The Dublin Inner City Community Co-operative Society Limited (‘the Coop’), formally known as Dublin Inner City Community Alliance, was established in November 2014. We are an alliance of 13 grassroots, Dublin inner city, community development organisations which have come together to ensure the much needed development and delivery of social, economic and cultural services continues within our communities. All 13 Coop members are partially funded by the national Social Inclusion Community Activation (SICAP) Program and operate in the most disadvantaged areas of the inner city. The Coop’s members are operational in all of or parts of Dublin 1,3,7,8 as well as disadvantaged city areas in Dublin 2 and 4.
For a number of years Dublin’s inner city has been in the anomalous position of being the only region in Ireland to have no local development company. This had contributed to Dublin’s inner city communities becoming increasingly less visible and without a voice at a time when the country was experiencing the depths of austerity, community development funding had been slashed and services were most needed. We formed the Dublin Inner City Community Alliance which, in 2014, became the legal entity it is known today.
The Coop has four full time employees, including its Chief Executive Officer, who reports to the Coop Board. The Coop also contracts in specialist services on an ‘as-needs’ basis. The Board comprises one representative from each of its 13 member organisations and an independent chairperson. There are two board standing sub-committees, Governance and Finance.
The Coop operates to community development principles and a social inclusion ethos forms the basis for all communication with stakeholders.
A critical element of the work of the Coop is with ‘hard to reach’ target groups. The ‘hard-to-reach’ are those perceived as difficult to engage due to their social circumstances, characteristics and behaviours, and their institutional relationships, such as not using health or other services. Hard to reach communities and individuals are diverse but they include those who face barriers to participation, including economic and social barriers, such as, but not limited to class, income/wealth, geographic location, language, age, gender, ethnicity, education, residential status, health and religion. What is critical to note is that their needs are diverse. Successful interventions respond to the needs, characteristics, and local circumstances of the hard to reach group.
What is essential to understanding the needs of communities in the inner city is to be aware that the overall statistics and information on the city masks the deprivation therein and that macro average figures tell us nothing about the true experiences of the most disadvantaged in our communities. Coop members are based and work specifically with these target groups, and are acutely aware of the impact of disadvantage in these communities; we are committed to working towards a more inclusive society, and targeting scarce resources at disadvantaged communities.
There is a need to be cognisant of the range and level of difficulties affecting disadvantaged communities; they are often facing multiple issues that are interacting, such as unemployment, educational disadvantage, poor quality accommodation, poor health status, addiction, social exclusion and marginalisation. It is the concentration and combination of the factors that has the most impact.
The combined knowledge, experience and synergies that have resulted from bringing the Coop’s 13 members into a structured and coherent alliance is enhancing the extent, depth and breadth of community development and the delivery of much needed services across Dublin’s inner city.