The Irish Loop, located on the southern portion of the Avalon Peninsula is home to 19 rural communities that together report a population of about 8,400. Community leaders throughout the region see huge potential in the “Irish Heart of Newfoundland and Labrador” – its close proximity to St. John's, idyllic setting, many services and amenities that include ecological reserves, archaeological and historic sites, and a world-class hiking trail.
Several communities were working in silos and with limited resources to market the region and attract investment. Enter the Irish Loop Development Board (ILDB) who saw an opportunity, a necessity in fact, to find a new way of working collaboratively in order for the region to thrive. Necessity and opportunity are prime motivators for innovation. The award winning Irish Loop Marketing Partnership pioneered by the ILDB catalyzed opportunities for communities in the region to pool resources and work together. “The Irish Loop has huge potential for investment and growth and by working together, we can leverage even more resources to achieve positive results for the region,” says Pat Curran, Executive Director of the Irish Loop Development Board. The premise starts with an investment of $1 per resident by municipalities throughout the region, matched by the ILDB. All municipalities have an equal voice in the partnership, a key aspect that has made the collaboration a success. “We know that for each $1 invested in the partnership, another $7 is leveraged. To date the partnership has raised over $221,357 to support regional marketing opportunities,” says Curran. Activities to date include development of ambassador program, a community asset inventory, several cost comparison studies, foreign investment strategies, and a joint website content management system.
This level of communication and equal participation across 15 different municipalities is extraordinary. The success of the collaboration has as much to do with its approach as with its innovative funding formula. According to Curran, building partnerships takes more than just a good idea; it takes a commitment of resources and time upfront. Face-to-face meetings, effective communication and buy-in from all stakeholders are important. The Partnership is supported by an annual symposium, ongoing two-way communications and regular updates on the progress of activities.
The Irish Loop Marketing Partnership won a Community Economic Development Award in 2008, and their success has continued to grow. Recently, the ILDB facilitated an integrated community sustainability plan (ICSP) process that saw all fifteen local governments in the region partner on a collaborative ICSP - the only region in the province where all municipalities took a collaborative approach. The ILDB is currently making plans to facilitate the implementation of two of the community sustainability plans, collaboratively, of course.
For more information about the Irish Loop region and to view some of the resources developed by the Regional Marketing Partnership, visit http://www.investirishloop.ca/.