Every dark cloud has a silver lining and the threat of climate change could see the rebirth of strong forces for community development.
At least in Ireland.
Here, after witnessing some years of growth in the community sector in the early 2000s (followed by almost a decade of cuts), it is a joy to read in a government report about the need once again for community leadership, engagement, initiative and resilience.
Resources are going to be invested in community outreach as one of the many actions in the Climate Action Plan. For a time, outreach was almost a dirty word.
Government funding for community development may even turn full circle. This time, we could emerge stronger – as Ireland reaches for a low-carbon future – with technology in our hands that can be turned to community advantage. Living locally is the best way to live anyway, connecting with the folk around you and looking out for each other.
Just ask Margaret O’Connor from Co Clare who returned from London to build a career here instead. Her success in the ILDN National Enterprise Awards and the success of the thousands of small local businesses she represented is very important now in an era where we seek to build resilient local communities.
Speaking of London, if Thatcherism threatened to slowly turn us into individualist zombies, climate change promises to bring us back together as communities.
Since it was established in 2017, the Department of Rural and Community Development has been working to strengthen communities, to support town and village development, to encourage local innovation and to protect vulnerable urban and rural communities. It is the smallest government department in terms of funding, but it is most fortunate for Ireland that it was set up given the tasks ahead of us due to climate change.
Now, give it wings!
Of course, with hindsight, it is also a pity that governments have shut down good projects since 2002. We’ve a lot of capacity building to catch up on.
It isn’t easy. Many community groups are focused on supporting people day to day. All are pressed for time. Changes that cost money take longer (including moving from the plastic sleeves we use to deliver this magazine to many readers). Yet, we know what is at stake.
Sometimes, though, what is simple is true. For example, since we want to empower communities and make them attractive places to live and work in, we should consider ‘pub hubs’.
Digihubs in pubs in communities across the country could work. The less we commute, the less damage we do to the environment, but there is so much more added value. Picture thousands more people using pub hubs on the extended and expanded Back to Work Enterprise Allowance scheme, and life restored to town and village centres.
Climate change may be just what it takes to bring us back to basics, back to our communities and back to life.
See you in a pub hub!
Interested in reading more about the state of Ireland’s community development sector? Check out our latest issue.