Taking the Power to the People, a Bus Trip with a Difference

Nicholas McCrickard, County Down Rural Community Network

"We didn’t know the volunteer effort that went into this"
How It Works

This was an initiative to familiarise prospective Councillors with local communities in the Ards area just before the 2014 local elections were due to take place. Prospective Councillors were invited to take part in a bus trip of the area to meet local groups and see their projects in action. Candidates for Council were attracted by the exposure of being seen by potential voters at pre-election time. It also appealed to their genuine interest in seeing a wide range of urban and rural projects in the area. 

The direct, face-to-face meeting between politicians and local community activists was a hugely successful aspect, as was the opportunity for ‘work on the ground’ to be seen. There was positive feedback about the bus trip, such as: These are great quality projects here, and we’re delighted to see this; We didn’t realise all of this went on; We didn’t know the volunteer effort that went into this; and Well, I went in and I showed my face and I can go back and show my face again without them slating me.

How It Works

An immediate benefit is that a significant proportion of new Councillors have seen face to face a number of important community projects in the area which may be seeking Council support in the coming years.

A few key factors for success were:

  • Picking the right time and the places to visit to attract Councillors when they are not in pre-election mode.
  • Planning the itinerary carefully and trying not to pack too much into a day - less is often more. Keeping travel distances during the day trip to a minimum.
  • Having a mix of projects on the itinerary.  Trying for a balance of the positive and the not so positive.  To pique people’s interest it is always useful if there is something physical to see.
  • Having people who were directly involved in the project on hand to talk and to take questions.
  • Highlighting in the invitation that it was going to be an interesting and informative trip and that they would learn something new from it.
  • This approach could work well as a means to bring any public sector managers, decision-makers or MLAs into contact with local people where they are. It would help them to hear about local realities, and to see how the money they allocate is being spent. Similarly it could assist local people to make initial contact with decision makers and politicians.

This approach could work well as a means to bring any public sector managers, decision-makers or MLAs into contact with local people where they are. It would help them to hear about local realities and to see how the money they allocate is being spent. Similarly it could assist local people to make initial contact with decision makers and politicians.

http://countydownruralcommunitynetwork.com/