Poetry shows us what is possible

Poetry shows us what is possible

The poem you see here was written by Daniel Meehan, a participant in our “Stepping Stones” programme. Stepping Stones is a personal development programme that supports people to develop both personally and professionally. Daniel shows us poetically the impact that this programme can have. Thanks to Geraldine Lyons of Breaking Beyond for her fab facilitation!

Describing the programme, Geraldine says,

“I love to watch participants as they cultivate awareness of themselves. Appreciating how their beliefs can influence their behaviours, helps them to realise that change is possible and make a difference in their own lives. Add some action into the mix and this is where the magic happens! My heart soars as I witness them taking responsibility for the steps that are required, and the weekly sessions offer a safe space to explore challenges and successes that they encounter along the way. The only downside is that the time passes by so quickly! I am so grateful for the trust that both CLDC and especially the participants place in me to support them on their journeys. Only one question remains… When is the next one starting?!”

Stepping Stones is offered to folks through our Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme (SICAP) in CLDC.  We are proud to be your community organisation and to support folks in this way!

Find out more about Geraldine’s work by clicking here: Geraldine Lyons on LinkedIn

See more of our positive community impact stories here: 

Transforming Lives Through Horses: A Clare Social Enterprise delivers positive change

Transforming Lives Through Horses: A Clare Social Enterprise delivers positive change

In the tranquil Clare countryside, Niamh and Máire are providing an innovative approach to personal development and mental health support, with the help of some unlikely partners – horses.

Combining Niamh Harney’s expertise as an equine professional with Máire Kennedy’s background in mental health, their collaborative efforts are yielding profound transformations for individuals and groups alike.

Equine Centred Services is a Social Enterprise, which is a business whose objective is to achieve a social, societal or environmental impact, rather that maximising profits. They work with a lot of teenagers as well as children and adults, and they also provide sessions for groups like staff teams, community groups and mental health services.

Central to their method is the concept of “experiential learning.” As Máire explains, “It’s not talk therapy; it’s experiential. We learn about ourselves through the experience of interacting with the horses.” There is no riding involved – clients are on the ground in a large arena with Niamh, Máire and the horses. The arena acts as the story board, and the client steps in and becomes part of it. The horses might become characters; like ‘dad’, or ‘fear’, or maybe ‘the calm one.’ “The client sees what the client sees,” says Máire. “It’s amazing what they see.”

Niamh adds, “We believe that the client has the solutions. We don’t have anyone else’s solutions. We help them find their own solutions.”

The presence of horses, with their innate ability to remain present in the moment, serves as a catalyst for self-discovery and mindfulness. “Change can happen so fast,” observes Máire. Clients often find themselves experiencing profound insights without the need for verbal communication. “People really experience themselves in their body,” says Niamh. “As they calm, the horses calm. The actual experience of what’s going on, that’s what brings change.”

“It can be easy for us as humans to be fixated on our stories,” Máire adds, “of what has happened, what was happening or what might happen. But here, we are focused on the present moment, what is actually happening right now. Clients come out of the arena knowing, ‘This is what I’m really feeling. This is what is really going on for me.’ And if you come to that – that realization and acceptance – that’s when you can start to change.”

Niamh started Equine Centred Services herself in 2016, and says that she received crucial support along the way from Clare Local Development Company (CLDC) in navigating the challenges of starting a social enterprise.

Niamh wants to encourage anyone with a passion project to understand how important it is to seek support early on. “This business was from my heart,” she said. “I thought it would all be easy because I loved the work. But there’s times where you’re stuck, filling out forms or doing accounts or giving a presentation or those things that aren’t your strong points, and you can’t move forward. If I hadn’t had someone to reach out to for a bit of support when I hit those blocks, this business never would have happened.”

In addition to training programmes and support networks, Niamh also got one-to-one mentoring. “You can’t measure the importance of these things. If I could give one piece of advice, I would say: Reach out for support sooner! I never even knew I needed the support, and now I wish I had reached out sooner.”

Clare Local Development Company is a community organization that supports individuals and communities to overcome obstacles and build resilience in their own lives and communities. They operate a Social Enterprise Network which supports people like Niamh to contribute to a better world. As Niamh’s own Equine Centred Services continues to touch lives and inspire change, it stands as a testament to the power of social enterprises in Clare in creating a brighter, more compassionate future for all.

What is a Social Enterprise??

What is a Social Enterprise??

Although there are many definitions, the bottom line is…A social enterprise is an enterprise [or business] whose objective is to achieve a social, societal or environmental impact, rather that maximising profits for its owners or stakeholders.  

Social enterprises in Clare work in many sectors: Improving the environment, strengthening community supports, supporting employment opportunities locally and regionally and working for the overall betterment of society.

CLDC, over the past 30 years, has supported the establishment and development of Social Enterprises across a range of sectors including tourism, community services, childcare organisations, and climate action.

In January 2023, CLDC launched the Clare Social Enterprise Network.  The primary aim of the network is to give Social Enterprises in Clare a platform to interact with other like-minded people, to ask questions, share ideas, experiences & learnings, and to identify opportunities for working together and for wider collaboration.

We had a range of events throughout 2023 to offer networking opportunities and soft support in the common issues facing Social Enterprises, including:

  • Fundraising / revenue generation.
  • Business planning
  • Strategy Planning and Sustainability
  • Communication and Marketing
  • Legal & HR – recruitment & management

Social Enterprise Training Programme

Right now, in our Social Enterprise Network, we are really excited to have Evelyn Cormican delivering a bespoke training programme to assist Social Enterprises with day-to-day operations and future planning. The training is being delivered through a combination of in person and online training and small group mentoring sessions. The overall aim of the training is to provide support and direction to social enterprises to take their business to the next level.

On completion of the training programme participants will be given an opportunity to take part in a showcase event (Spring 2024) with local businesses and corporates. This event is an opportunity for social enterprises to pitch their businesses to companies that have a corporate social responsibility policy.

If you are a social enterprise or thinking of becoming a social enterprise and you are not on our database, we would love to hear from you!

Please email Aisling [adeklerk@cldc.ie] for further information and to be part of our dynamic network.

Irish Local Development Network (ILDN) Social Enterprise Impact Award

ILDN have launched their Social Enterprise IMPACT award, which is a competition focused on impact and impact measurement. The Awards will have three categories – medium/large social enterprise, small social enterprise, and ‘young’ social enterprise – with winners in each category receiving an award of €10,000, and runners up receiving €5,000. The prize money can be used towards any costs associated with running the social enterprise. For further information and a copy of the application form click here.

Closing date Sunday 10th December 2023.

CLDC Circular Economy Project Repurposing Windfarm Blades Wins International “Best New Initiative” Award

CLDC Circular Economy Project Repurposing Windfarm Blades Wins International “Best New Initiative” Award

The International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation (UIAA) announced on Friday that the Irish pilot project “Repurposing Windfarm Blades,” by Clare Local Development Company, has been named as the Best New Initiative (BNI), in the prestigious UIAA 2023 Mountain Protection Award (MPA). The Clare initiative plans to turn old wind turbine blades into walking trail infrastructure, aiming to reduce the impact of wind farming on the environment, while modelling Circular Economy and helping raise awareness around reusing materials on a larger scale.

Windfarms in Ireland are generally situated in the upland areas, and this project will take redundant turbine blades and repurpose them into walking trail infrastructure like bridges and stiles, in this environment. This is the first project to use existing upland infrastructure to create trail infrastructure for the benefit of trail users. Currently, trail infrastructure is sourced from generic suppliers, mostly international companies involving large transport costs and environmental damage. This project keeps all the elements as local as possible, using local windfarms, local facilities, local trails, and local contractors wherever possible. Upgraded walking trails around Clare will showcase an innovative approach to the circular economy, and the project hopes to raise awareness and start conversations about repurposing waste materials.

The project was initiated by Clare Local Development Company (CLDC,) supported by Bladebridge from Universiy College Cork, and endorsed by Mountaineering Ireland. The first phase of the project is to repurpose the wind turbine blades that have reached end of life on wind farms into pedestrian bridges, stiles and seating on walking trails on the Cliffs of Moher Coastal Path. This is the busiest walking trail in Ireland with an excess of 600k users annually. A side project will be initiated to develop stiles and seating from repurposed blades.

Repurposing of this material is higher on the waste hierarchy than recycling, and higher than the conventional disposal methods of landfilling or incineration, or co-processing of the material into cement. The goals of the project are to firstly trial the repurposing of turbines into trail infrastructure on walking trails in County Clare, and then once installed and tested roll out the project via the Rural Recreation Officer network to other trails in Ireland; and finally promote the concept via international trail programmes.

“Provided the pilot phase of the project is successful, it will have a hugely positive environmental as well as social impact through education, awareness raising about circular economy, sustainable resource management and disposal. The way the project taps into local landowners, hiking, walking, guiding groups, people who make their living on the land that the trail it is targeting goes through, really speaks to a strong land ethic – something that mountain and upland cultures around the world share,” said the UIAA Assessment Team.

Eoin Hogan, the Rural Recreation Officer for CLDC who has headed this project, spoke with UIAA. “These new bridges will allow more walkers to enjoy the beautiful Cliffs of Moher trail in Co. Clare while respecting the local environment and keeping used blade materials out of landfills,” Eoin said. “We hope that the award will highlight this project as an example of how to change perceptions of ‘waste’ and to imagine new opportunities to improve the environment by repurposing used materials. For us, this project will be a success if people use the bridges, appreciate the design and the materials, talk about them, and see the benefit of repurposing materials to create new infrastructure and products.”

A total of 12 international projects operational on four continents were showcased as part of 2023 UIAA MPA.