network to date
Identify opportunities for further strengthening PPNs
Make recommendations for the future development of PPNs
Provide community groups with the means to effectively and meaningfully input into, and contribute to the local decision making process
Consider the impact of the supports provided to PPNs by the DRCD, Local Authorities, and other sources to enable PPNs to fulfil their purpose effectively.
Findings and Recommendations
Governance & Accountability
Finding - Slow pace of action to address issues and implement change in line with recommendations arising from previous reviews and reports
Recommendation - Take a ‘back to basics’ approach and prioritise action
Finding - Lack of consistency in the implementation of mandatory PPN requirements and guidance
Recommendation - : Clarify mandatory requirements and proactively address non-compliance
Finding - Not all PPNs are operating independently
Recommendation - Review structures to ensure independence is maintained
Finding - Differences in culture evident across the PPNs
Recommendation - Establish trust and respect that makes collective action possible
Communication & Engagement
Finding - Lack of visibility, understanding and awareness of PPNs
Recommendation - Introduce a PPN wide communication structure that improves the visibility and accessibility of PPNs
Finding - Confusion around roles and dilution of responsibilities
Recommendation - Simplify roles and responsibilities to provide clearer descriptions for stakeholders
Finding - COVID-19 impact on interaction across the PPNs
Recommendation - Embrace opportunities for flexible models of engagement
Coordination & Participation
Finding - Difficulties in recruitment and retention of a diverse range of members and representatives
Recommendation - Minimise the barriers to participation experienced to achieve greater partnership in participation
Finding - Limitations in stakeholder relationships can impact the overall success of a PPN
Recommendation - Strengthen relationships and improve communication and engagement between PPNs and stakeholders
Finding - Lack of coordination within and between structures can result in missed opportunities
Recommendation - Introduce a PPN wide coordination structure
Training, Delivery & Supports
Finding - Inconsistent approach to delivery across PPNs
Recommendation - Develop a ‘PPN Way’ of addressing and delivering the role of PPNs
Finding - Significant duplication is occurring across the PPNs
Recommendation - : Adopt a ‘one and done’ approach to activities
Finding - Limited capacity for current and new activities
Recommendation - Clarify expectations of PPNs and provide necessary support to address issues of national importance
Staffing & Skills
Finding - Challenges arising from differences in staff skills
Recommendation - Clarify staff requirements and address gaps in skills and competencies
Finding - Challenges arising from differences in staff terms and conditions
Recommendation - Further consider employee Terms & Conditions
Finding - Challenges arising from staff turnover
Recommendation - Provide more proactive and coordinated HR support
Future PPN Structure Options
Simplify and create a National coordination structure.
Create a National coordination, communication and support structure.
Create a National independent structure to lead and support local PPNs.
Whatever changes lies ahead, the PPNs must be supported and resourced to continue the vital work they do. The recent and ongoing uncertainties we face as a society mean the PPNs are more important than ever both at local, community level and nationally.