Please briefly describe the initiative, what issue or challenge it aims to address and specify its objectives (300 words maximum)
The Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme (SICAP) 2018 – 2023 provides funding to tackle poverty and social exclusion through local engagement and partnerships between disadvantaged individuals, community organisations and public sector agencies.
The main aim of SICAP is to reduce poverty and promote social inclusion and equality in Ireland through supporting communities and individuals using community development approaches, engagement and collaboration.
The SICAP Programme has 2 goals:
1. Supporting Communities
To support communities and target groups to engage with relevant stakeholders in identifying and addressing social exclusion and equality issues, developing the capacity of Local Community Groups, and creating more sustainable communities.
2. Supporting Individuals
To support disadvantaged individuals to improve the quality of their lives through the provision of lifelong learning and labour market supports
And 3 horizontal themes:
1. Promoting an equality framework with a particular focus on gender equality and anti-discrimination practices;
2. Applying community development approaches to achieve the participation of disadvantaged and marginalised communities in the wider local development context; and
3. Developing collaborative approaches with stakeholders to improve how mainstream policies and programmes are delivered so that they impact more positively on the socially excluded.
SICAP enables ‘bottom-up’ local community development approaches within the framework of a national programme with targets, performance indicators and requirements. This allows flexibility for implementers to respond to new and emerging local needs. In 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the programme shifted to address new needs faced by its beneficiaries during this difficult time.
Please explain how the initiative is linked to the selected category (100 words maximum)
When the Pandemic began in 2020 the entire SICAP programme shifted to address the new social context and new issues it caused. Across Ireland, Local Development Companies (the SICAP programme implementers) developed innovative responses to specific local needs. The flexibility permitted within the programme, to address local needs within the broad framework of a national programme, facilitated this move. As a result, the entire SICAP programme in 2020 could be classified in terms of innovative responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic, aimed at supporting local communities and building community resilience.
a. Please specify which SDGs and target(s) the initiative supports and describe concretely how the initiative has contributed to their implementation (200 words maximum)
Goal 2: LDCs delivered food parcels and provided shop and drop and meals on wheels services to disadvantaged families and older people. One LDC coordinated a county-wide Food Hub initiative, while other LDCs addressed specific food security challenges of island communities through local production and sale of fresh produce.
Goal 3: LDCs provided friendly call and phone-based crisis counselling services. One LDC established a local ‘Crisis Café to provide ‘out of hours’ mental health services, another delivered targeted mental health supports to male asylum seekers living in Direct Provision, and another engaged in community outreach that brought socially distanced activities to estates and nursing units.
Goals 4 and 10: The sudden move to online services, including education, exacerbated the digital divide. LDCs provided support to disadvantaged families struggling with home schooling and activity packs for children. One LDC ran a digital inclusion initiative targeted at children and families most in need. A key worker was assigned to liaise with the family and develop a bespoke plan tailored to their digital needs, which could include hardware (e.g. laptops), tech (e.g. broadband) and/or digital literacy training, with six-month follow up visits.
b. Please describe what makes the initiative sustainable in social, economic and environmental terms (100 words maximum)
SICAP is economically sustainable as it is centrally funded by the Irish Government and receives co-funding from the European Social Fund.
SICAP is socially sustainable due to the embedded community and cross-sectoral links of its implementers and contract managers. SICAP contract managers (LCDCs) include representatives from local government, public bodies, local development organisations and NGOs, and people from the local community. SICAP implementers (LDCs) are multi-sectoral partnerships, embedded in local communities, with strong established relationships with a network of local partners.
Individual initiatives within the programme have an environmentally sustainable focus, e.g community gardens.
a. Please explain how the initiative has addressed a significant shortfall in governance, public administration or public service within the context of a given country or region. (200 words maximum)
SICAP works to link disadvantaged individuals to services available to them. The programme targets disadvantaged individuals, who are least likely to be accessing mainstream services due to their disadvantage/ marginalisation. It helps these individuals to access services, through outreach and one-to-one support, confidence building, employability supports and referrals to available services in the local area.
In addition, SICAP also identifies and addresses needs specific to the local area, and therefore less likely to be addressed via mainstream national services. In relation to SICAP responses to the COVID pandemic, some specific examples have been provided elsewhere in this nomination form.
b. Please describe how your initiative addresses gender inequality in the country context. (100 words maximum)
In delivering SICAP, Programme Implementers should ensure that people are treated fairly and equally. SICAP seeks to promote an equality framework, with a particular focus on gender equality and anti-discriminatory practices, and implementers have to ensure that equality work is carried out with local community groups and individuals, as well as making sure that it is reflected in their own internal practices. Implementers are expected to engage with women and reflect on their human resource processes to tackle unconscious gender bias and to create a workplace where both women and men can advance into leadership positions.
c. Please describe who the target group(s) were, and explain how the initiative improved outcomes for these target groups. (200 words maximum)
All beneficiaries must belong to one of the 13 SICAP target groups which are:
• Disadvantaged Children and Families
• Disadvantaged Women
• Disadvantaged Young People (aged 15 – 24)
• Emerging Needs Group
• Lone Parents
• Low Income Workers/Households
• New Communities
• People living in Disadvantaged Communities
• People with Disabilities
• The Disengaged from the Labour Market (Economically Inactive)
• The Unemployed
While the SICAP programme provides a broad range of supports to these target groups, the shift that occurred in 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, shifted the holistic needs and priorities of these groups. The holistic nature of SICAP’s community development approach led to identification and addressing of these new needs, as well as ongoing provision of employment and pre-employment supports. In this regard, three particular areas came to the fore: food poverty, mental health and digital exclusion. Through the provision of supports and implementation of innovative initiatives in these areas the programme increased access to food, local mental health supports and access to digital services that had moved online, including education and social services.
a. Please describe how the initiative was implemented including key developments and steps, monitoring and evaluation activities, and the chronology. (300 words)
SICAP is managed at a local level by 33 Local Community Development Committees (LCDCs), with support from local authorities, and actions are delivered by Local Development Companies (LDCs). The programme follows the following annual planning, implementation and reporting cycle:
LDCs submit a SICAP annual plan setting out their proposed activities for the coming year, which should also refer to their SICAP Strategic Plan (as submitted in the original funding proposal). The continued funding of SICAP is subject to positive findings from a mid-year and annual performance review by the LCDC and the KPI targets being met.
The LCDC undertakes the mid-year performance review, which assess the progress of LDCs almost halfway through the year against what was set out in the SICAP annual plan and budget, and annual performance review, which is an opportunity to measure progress against the SICAP annual plan and ensure that LDCs have met KPI targets and adhered to contractual conditions. LDCs input monitoring data on IRIS (the SICAP programme database) to meet these reporting requirements.
LDCs are required to submit an annual progress report to the LCDC at the end of each 12-month period. This report is reviewed by Pobal and common themes and trends are reported and described in the Pobal SICAP Annual Report.
LCDCs must prepare an annual report which presents an overview of the experiences, challenges and learning over the previous year in overseeing the implementation of SICAP. Pobal prepares a brief mid-term SICAP progress report, which provides an update on SICAP performance at a national level, and an annual SICAP progress report (based on information within IRIS and additional data sources) which is made publicly available online on the SICAP website, along with other evaluations, research and case studies.
b. Please clearly explain the obstacles encountered and how they were overcome. (100 words)
The transition to remote working, with supports delivered online or over the phone instead of ‘in person’, was a significant challenge due to the level of disadvantage among programme beneficiaries, including issues of digital exclusion. LDCs had to put the required ICT infrastructure in place, build staff capacity and develop remote working policies. LDCs also used staff rotas and outdoor meetings, when feasible, to maintain ‘in person’ supports during the year. LDCs, in collaboration with partners, quickly adapted many of their courses and workshops into online versions with some launching online learning platforms.
a. Please explain in what ways the initiative is innovative in the context of your country or region. (100 words maximum)
Numerous examples exist across the country, each responding to specific local needs - e.g.:
1. Addressing the need for out of hours mental health services through a local ‘Crisis Café’.
2. Addressing digital exclusion by assigning a case worker to referred disadvantaged children and families to develop bespoke plans, tailored to individual needs, including access to laptops, broadband and/or digital literacy training.
3. Addressing the specific food security challenges of island communities through local production and sale of fresh produce (e.g. farmers market project, polytunnel project).
b. Please describe, if relevant, how the initiative drew inspiration from successful initiatives in other regions, countries and localities. (100 words maximum)
Due to the local nature of SICAP implementation, identification of needs, and inspiration and ideas for innovations to address these needs are more commonly drawn from the local community itself. LDCs have a strong presence in communities across Ireland and as such were named members of the local Community Response Forums that were initiated in each local authority. These forums were recognised by LDCs as an important means of connecting with other agencies, identifying local needs, sharing information and ensuring that resources were coordinated and focused on areas that needed it most.
c. If emerging and frontier technologies were used, please state how those were integrated into the initiative and/or how the initiative embraced digital government. (100 words maximum)
SICAP implementers, around the country, harnessed technology to directly deliver services and to help increase beneficiaries’ access to the myriad services suddenly only available online. One example is an initiative implemented by the West Cork Development Partnership to better connect people with local services and up to date information. This included establishment of a website providing local area contact lists, from pharmacies and food outlets offering delivery services and support information on accessing the Pandemic Unemployment Payment online, to mental health supports and activities for children and families.
a. Has the initiative been transferred and/or adapted to other contexts (e.g. other cities, countries or regions) to your organization’s knowledge? If yes, please explain where and how. (200 words maximum)
In Ireland, SICAP is a national programme, implemented in every local authority area. It has not been replicated in other countries, to our knowledge.
b. If not yet transferred/adapted to other contexts, please describe the potential for transferability. (200 words maximum)
The SICAP delivery model allowed for a flexible and adaptive COVID-19 response, which was different in different local areas, as it directly responded to specific local needs. In this regard, some key enabling features suitable for replication include:
• Centralised governance, within a high-level framework based on policy and national priorities, but with significant flexibility for localised action planning and delivery, to ensure initiatives are tailored to specific local context and needs.
• The programme is managed at the local level by Local Community Development Committees (LCDCs), which operate in each local authority area, and include representatives from local government, public bodies that provide funding to the area, community interest and local development groups, and people from the local community. This partnership approach, which brings together all relevant local stakeholders, helps to ensure that specific local needs are identified and addressed.
• The programme is implemented by Local Development Companies (LDCs) are multi-sectoral partnerships that deliver community and rural development, labour market activation, social inclusion, climate action and social enterprise services. They are embedded in local communities with strong established relationships with local communities and a network of local partners, which could be leveraged to ensure an informed and coordinated response to COVID-19.
a. What specific resources (i.e. financial, human or others) were used to implement the initiative? (100 words maximum)
The national SICAP programme, in 2020, had a total operating budget of approximately €39.1 million, which was distributed around the country. This covers all salary, administrative and programme costs, including a total of 578.24 budgeted FTEs.
In addition, and as already noted in response to the previous question, significant local networks and partnerships, including local communities, community organisations, NGOs, public agencies and local authorities, are also leveraged by SICAP staff for programme planning and implementation. The programme also acts as a referral service, linking the most disadvantaged and hard to reach clients with relevant available services in their local area.
b. Please explain what makes the initiative sustainable over time, in financial and institutional terms. (100 words maximum)
SICAP’s is financial sustainable in that it is centrally funded by Government and receives co-funding from the European Social Fund. The programme is also institutionally sustainable. It is managed nationally by a Government Department (Rural and Community Development) and locally by Local Community Development Committees (LCDCs). LCDCs were established in each local authority area under the Local Government Reform Act 2014, with their role further articulated in Our Communities: A Framework Policy for Local and Community Development in Ireland (2015). LCDCs reflect the broad range of local interests and civil society representatives (e.g. local government, community organisations, business interests).
a. Was the initiative formally evaluated either internally or externally?
b. Please describe how it was evaluated and by whom? (100 words maximum)
• Evaluations of Intervention Areas (conducted by the Economic and Social Research Institute);
• Wider Programme Reviews (conducted at the end of each programme cycle by external consultants);
• Data Analyses (conducted by Pobal using programme data);
• Case Studies (compiled by Pobal in collaboration with programme implementers)
• Learning Briefs (produced by Pobal)
These are made publicly available on the SICAP website here:
The most recent evaluation was conducted in 2020 by the ESRI. Further details are provided in the responses to c. and d. below.
c. Please describe the indicators and tools used (100 words maximum)
Counterfactual evaluation of SICAP pre-employment supports (ESRI, 2020) was conducted.
Primary data collection was designed to identify multifaceted barriers faced by groups experiencing long-term unemployment, the nature of their experiences and the impacts of the programme on their employability and wider personal development.
A postal/email survey of LDCs (programme implementers) was conducted first. Data from the first phase, along with analysis of programme data from the IRIS database, were used to inform the selection of five case-study areas for in-depth analysis. In-depth interviews were then conducted in the five case-study areas with LDCCs, current/ past individual beneficiaries, employers, and key policy stakeholders.
d. What were the main findings of the evaluation (e.g. adequacy of resources mobilized for the initiative, quality of implementation and challenges faced, main outcomes, sustainability of the initiative, impacts) and how this information is being used to inform the initiative’s implementation. (200 words maximum)
• SICAP pre-employment supports have a positive counterfactual impact on employment – 18% increased probability of progression to employment/ self-employment, with no strong differences by gender or those living in jobless households, and a higher treatment effect among non-Irish nationals.
• Effects remain strong even when focusing solely on those who are furthest from the labour market with very low levels of education – i.e. those with a Junior Certificate or below.
• Results are driven by one-to-one interventions, including a range of activities (e.g. encouragement and mentoring, job search assistance, CV preparation, literacy and mental health supports, etc.).
NOTE: One-to-one interventions are a key feature of the community development approach, which is central to SICAP implementation.
• The probability of progression to employment/ self-employment increases linearly with the number of one-to-one interventions received – 6% increased probability for a single one-to-one intervention, 17% increased probability for two interventions, and 22% increased probability for three or more interventions.
• These effects persist for at least 6 months after exiting the programme
NOTE: Effects may persist longer than 6 months, but individual beneficiary outcome data is only available up to 6 months after exiting the programme.
Please describe how the initiative is inscribed in the relevant institutional landscape (for example, how it was situated with respect to relevant government agencies, and how the institutional relationships with those have been operating). (200 words maximum)
The SICAP 2018-2022 Programme is co-funded by the Government of Ireland and the European Social Fund (ESF) as part of the ESF Programme for Employability, Inclusion and Learning (2014-2020). SICAP is managed at the national level by the Department of Rural and Community Development, supported by Pobal. This includes, programme design and commissioning, stakeholder consultation, review, research and evaluation, and management of the national programme database.
SICAP is managed at the local level by 33 Local Community Development Committees (LCDCs) in municipal authorities across Ireland. LCDCs are independent committees that were established in each local authority. These Committees reflect the broad range of socio-economic interests at local level and membership is made up of local authority elected members and officials, State and non-State local development agencies, community and voluntary organisations, and other representatives of civil society, including business interests and farming interests.
The Programme is delivered at the local level by 46 Local Development Companies (LDCs). Operating throughout Ireland, LDCs are multi-sectoral partnerships. They are not-for-profit, volunteer-led organisations, with voluntary Boards that typically include local political representatives, community and voluntary sector and other sectoral or thematic stakeholder representatives. LDCs partner in, and often lead, inter-agency, integrated local development networks.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development puts emphasis on collaboration, engagement, partnerships, and inclusion. Please describe which stakeholders were engaged in designing, implementing and evaluating the initiative and how this engagement took place. (200 words maximum)
A broad national stakeholder engagement process is undertaken to inform the design of each iteration of SICAP. For the 2018-2022 programme cycle a review and consultation was conducted by external consultants. It engaged approximately 730 people in the process. This included:
• National and regional consultation events with LCDCs and LDCs;
• Surveys with LCDCs, LDCs and a wider range of stakeholders; and
• Focus Groups with representatives from Department of Rural and Community Development and Pobal; Stakeholders from statutory and other agencies involved in employment, education, and enterprise; Representatives from the community development and social inclusion sectors; and SICAP beneficiaries.
As already noted, LDCs (programme implementers) are embedded in local communities, with strong local partnerships and networks, which can be leveraged to effectively plan for and direct programme implementation. LDCs also partner in, and often lead, inter-agency, integrated local development networks.
Also already noted, LCDCs (which manage the programme at a local level) are committees that reflect the broad range of socio-economic interests at local level, with membership made up of local authority elected members and officials, State and non-State local development agencies, community and voluntary organisations, and other representatives of civil society, including business interests and farming interests.
Please describe the key lessons learned, and how your organization plans to improve the initiative. (200 words maximum)
The COVID-19 pandemic forced SICAP to change its operating format overnight, from one-to-one in-person supports, to online delivery. Given the particularly disadvantaged cohort targeted by SICAP, this resulted in significant challenges, which were addressed through a swift, adaptive, and locally led response (see response to Question 5 b.). As pandemic restrictions may continue for longer than originally anticipated, the learning obtained from this move will be invaluable to the programme moving forward. This includes staff capacity in online service provision with vulnerable groups and recognition of the need for outreach with digitally excluded group once services move online.
Key findings from the 2020 ESRI evaluation (see response to Question 9 c.) evidenced the positive impact of SICAP pre-employment supports on the employment opportunities of disadvantaged groups. Two key learnings from this were: (1) that results are driven by one-to-one interventions, which are characteristic of the community development approach; and (2) the probability of employment increased with the number of interventions received. This learning will inform design of the next iteration of SICAP as we try to better capture quality and depth of engagement.