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The Second RESTART+ Communities Consortium Meeting in Lousada, Portugal


From the 5th to the 7th of August, 2019, the RESTART+ project consortium paid a visit to the green heart of the Sousa River valley in the northwest of Portugal – the city of Lousada, where the consortium was warmly welcomed by the project partner the Municipality of Lousada. The second transnational project meeting set the platform for the project partners to share the progress so far and discuss the future development of the project.

The two-day programme provided the participants with the opportunity to discuss the status-quo of the development of the RESTART+ Regional Alliances in 4 countries (Ireland, Northern Ireland, Portugal and Romania), projects’ intellectual outputs, dissemination efforts and plans for the sustainability of the project.

RESTART+ Alliances
This late spring and beginning of summer, the first Regional Alliances meetings have been held in three project countries – Ireland, Romania and Portugal. The leaders for the alliances (Letterkenny Institute of Technology – Ireland, NERDA – Romania, and Municipality of Lousada – Portugal) reported on a successful kick off discussions with their relevant stakeholders on the present and the future of the regional development and the need for strong community leadership. The Regional Alliances connect the representatives from various domains relevant for a holistic and well-rounded regional growth – the learning institutions, regional development agencies, business associations, private and public sector representatives among others. The partners have highlighted the positive reception of the project’s mission and the desire of their respective participants for an active involvement in the future training and learning activities.

RESTART+ Communities’ Toolkit
NERDA (Romania) presented the first draft of the RESTART+ Communities’ Toolkit, which explains why and how to set up a RESTART+ Community Alliances for a sustainable community growth. The guide highlights the needs and the opportunities of each partner region, while listing the necessary steps and providing the tools for building the RESTART+ Community Alliance independently. Almost finalized, the publication will soon be available online – stay tuned for more details!

RESTART+ Communities’ Self-Assessment Tool
To initiate and develop the strategic plan for the community rejuvenation, the community leaders need to identify their communities’ strengths, opportunities and assets, while discovering their individual learning needs in meantime. To assist the community champions in doing so, we aim to develop an open and interactive self-assessment tool. During the meeting BDEL (Northern Ireland), responsible for the development of the tool, shared their vision and the draft for the online resource, which was discussed with other partners. The online self-assessment tool will be closely linked to the RESTART+ Communities Open Education Resources, creating a continuum in the participant’s learning curve.

RESTART + Communities Open Education Resources
RESTART + Communities Open Education Resources will not only serve as a foundation for the training program for the community leaders, but will also be transformed into a set of self-pace learning open-education tools. To complement the educational materials with practical examples, the partners are in the process of collecting the case studies on the regional development in their communities, while translating them into an interactive visual form – short videos. Take a look at our Facebook page to see where Letterkenny Institute of Technology have already started posting their vlogs. The leader of this intellectual output, Momentum (Ireland), reported on the steady progress in the development of the resources, which will be accessible on the RESTART+ Communities’ Online Platform as soon as they are ready.

In addition to the talks about the intellectual outputs, the partners have briefly discussed the future arrangements for the learning week, dissemination and exploitation plans and administrative issues regarding the project’s implementation phase.

Overall, the meeting was a success in terms of its outcomes, supported by the generous hospitality of the host partner. The partners enjoyed the traditional northwest Portuguese cuisine, Lousada’s green fields, and a fun trip to the largest city in the region and the main producer of Port wine – Porto.

The next partner meeting is planned to take place in Banbridge, Northern Ireland in April, 2020

Welcome to the Restart+ Project Magazine!


We are delighted to introduce you the first issue of the magazine dedicated to the Erasmus+ project Restart+ Communities. Building on success of RESTART Entrepreneurship, our new generation follow-up project aims to support the local community champions, who can drive the sustainable transformation!

What is in?
Our first issue aims to highlight the motivations and the vision of the project, as well as shedding light onto the ongoing process of establishing the Restart+ Alliances in the project countries (Ireland, Northern Ireland, Portugal, and Romania). While the work in progress, the first stepping stones have already been laid and we are happy to share those developments with you.

The community rejuvenation starts with the leaders that inspire a more open, entrepreneurial mindset among its community to facilitate the bottom-up local growth. This issue brings you the examples of the initiatives on the regional level that facilitate the (social) entrepreneurship in creative and cultural industries with the international project "SHADOWS", while highlighting a spectacular project singlehandedly initiated by student to promote a more active engagement and entrepreneurship in Müsnter region (Germany)- Venture Club Münster.

As the pre-requisite of our project, we recognise that helping the community to reach new peaks involves initiative from local public stakeholders and their close interaction with the society itself. With this in mind, we would like to share the stories from Hollands Kroon Municipality (The Netherlands) on how they face the challenge of innovating from within, as well as how the public alliance in Valencia has utilised the hidden potential of a historic harbour La Marina (Spain) to open the space for community co-creation.

We hope you the selection of the articles in this issue of our magazine motivate you to bring new practices to your community!

You can download the magazine in full HERE.

Beginning the Restart+ Journey in Northern Ireland


Banbridge District Enterprise is a local economic development group with a vision of sustainable regeneration fed by a growth in entrepreneurial attitudes and skills. The journey we are setting out on with our Restart Alliance partners over the next 18 months is not a simple one, but it could be a catalyst for long overdue change in many of our small communities that are easily overlooked and isolated.

Outside of the two major cities of the region the population of Northern Ireland is very dispersed, with a patchwork of small towns, villages and, increasingly, a rural landscape of scattered private houses with a limited infrastructure.

The local economy is largely service based, and we have a post conflict society still working to build positive cross community relations, as well as a more balanced, sustainable economy. Our region has plentiful cultural, built and environmental heritage assets that are undeveloped and could be the basis for more inclusive, sustainable regeneration of communities dealing with the legacy of a deeply fractured identity.

In the context of shrinking public sector budgets, traditional investment in community projects is hard to find, and the social enterprise approach is gaining ground. We have had small amounts of community development and some well established local development bodies, such as Restart Alliance members Rural Community Network and Development Trust Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland is a society with a strong volunteering ethic, so there are also small community groups and local networks scattered across the region. However we also have a dominant and risk averse public sector that is a gatekeeper for regeneration resources. Before it collapsed in 2017, regional government had begun to make moves towards a social economy and incorporating social outcomes into its planning processes. We are now without direction amidst the turmoil of Brexit.
This creates a situation in which willing volunteers have heavy demands on their time and many professional skill sets to navigate. We have been told by Alliance members that access to training is hampered by a complete lack of resources. So while there are accredited vocational courses from entry level upwards in social enterprise, for example, there is no way to finance the course, the travel or the time commitment.

There is also intelligence that the type of training offered can be too focused on legal and governance issues. Leaving a vital basket of regeneration skills untouched. All of which reflects a more top down approach, vulnerable to short term political enthusiasms rather than the more strategic, long term, grass roots growth that makes sustainable community regeneration possible.

We are currently recruiting to our Restart Alliance with a meeting planned at the end of August. Already in our Alliance we have expertise in key issues such as returning land to community ownership, developing a community profile and embedding social value within local government and economic regeneration. Our partners are committed to making small communities sustainable in a rapidly changing world with many challenges that can only be met by coming together to create change. Recently we were reminded of the transformative power of the Co-operative movement that has hundreds of years of experience to offer, and of the fact that we have an instinct to work together. Freeing the ingenuity and energy of small communities is more important than ever and we look forward to building our Restart Alliance and being a catalyst for sustainable change.

Restart+ Communities Regional Alliance Ireland – Architects of a Successful Project


Letterkenny Institute of Technology has extensive experience in participating in stakeholder networks, the fact that we are the only Higher Education Institution in Co. Donegal and the uniqueness of our geography sees to that. While we have experience in this, we still acknowledge the challenge of engaging with and asking busy people to lend us their time.

Preparing the Groundwork
Within the Development Office and School of Business, we dedicate significant time to planning our approach and identifying who the key stakeholders are within the context of the Restart Communities project. Our Vice President for Research, Equality & External Affairs is extremely experienced in the regional community and economic development field and we gladly follow his lead and advice. We believe that a good functioning and successful regional alliance is fundamental to the success of the project overall so we have several preparatory meetings. Once we have identified the key stakeholders we lay the foundation.

Laying the Foundation
Together we have identified stakeholders from local government, regional development companies, education & training providers, enterprise agencies (including enterprise and community support through Irish language) and youth services. We are mindful of our geographical location and our closeness to our neighbours in Northern Ireland. Therefore, we decide it would be appropriate to invite representation from local government in Northern Ireland. So, we have identified our key stakeholders but we are missing a vital link – community representation.

Building our Alliance
To build a successful alliance we believe that two-way engagement from the outset is crucial. Our Vice President extends an email invitation to the key stakeholders we have identified inviting them to the first meeting. In our invitation we provide as much information as possible about the project without the information becoming too heavy. We set the date and ask for attendance or a nomination.

Breaking Ground
We hold our first meeting on 03 April 2019 over a morning period, followed by a networking lunch. After making personal introductions, we provide an overview presentation of the project, highlighting the success of the ErasmusPlus funded project that has gone before: Restart Entrepreneurship. Already we know that we have a good team around the table as there are lively and engaging questions and discussion. It’s going to be a good one!

Building the Team
We make it clear to our Restart Communities Alliance that we are missing a vital element to the project and the future success of the Alliance – representation from the community sector. As we are a large county, we spend significant time agreeing a framework for identifying representation from the community sector. We want to ensure it is fair, with good geographical and sectoral spread. We agree a way forward and we are confidence that we will have solid and strong community representation at the next meeting of the Regional Alliance.

Laying the Blocks
The meeting is very productive and we come away with three concrete and substantial actions from the meeting:
• Alliance members are to identify and nominate community representation to LYIT, which LYIT will then work to recruit on to the Restart Communities Regional Alliance.
• LYIT are to begin work on a situation analysis and research into the socio-economic and community landscape in Donegal.
• Together we are to identify potential models of good practice that LYIT will then work into case studies.

Outlining the Schedule of Works
We agree timelines to these actions. We agree to have community representation secured and a first draft of the situation analysis prepared for presentation at the next Restart Communities Regional Alliance mid-June. We also agree that the case study work will be more time-consuming and while the work will run concurrently, we will have draft case studies prepared to present at the third meeting which will take place in September/October 2019.

Progress to Date
Almost two months since our first meeting, progress is good. We have secured community representation on to the Regional Alliance for the next meeting. Our research is taking shape and almost at first draft stage. The preparatory work for our case studies is well underway. We started with a focus group to determine key themes, which we are now mapping before moving on to conducting individual case studies across the key themes identified. Feedback to date has been extremely positive with all community stakeholders keen to share information and knowledge. Working together makes the region stronger than working alone.

Lessons Learned…
Taking time at the beginning before starting your Regional Alliance is an investment. It is tempting to pull a team of people together and see what emerges. However, the input and engagement is much richer from participants when your intentions are clear. When you ensure that members know that you value and welcome their input, it leads to an exciting and lively discussion about the possibilities and the outputs to come. We look forward to more time with our Restart Communities Regional Alliance.

Erasmus+ Project sets to support the community leaders to boost the community growth


The RESTART+ Communities project, funded under the European Commission’s Erasmus+ programme, officially started on 1 December 2018 and was launched at the kick-off meeting at the leading partner Letterkenny Institute of Technology, Ireland on 26-27 March, 2019.

RESTART+ Communities draws upon the findings and results of its successor RESTART Entrepreneurship project, which aimed at supporting second-time entrepreneurs. In its second edition, RESTART+ Communities steps forward to build the regional alliances of practice to equip community leaders with knowledge, resources and training opportunities to facilitate smart, sustainable and inclusive community growth. In the course of 2 years, the project team will develop:

- Produce a Restart + Communities toolkit (IO1) and use it to create 4 Community Alliances (IO2) comprising 12 community leaders in each country;
- Create a Self-Assessment Tool (IO3) to help community leaders identify strengths, opportunities and assets for community reactivation;
- Develop a unique training model, delivered through OERs (IO4) and an online course (IO5), to provide community leaders with the knowledge and skills to adopt a transformative, sustainable approach to local community investment and regeneration;
- Consolidate the capacity of the Alliance members through a Communities of Best Practice 5-day training programme;
- Disseminate results widely to enable scaling of the Alliance + training approach in participating countries and replication in other regions of Europe.

The RESTART+ Communities project consortium consists of 7 organisations from 6 countries, each with a direct interest in using the project’s outputs to further their work with community leaders. Drawn from public, private and non-profit sectors, each partner will bring valuable knowledge and networks which will contribute to the project aims. Partners include Letterkenny Institute of Technology (Ireland; lead partner), Momentum Marketing (Ireland), Banbridge District Enterprises Limited (Northern Ireland), North-East Regional Development Agency (Romania), The Municipality of Lousada (Portugal), European E-learning Institute (Denmark) and University Industry Innovation Network (The Netherlands).