Recognising that natural hinterlands – or “functional territories” – do not adhere to man-made boundaries and thus neither do the functions of local government, there is a growing awareness among the councils in the Irish border region that enhanced collaboration and joint work on common priorities must move up their agendas. Public sector collaboration in the Irish border region can be significantly enhanced through strengthened leadership skills, access to innovative practices and opportunities to build knowledge networks among colleagues. The ICLRD’s experience is that high-level training and animation can help both senior officials and elected representatives in local authorities to have a better understanding of how their development opportunities are linked and fit into a larger strategic context.

The Executive Training and Animation Programme for cross-border region councils, using the successful ICLRD model linking training and animation developed under CroSPlaN I, will target the 22 Councils involved in the three local authority-led cross-border networks. The programme will be delivered through ten modules involving a programme of seminars, discussion forums and working groups.

As demonstrated in CroSPlaN I, this programme will improve the quality of cross-border cooperation and provide a critical forum to bring together cross-border councils, selected cross-border bodies and central government departments to support joint solutions supported by collaborative agreements.

The programme will consist of 10 modules:

Strand 1:

Modules 1-5 will involve all councils that make up the three cross-border networks (East Border Region Ltd., the Irish Central Border Area Network (ICBAN) and the North West Region Cross-Border Group). The modules will be organised and delivered through a mix of seminars and working group discussions, with issues such as territorial cooperation, community planning, public sector reform, efficiency agendas and customer-centric governance lying at the heart of the programme.

This strand of the programme will be designed with the purpose of identifying up to four key themes / projects that the Councils would be interested in developing further during the remainder of the programme.

Strand 2:

Modules 6-9 will involve the councils organising themselves into a number of working groups (ideally four but additional groups can be added if required) based on identified needs and priority action areas; for example, shared service agendas, renewable energies / energy efficiencies, access to services, etc. As noted above, the themes for each working group will be determined during Modules 1-5 and based on participant priorities.

The established working groups will meet separately; with Modules 6-9 tailored to focus on their priority theme. The councils will be mentored in the strategic development of their project ideas / priority themes by the ICLRD and the Centre for Cross Border Studies (through the Impact Assessment Toolkit). The end goal is the development of an action agenda; understanding the operational structures required to translate policy into practice.

Strand 3:

The Executive Training Programme will conclude with a day-long seminar where the councils will present their work and action agendas in their chosen thematic areas to an invited audience consisting of key agencies / experts in their thematic area.

Expected outcomes of this programme for the delegates include:

  • A better understanding of the reform agendas as they apply to both jurisdictions on the island of Ireland – and the implications of this for cross-border cooperation;
  • A dedicated window to change management, and the associated implications of the new / evolving functions and responsibilities of local government;
  • A collegial space for peer-to-peer exchange of information and ideas;
  • Mentoring and supports to assist in the development of joint ideas / themes into actionable programmes of activity; and
  • A raised awareness of the opportunities for co-operative working on an intra- and inter-jurisdictional basis – and the potential for shared service agendas.