Project Activating County Towns (Project ACT)
City/Region : Cork County , Ireland

Project ACT is a series of measures by Cork County Council designed to give confidence to business, retail and communitiy sectors through prioritised and targeted funding in the 23 main towns in the County. The Project creates multi-sectoral teams with a targeted focus on rebuilding the economy and community life in each town.

The Project involves the participation of multiple stakeholders such as elected members, Council staff, business, community and tourism interests, An Garada Siochana (Police) and representatives of the Cork County Older Persons Council.

Agendas addressed
Climate changePublic spaceSocial inclusion and integration
Local economies and employment
Pathways followed
  • Ensure equal access to municipal services
  • Involve citizens through participatory implementation
  • Encourage local private and civic engagement
  • Promote social innovation supporting inclusion
  • Nurture a sharing economy
  • Capitalise on local economy and production
  • Wisely select and apply smart technologies
  • Accelerate sustainability and innovation through public procurement
  • Guarantee equal access to information & digital services
  • Prepare policies for socio-cultural changes due to innovation
Pedestrianization of area in Kinsale

Cork County is the largest and southermost county of Ireland, situated in the province of Munster and named after the city of Cork., Ireland second largest city. The county's landscape is incredibly diverse, with golden beaches, rocky coastlines and islands, to peaceful lakes, vast mountains, quiet, roaming countryside and amazing walking and cycling routes.

The COVID-19 pandemic reached ireland on the 29th of February 2020 and by the 24th of March most businesses, venues, facilities and amendities were shut. The situation changed the way we work forever and Cork Councty Council shaped Project ACT to support businesses looking to reopen when permitted to do so.

In Action

23 Project Act Town Teams were established comprising elected members of Council, Business Association / Chambers of Commerce Representatives, Community Activists, Older People’s Advocacy groups, An Garda Siochana, Tidy Towns representatives, and Cork County Council staff. Meetings were convened to identify opportunities for collaboration between business, local government and other stakeholders in the course of re-opening commercial activity and activating local economies post COVID-19.

The CARE Programme was developed under Project ACT to gain an understanding of the needs of older people as they emerged from cocooning and social isolation. Working with Cork County Older People’s Council (OPC) the Council recognized the need for the voice of older people to be central to the debate and decision-making around how their needs could be met.  The overarching aim was to ensure that older people felt safe, welcome and confident as they emerged from cocooning and got used to the new post-COVID-19 surroundings in their communities. A simple campaign slogan  / guide was developed: CARE – Consider | Assist | Respect | Empathise.

With remote working at an all-time high, one of the actions of the ACT project, is to identify existing employment skills and talent across Cork County and use this data to deliver further resources and create greater economic opportunities. A key part of this is the establishment of micro communities which will facilitate a “support local” ethos of living and working within these towns. The Council is working with an Irish start-up company Abodoo who provides a remote working platform for individuals and businesses.

Additionally, a series of webinars were run by Cork County Council as a business support for SMEs and communities, to re-energise the local economies of the selected towns.

As communities begin to emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, Cork County Council also created a unique, interactive tourism map  where at the touch of a button, a wide range of information on attractions and activities to avail of across the county.

  • 23 Project ACT Town Teams established.
  • 100 Project ACT stakeholder meetings.
  • 80 + distinctive and bespoke projects.
  • Funding of €6million ringfenced.
  • Communications reach of 11,133,564 achieved.
  • Over 170 people attended the Council webinars as a business support for SMEs and communities, to re-energise the local economies of the selected towns.

Covid 19 resulted in people taking a new look at the services available to them locally. The Project Act initiatives undertaken in conjunction with the local business and community interests have provided people with the confidence that they can avail of these services in a safe manner.

According to a report from Vodafone Ireland, an estimated 43000 commuters from the county were using the main arteries into Cork city centre every morning, making decarbonisation difficult to achieve. With the impact of COVID-19 and the Project ACT approach, identifying and establishing the extent of those remotely working presently will enable assisting in establishing the longer term opportunities that this might present for towns across Cork County and avoid long commutes. Therefore, reducing carbon footprint caused by cars that were driven into Cork city centre and will promote local support within communities.

Citizens participation is key in the implementation of the Project ACT. Members of the public are being motivated to assist in the creation of the talent and remote working map by registering their skills set. The information provided does not include any personally identifiable material and will provide a data analysis of the skills in Cork County for those currently residing, the diaspora wishing to return, individuals wishing to relocate and business wishing to establish. This means Cork County residents now have an incredible opportunity to secure local, national and international careers anywhere in Cork County, hence causing a positive socio-economic impact on the communities and inhabitants.

The digitalisation of services such as the remote working platform and the interactive tourist map has had a positive impact too by making of Cork’s local government smarter with the use of technologies such as GIS maps and integrating workers to be part of the planning and implementation of better services for citizens.

Challenges and lessons learned

One of the main challenges with Project Act was the necessity to deliver the initiative in a very quick time. The level of consultation and engagement with community and business representatives ensured the delivery of a holistic approach following consensus arrived at over a short time frame. Many of the initiatives under Project Act were innovative and had not been trialled before. The learning from this approach will influence such future initiatives.



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