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Insights into stakeholder engagement: the first Irish Focus Group experience

Feb 23, 2024 | Tools4CAP Focus Groups

Authors: Emma Dillon and Trevor Donnellan (Teagasc)

On 15 December 2023, Teagasc organised the first Irish focus group within the framework of the Tools4CAP project. The meeting aimed to explore the stakeholder engagement process for the design of the Irish CAP Strategic Plan (CSP), with a specific focus on the needs assessment and SWOT analysis phase.

The discussion centred on the effectiveness of specific engagement tools in assessing broad stakeholder needs. These included the establishment of a CAP consultative committee, the organisation of public town hall meetings, open public consultations, and bilateral engagement with the Ministry of Agriculture. 

All focus group participants were actively involved in the assessment of stakeholder needs, and were members of the stakeholder consultative committee which was central to this process.  As such, there were 13 contributors from diverse stakeholder organisations, including farm representative bodies, environmental NGOs, the agri-food industry, state agencies and the Agriculture Ministry.

The increasing emphasis on sustainability within the green architecture of the CAP required engagement with a broader spectrum of stakeholders in the CSP design process than was previously the case in Ireland.  Through the focus group, the majority of stakeholders emphasised the importance of the stakeholder consultative committee established by the Agriculture Ministry.  Despite some challenges, the overall sentiment was that the engagement process managed to be both inclusive and insightful.

Stakeholders noted that while written submissions were effective for addressing large-scale issues, they fell short in facilitating adequate discussion or feedback, which were more easily achieved through means such as bilateral engagement. The influence of particular tools on the CSP’s ultimate design, as well as the resource-intensive nature of associated stakeholder engagement, were discussed extensively.