ESRI and DRCD publish a “Review of International Approaches to Evaluating Rural and Community Development Investment and Supports”

The Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) and Department of Rural and Community Development (DRCD) today (29 April 2021) published the first output of a joint research agreement between the two organisations.

The study assesses international approaches to evaluating the impact of Government investment and supports in rural and community development. This research builds on existing work of the Department to date, and has been undertaken in the context of increasing public investment in rural and community development in recent years.

Key findings from the report are:

  • DRCD is investing in key areas in communities and rural Ireland. The report notes that the Department had gross expenditure of €291 million in 2019. DRCD expenditure can be categorised into 6 main areas (community development, rural development, capital infrastructure, enterprise supports, employment supports, and supports for public amenities).
  • The international evidence highlights that it is challenging to show the impact of individual investments on rural and community development. It is hard to isolate the impact of any one investment as other factors also affect changes in communities.
  • Despite these difficulties, there are approaches that have been identified to help measure the impact of these investments which are discussed in detail in the report. These approaches use data and information specific to the investments made as well as consideration of broader indicators relevant to rural and community development.
  • For example, approaches using case studies which tell the stories of the impact of supports and distance travelled tools (this identifies goals and progressed made towards those goals overtime) are highlighted. Such approaches are employed by DRCD for monitoring and evaluating the Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme; a programme which spends approximately €40 million annually to reduce poverty and promote social inclusion and equality in Ireland.
  • The next stage of this Research Agreement will focus on developing Key Performance Indicators for measuring rural and community development in Ireland. This will assist with measuring the health of our communities to inform programme and policy development.

Secretary General of DRCD, Kevin McCarthy, said:

“I am delighted to see the publication of this report. The report highlights the important investment and supports being delivered by the Department for our communities. The research conducted under our agreement with the ESRI will enable us to better understand the impact of the work of the Department and inform policy development.”

Director of the ESRI, Alan Barrett, said:

“It is a core principle of sound public finance management that expenditures should be evaluated to ensure that objectives are being met and that value for money is being obtained. However, it is widely recognised that such evaluation is methodologically difficult in the areas of rural and community development due in part to the multiplicity of objectives and the dispersed nature of the funding. The Department of Rural and Community Development deserves great credit for partnering with the ESRI and for asking the Institute to explore ways of bringing evaluation techniques to DRCD programmes.”

The report is available at

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