Community Engagement & Outreach
As a result of twenty years’ experience of engaging and communicating with wide and varied facets of Irish society, The Wheel has developed a deep knowledge and familiarity with how people and communities are connected through volunteers, community groups, charities and social enterprises.
We understand these groups and their priorities. We know how to mobilise and engage with them, the recipients of their services, as well as their employees and volunteers. We bring these qualities to a range of projects where reaching targeted populations has been crucial.
The National Rural Network (NRN) is a component of the Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 (RDP) which The Wheel co-delivers as part of a consortium including the Irish Rural Link, NUI Galway and Philip Farrelly & Co.
The overall aim of the NRN is to build and sustain a membership-based network that maximises the beneficial outcomes of the Rural Development Programme. The National Rural Network aims to add value to the Rural Development Programme through networking, sharing best practice and connecting the recipients of Rural Development Plan (RDP) funding. Visit the project website here.
This project leverages on The Wheel’s ability to reach diverse communities in Ireland and to run an integrated communications programme across multiple channels. The project is funded by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.
The Wheel works with the Public Participation Networks across the country supporting their members and networks through training, advice and support.
We are currently working closely with Carlow PPN on a community engagement and consultation project. The brief was to “identify and help bridge the gap between current practice and best practice in community consultation and engagement in Carlow”.
The Wheel undertook a series of consultations and engagements around the county, one-to-one meetings and surveys from members of the public asking communities how things were, how things are, and how things ought to be. Combining local consultation with research into international best practice The Wheel will produce a toolkit to help communities seek and engage in greater consultation within their communities in Carlow.
When completed Carlow PPN hope to be the first PPN in the country to have produced a community engagement toolkit for their local communities.
As part of the launch phase of Ireland’s new postcode system, ‘Eircode’, the Eircode Community Outreach Programme was initiated as a way of reaching more vulnerable people who were likely to be neglected by the general public awareness campaign.
In 2014, The Wheel was involved in discussions with Capita and the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (DCENR) regarding the potential of an outreach programme, based on a model developed for the Digital Switchover in 2012, to reach the target group by mobilising the community and voluntary sector. Preparatory work on the Eircodes Community Outreach Programme began in December 2014, with the key outreach work being undertaken during April to July 2015. The programme was managed and coordinated by The Wheel in conjunction with Irish Rural Link.
- A total of 187,939 members of the target group were reached and provided with information and reassurance regarding the introduction of Eircode.
- The programme reached an additional 167,285 people outside the target group.
- 4,767 organisations were mobilised to work actively on the programme, holding events and otherwise assisting in the effort to reach the target group, averaging 207 per county/area.
- 10,781 volunteers were recruited by Outreach Champions to assist in the programme at local level, of whom 4,019 were 'Key Volunteers' driving the local implementation.
- A total of 1,364 outreach events were held involving the target group, representing an average of 59 per county/area.
- The programme generated 1,091 mentions in Parish/Community newsletters, and 207 mentions in other media, including local newspapers and radio.
In Ireland, the analogue television service provided by the national broadcaster, RTE, was discontinued in October 2012. To continue receiving access to television, members of the public either had to subscribe to one of several private television suppliers or they needed to obtain a small amount of equipment that would enable them to avail of Saorview, a new free-television service provided by RTE. This was called ‘Digital Switchover’.
The Digital Switchover Community Outreach Programme was initiated by the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (DCENR). The Department was looking for a partner to ensure vulnerable people, who were likely to be unaware of the general awareness campaign, were informed about the switchover. Following departmental consultations with a range of organisations, the Department and The Wheel agreed an approach to reach the target group based on mobilising the community and voluntary sector. Preparatory work on the Digital Switchover Community Outreach Programme began in November 2011, with the key outreach work being undertaken between March to October 2012. The project was managed and coordinated by The Wheel in conjunction with Irish Rural Link, with funding from the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.
The aim of the programme was that those who were least likely to make the switchover to a digital television service would be enabled to do so before the switching off of the analogue signal in October 2012. This target group were likely to be older; have less formal education; be farmers or live in rural areas; be disadvantaged, e.g. have a disability, live alone; have few social networks.
- A total of 71,535 members of the target group were reached and provided with information and advice regarding the switchover. This was 48% greater than the 48,360 estimated target number for the programme.
- A total of 57,019 members of the target group were provided with additional assistance to successfully make the switch.
- The programme reached an additional 125,508 people outside the target group.
- 3,277 organisations were actively involved in the programme, holding events and otherwise assisting in the effort to reach the target group, averaging 126 per county/area.
- The ‘Digital Champions’ recruited 674 Key Activists, averaging 26 per county/area, to drive the programme at a local level throughout each county/area. They were assisted by an additional 10,995 volunteers.
- A total of 1,575 outreach events were held involving the target group, representing an average of 61 per county/area, with a total attendance at these events of 74,399 people.
- The programme had a presence at 246 major events (e.g. local festivals) and through these reached at estimated 46,669 people.
- The programme generated 2,513 mentions in local media, including local radio and newspapers.
As a direct result of the community outreach and engagement programme through mobilising community and voluntary groups, there was little evidence of public concern following the switch off, including on local or national radio. This indicated an extremely high level of advanced awareness and that the vast majority of people, including the hard-to-reach people in the target group of the programme, had successfully made the switch on time.