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The Executive Programme for Local Leadership

Optimising Outcomes for Leaders: Supporting effective delivery across policy, provider, and practice communities

The Executive Programme for Local Leadership was initiated in November 2018 in order to address policy problems (including high crime neighbourhoods) that are extremely complex and require new collective approaches. It brings together leadership teams to engage with relevant research and to find solutions to such problems [e.g. a pilot programme in North East Inner City of Dublin 2018/19 – and further programmes are planned]. The Executive Programme aims to:

  • Help to improve local capacity to deal with complex problems
  • Increase learning about how to improve social programmes, and to harness the collective planning and implementation expertise of participants

The Executive Leadership Programme will provide a supportive, deliberative and collaborative space in which to turn ideas into actions in supporting the NEIC Initiative while cultivating a sustainable leadership network within this community. The programme will examine what it means to be evidence-informed, what this can bring to improving outcomes, and what is required to bring about positive change.


Programme Research Team

Dr Johnny Connolly is Project Leader, Executive Programme in Policy Complexity, Research Evidence into Policy, Programmes and Practice (REPPP), based in UL School of Law. The Executive Programme funded by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs seeks to improve the use of evidence by professionals working with children, with a particular emphasis on improving responses to complex or ‘wicked problems’.  He is also involved in developing a new master’s programme: ‘Using Evidence to Improve Societal Outcomes in the Real World’. He lectures on the Policing and Criminal Justice online masters programme, a collaboration between UL and Templemore Garda College. Before that he was an Irish Research Council/Irish Council for Civil Liberties Research Fellow. His research project: Defending human rights from the ground up: responding to drug and gang-related crime and community violence will be published in Autumn 2019. Another project: Building community resilience – responding to criminal networks in Dublin South Central looks at how communities can develop responses to local criminal networks is also forthcoming. This initiative involves collaboration with a network of four community policing fora throughout the area. As part of the National Drugs Strategy, he is involved in developing a Community Crime Impact Assessment as a way of measuring and monitoring community safety needs and interventions. Before coming to UL, Johnny was a Research Fellow in the school of social policy in Trinity College and prior to that he spent ten years as a Research Officer with the Health Research Board. In 2017 he was appointed by the Minister for Justice as a member of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland which published its report in September 2018.


Dr. John Bamber
After completing his Master of Theology at the University of St Andrews, John qualified as a youth and community worker at Manchester Polytechnic. He then practised as a youth worker, becoming heavily involved in training part time staff, before moving on to management roles. John gained his MPhil at Cranwell Institute of Technology, where his dissertation was on understanding good practice at unit level in youth and community work. Following this he lectured in Community Education at the University of Edinburgh, where he developed innovative part-time routes to the BA in Community Education, and established the MSc in Community Education.  He undertook personal and commissioned research in a range of areas including widening access to HE, work-based learning, teaching and learning, youth work and managing voluntary organisations. John has published regularly across his research interests, and his doctoral thesis considered the ways in which Habermas's theory of communicative action could inform the training of professional community educators.  Since 2009 John has been working in Ireland, where he has developed expertise in promoting evidence informed policy and practice in child, family and community services. In this capacity, John has supported and led strategic initiatives at local, national and European levels. A major theme running throughout John's career has been the need for relevant theory to underpin action and for the experience gained through action to help refine and develop theoretical understandings.


Carol Huguet has been an Administrator in the School of Law since 2006 and has offered administrative support to all facets of the REPPP Programme since its initiation in 2016. This involves set up and co-ordination of all DCYA/Department of Justice funded projects, project managing all REPPP events and induction and orientation of new members of the REPPP research team. Carol was involved in coordinating the first Executive Leadership programme (Nov 18- Jan 19). In addition to her REPPP duties, Carol welcomes all international visiting faculty members from Universities far and wide (EU, US etc), is involved in various marketing activities, especially fostering links with the Career guidance community. She runs a successful Law open day for secondary school students once a year and a Transition Year work experience week. Carol is involved in running several successful practitioner/CPD events which targets Law practitioners in the Mid-west region. She is a recently appointed committee member on the Athena Swan (Arts Humanities and Social Sciences) which strives to ensure gender equality across the entire UL community. In addition to further administrative duties, Carol is a busy mother of two children aged 5 and 2. She graduated with a BA in English and French (Mary Immaculate College 1996) and Graduate diploma in Software Localisation (University of Limerick 2000).


January 14-15 2020 - Executive Leadership Programme - Limerick City and County

Galway Bay Hotel

Background to the programme

The Programme is designed and delivered by staff from the Research Evidence into Policy, Programmes, and Practice (REPPP) project, which is a strategic research partnership between the Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA) and the School of Law, University of Limerick. The Limerick programme took place over three overnight blocks between September 2019 and January 2020.

Tackling complex problems

The Programme is for people with responsibility for addressing complex problems. While the causes of such problems are structural and rooted in poverty, inequality and deprivation, they also involve difficulties or limitations with services or facilities, and feature people whose behaviour causes difficulties to themselves and others.

A deliberative space

The fundamental purpose of the Programme is to provide a safe, deliberative space in which to consider complex problems. The residential aspect is included to optimise this thinking space by providing a break from the normal working environment.  Initially participants collectively identify commonalities in relation to a given complex problem. They then form small task groups to select and fully examine the nature, characteristics and challenges of the problem in terms of how it began, its direct and indirect effects, and how it sustains itself. Complex problems require thorough understanding, which means that the process involves generating fresh questions and insights, and not rushing to come up with answers.

The Limerick Programme – collaboration with CYPSC

The Limerick Programme brought together 26 people from the community, voluntary and statutory sector throughout Limerick City and County. Programme participants were a mix of frontline and management level, across the spectrum of statutory and voluntary agencies from Limerick city and county. The programme involved a collaboration between the REPPP team based in the UL School of Law and the Limerick Children and Young People’s Services Committee (CYPSC). CYPSC’s are a key structure identified by Government to plan and co-ordinate services for children and young people in every county in Ireland.

Addressing ‘wicked problems’

The programme objectives involved participants identifying and analysing specific problems they are encountering in their work in Limerick. As participants develop their problem analysis, short inputs introduce the latest social scientific thinking relevant to the focus of discussions. Following rigorous problem analysis, participants then co-design proposals for new strategies and practices for more effective, more collaborative and more integrated service interventions. Systematic use is also made of peer review during the programme to ‘stress test’ emerging ideas, and any proposals for ensuing action. 

The first two blocks of the Programme involved participants sub-dividing into four teams to look at four problems that they believe from their experience on the ground to be significant and complex ‘wicked problems’ which, if addressed effectively, would significantly improve service provision for children and young people in Limerick.

The specific problems addressed relate to:

  • The effects of staff turnover on the quality of service delivery; 
  • Lack of supports for some children in terms of engaging in education;
  • Issues affecting children living in homeless accommodation and,
  • Problems associated with the over-reliance on compliance governance in local service provision.

Programme participants, facilitators and ‘dragons’

The programme culminated in Block Three in a presentation to a panel of experts in a ‘Dragons Den’ type of setting. The ‘Dragons’ were Professor Raymond Friel, School of Law, University of Limerick;

Professor Kerstin May, Vice President Academic Affairs & Student Engagement, University of Limerick;

Professor Donncha O’Connell, School of Law, National University of Ireland, Galway, and

Sinéad Tierney, Practice Development Manager, Crosscare.