On Monday, 15th November, the National Rural Network (NRN) hosted a half-day online conference, entitled ‘30 Years of LEADER: Learning from the Past, Looking to the Future’, which provided an opportunity for rural stakeholders to reflect on past and current programmes, and to debate rural policy and practice in the context of the next LEADER Programme.
Opening the conference, the Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys TD, highlighted the vital role of LEADER in the Government’s rural development policy moving forward: “The LEADER Programme is integral to further enhancing the participation of local communities in building their futures”.
The NRN were delighted to welcome Professor Mark Schucksmith OBE, Newcastle University, who delivered the keynote address, sharing his renowned experience of rural development. Professor Shucksmith spoke of the central role played by Ireland in the creation of the LEADER Programme 30 years ago and of how he looks forward to continuing to learn from and be inspired by the Irish experience of LEADER.
The first discussion panel of the day, chaired by Dr Maura Farrell, NUIG / NRN, reflected on the lessons learned from the last 30 years of the LEADER Programme. This generated lively debate and discussion from a range of stakeholders who have actively engaged with the LEADER Programme during this period.
After a short break in proceedings, the attention turned to the future of the LEADER Programme. Iwona Lisztwan, LEADER Policy Coordinator at the European Commission (DG AGRI), outlined her vision at the end of a really insightful presentation: “In todays’s complex world, the LEADER approach can transform current individual and global uncertainties into working collective solutions locally”.
Following on from this, delegates were given the opportunity to attend a workshop of their choosing, across five themes: LEADER and Social Inclusion, Smart Villages, LEADER and Cooperation, LEADER and the Rural Environment, and LEADER and the Rural Economy. Within each workshop, an overview of the topic was provided by an expert in the field. This was followed by a LEADER project presentation and an open discussion focused on two key questions relevant to the theme.
Delegates returned to the plenary for the second discussion panel of the day, hosted by John Grieve, former ENRD Contact Point Team Leader. At this point, we heard from three active listeners, who gave their thoughts on some of the key themes emerging throughout the day.
Concluding remarks were provided by Kevin McCarthy, Secretary General of the Department of Rural and Community Development, which expanded on and re-enforced the messages emanating from the LEADER Conference.
The conference programme, containing the agenda, is available to view here.
A full report will be made available at a later stage.
Please see a list of the presentations given on the day below:
Keynote Address – Professor Mark Shucksmith
Rural Environment Workshop- Dr Fran Igoe
Rural Environment Workshop- Rebekah Keaveny
Smart Villages Workshop- Collette McEntee
Smart Villages Workshop- Pat Kennedy
Social Inclusion Workshop- Dr Anne Cassidy
Social Inclusion Workshop-John MacNamara
Iwona Lisztwan- EU Commission
LEADER Cooperation Workshop- Frank Kelly
Rural Economy Workshop- Dr Mary O’Shaughnessy)
Rural Economy Workshop- Peter Johnson