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Anna Clarke Director for Communities

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Anna is a highly skilled community development practitioner with a UK wide reputation particularly in relation to the technical design and application of National Occupational Standards.  Anna has been a key figure in the design of community development national occupational standards for well over a decade, representing Northern Ireland on successive review teams, ensuring effective engagement with employers and practitioners across Northern Ireland and undertaking significant rewriting of both the 2009 and 2015 standards.  In 2011 Anna was commissioned to write a comprehensive guide on how to use the Community Development Standards to underpin and support effective development within key areas of practice.

Anna has an Honours Degree in English and Afro-Asian Studies and a Master’s Degree in Human Rights and Equal Opportunities, both from the University of Lancaster.   She is currently studying an MSc in Governance and Community Planning at Ulster University, also leading to chartered membership of the Royal Town Planning Institute. Additionally, Anna holds a Professional Post Graduate Diploma in Youth and Community Work from Manchester Metropolitan University and a post graduate diploma in Women’s Studies from Liverpool University.  Anna is also qualified to teach and train adults.

Anna’s professional career in Merseyside spanned a wide community- based practice which included neighbourhood youth and community work, welfare rights campaign work, independent immigration advocacy with refugees and asylum seekers and community-based enterprise development work with long-term unemployed.  Several of these initiatives involved the development of accredited community-based training programmes working with local awarding organisations in the North West.

In Northern Ireland, Anna managed one of the first cross-sectoral District Peace Partnerships to be established under the EU Peace and Reconciliation Programme and was responsible for supporting the development of the Partnership, engaging with local businesses, communities and agencies working within the district and managing the distribution of approximately £2 million in EU Peace funds.

While at the Rural Community Network NI Anna managed a community development networking infrastructure of 12 sub-regional community support organisations before moving into the newly created role of Community Development Education and Training Coordinator, a post she established and held for seven years.  During this time Anna created a community development capacity building programme funded through the Dept of Agriculture and Rural Development.  Over a seven year period some 900+ community volunteers, activists, and employees availed of the programme which was delivered locally within rural communities right across Northern Ireland.  In order to embed sustainable community development practice within communities Anna also designed and delivered a bespoke level 4 Community Development Train the Trainers programme accredited through Edexcel. This was a comprehensive professional development for paid community development practitioners to support the development of training and facilitation skills to ensure the ongoing effective delivery of community development capacity building within communities across Northern Ireland.  On the strength of this work Anna was invited Uzbekistan to deliver a programme of training community development training to NGO managers operating across the five countries of Central Asia.

While in this role with RCN Anna also established a very successful annual Community Development Summer School, which ran over a period of 3 days each summer and drew practitioners from across the UK and Republic of Ireland as well as internationally.

On a UK-wide basis, Anna has represented Northern Ireland community development employers on the UK Constituency Panel of Lifelong Learning UK, the sector skills council for the lifelong learning sector and undertaken research into the skills needed for rural community development across the UK for the Carnegie UK Trust.  Anna also has strong links with the community development in the Republic of Ireland and was a key contributor to the development of All Ireland Standards for Quality Community Work.

Anna left the Rural Community Network in 2007 to set up an independent community development practice – Learning for Change Consultancy.  The practice specialises in;

  • The design and delivery of regulated community development qualifications such as the Awards in Community Development for paid and volunteer practitioners across Northern Ireland
  • The design and delivery of a wide range of endorsed community development programmes crafted to meet specific sector needs and learning outcomes such as Community Leadership and Influencing Decision Making
  • Community-based consultation, engagement processes, and research intended to highlight needs and issues and inform the further development of practice and programmes such as the disengagement of marching and cultural bands from the Peace III Programme
  • Evaluation of community-based programmes such as the NI Department of Social Development’s Regional Areas at Risk programme and the Fermanagh Trust Shared Education Programme involving collaboration between 50+ schools in the county.

Anna plays an active role within her community, most particularly here in Northern Ireland within the integrated education movement.  Anna was a founding member of the steering group that established Sperrin Integrated College the integrated post-primary school in Magherafelt and became the inaugural Chair of the Board of Governors, a post she held for the first eight years of the school’s life.