1991: The Beginning
RDC was inaugurated in September 1991 as a key agency within Government's Rural Development Initiative. The formation of the Council was a product of many years valuable local community development work, especially through the EC-funded Rural Action Project, and of an evolving Government focus on rural development.
An inter-departmental committee had been set up in November 1989 which recommended that decentralised, integrated, rural community development should be encouraged and supported. Co-ordination of Government's intervention would be achieved through the creation of a special Rural Development Division (RDD) within the Department of Agriculture (DANI). A Rural Development Council was to be established, with the dual roles of stimulating and supporting action by local communities and advising Government on rural issues affecting the most disadvantaged rural areas within Northern Ireland.
The Council was set up with 16 members, six appointed by Government and representing a wide range of rural interests, including the farming community, district councils, the voluntary sector and private business.
This period of work focused on community animation and capacity building encouraging local communities to actively engage in community development as a means to develop and implement local solutions.
RDC became the first LEADER Company in Northern Ireland managing the Global Grant. Through this RDC provided part funding for the implementation of community regeneration projects and funds obtained through the International Fund for Ireland's Agriculture Programme helped small farmers to implement new projects on their farms.
The Council continued to provide policy advice to Government so as to influence the content and delivery of mainstream policies and programmes as they relate to rural areas.
RDC continued to build up the project development capacity of a portfolio of disadvantaged community groups under its packaged PlaNet Programme. The composition of the portfolio was reviewed every six months.
The participation of the whole community, but particularly those who have previously felt excluded, was an important priority. Groups were able to access technical support and help with community profiling utilising the RDC GIS mapping service.
Funding awarded to the Council during this period by the Department of Agriculture from the LEADER II Programme enabled RDC to implement two programmes designed to help local partnerships take the lead on local development at the district council area level. One of these programmes, Developing Rural Enterprise (DRE) was jointly managed by LEDU and the aim is to assist the local partnerships with the promotion of economic diversification and the promotion of new and expansion of existing rural enterprises.
During the period RDC became an Intermediary Funding Body in partnership with the Rural Community Network under the EU Peace and Reconciliation Programme. This afforded RDC with the opportunity to assist rural communities to promote reconciliation and inclusion through their local development work.
This partnership supported 508 projects to the value of £5.7 million under the first EU Peace Programme in Northern Ireland.
Following a review of its corporate structure in 1999 the RDC Board was reduced from 21 to 15 drawing representation from the private sector, local government, ministerial appointees, environmental interests, community banking and the agriculture industry.
This voluntary input provides strong corporate governance to a staff team of over 30.
During this period RDC evolved to become a key delivery agent under the Northern Ireland Rural Development Programme and was involved in the delivery of support services, both financial and practical, to organisations involving people locally in planning regeneration projects that meet the real needs of rural communities.
Through this delivery role and with the financial support of the European Union Building Sustainable Prosperity Programme; European Union Peace II and Peace II Extension Programmes and the International Fund for Ireland RDC supported 395 communities to regenerate through a combined investment of over £22 million.
In addition, RDC continued to build up its information and research base by being involved in gathering and analysing data, research and information from a range of sources, sharing of information and building effective partnerships.
RDC published the first ever state of the countryside health check report in 2002 and went on to produce further baseline reports in 2003 and 2005.
Review of Public Administration (RPA) transfers RDC core functions to Central and Local Government.
RDC moves to become an independent organisation operating at a regional level across Northern Ireland and engages in a number of regional (urban & rural), cross border and international programmes.
The journey commenced in 2007 with the launch of its strategic framework ‘Advancing Rural Development’. More than anything this framework was designed to reaffirm RDC commitment to rural development and to set out its vision for a ‘living, working, sustainable and shared countryside’.
RDC continued to implement programmes on behalf of the International Fund for Ireland and closed its relationship with DARD as delivery agent under the Northern Ireland Rural Development Programme.
In parallel with implementing RPA the organisation worked to diversify into new areas of work and establish new partnerships broadening its scope of activities to include projects and programmes that benefited farmers, farm families, private, community, social enterprises and individuals.
• Lead partner in engage, a community planning pilot in the Fermanagh and Omagh District Council area (funded by the Big Lottery Fund)
• Managing agent for the International Fund for Ireland working on a number of programmes:-
o 125 community capital projects supported
o 76 community groups supported by the Maximising Community Space Crossing Borders Programme
o 73 community groups supported on the Integrating Communities Programme
o Maximising Community Space - Advancing and Embedding Good Relations
o Sustainability Programme for Capital Build projects
• Lead partner in the Building Relationships in Communities (bric) programme, an institutional capacity building programme with the Housing Executive and Tides Training (funded by EU Peace Programme)
• Lead partner in the Rural Respecting Difference Programme with Early Years (funded through Pobal as part of EU Peace Programme)
• Establishment of first Rural Network for Northern Ireland as part of the EU Rural Development Programme.
• First Lead applicant for Northern Ireland under the EU Northern Periphery Programme (EU NPP) working with Finland, Greenland and Faroe Islands in the delivery of RYE (Rural Youth Entrepreneurship programme) with match funding secured through DARD Tackling Poverty & Social Isolation programme.
• Partner in the Countryside Agri Rural Partnership delivering Farm Family Options training to farmers and farm families as part of the EU Rural Development Programme (Axis 1) in partnership with CSL and Ai Services Ltd.
• Delivery of RYE Northern Ireland with funding secured through DARD Tackling Poverty & Social Isolation programme.
• Partner in RYE Connect, successor project funded under the EU Northern Periphery and Arctic Programme with match funding from the DARD Tackling Poverty & Social Isolation programme.
RDC achieves IIP Bronze award.
RDC secures ISO 9001 and 14001.
RDC purchases its premises at 17 Loy Street, Cookstown, Co. Tyrone BT80 8PZ and is now the proud owner of this landmark asset.
Our new chapter awaits. We are excited by the year ahead which will mark 25 years in business. Watch this space.