Architects for change

Special Report The Change Architects are a group of established leaders from many sectors who serve as advisors to both the Change Executives and social entrepreneurs. Louise Holden asks them why they got involved.

Darina Allen - the Slow Food Movement

Darina Allen - the Slow Food Movement

Tue, Jun 11, 2013, 15:30

Bride Rosney
Roots of Empathy
Roots of Empathy brings children and communities together to foster empathy and reduce aggression. With a local infant and parent, and a trained instructor, pupils observe the baby’s development, label the baby’s feelings and are coached to identify and reflect on their own feelings and the feelings of others.

Bride Rosney has chosen to be a Change Architect for Roots of Empathy in Ireland because she believes that there should be more room in the Irish curriculum for interaction with the wider community.

“I spent the first 20 years of my career in education at all levels from Ballyfermot to Trinity College. I felt that educational establishments were isolated in their communities.

“I saw a class in action in Tallaght. It’s great to see children reacting to children, not just a senior person imparting learning.”

Darina Allen
Slow Food (pictured above)
Slow Food is a global movement established in Italy in the 1980s. There are 15 chapters in Ireland. Darina Allen feels that the slow food philosophy comes under threat when discretionary spending is squeezed.

“The movement bled membership for the last number of years because good food goes down the list of priorities when you’re trying to pay the mortgage.

“We brainstormed with Jil Culliton on how we might increase membership and the involvement of non-members in our educational activities. She has brought some other colleagues from Accenture. It’s great to have access to these bright, talented, energetic young people with business skills.

“Slow food is as important as ever. Many of us are following the US model of grab, gobble, go. We need to mobilise people who support local producers and appreciate good food.“

Gar Holohan
Developed in the US to tackle the lack of child play facilities, KaBOOM! brings communities, local authorities and private companies together to develop safe play areas for children. With his background in leisure architecture, Gar Holohan was drawn to the project: he feels it’s timely for Ireland.

“We have ghost estates and huge pressure on social housing. We risk losing the essential components that make an area worth living in. When money is tight recreation and social infrastructure are seen as luxuries.

“All over the US this is working. It’s difficult to get off the ground but in the last couple of months we have seen a lot of engagement and we hope to get two or three projects launched before the end of the year.”

Mary Redmond
Faustino Garcia Zapico has created an alternative prison model which immerses prisoners in an education environment that teaches skills and values like empathy and kindness. A key aspect is the radical reform of the roles of guards and inmates.

Mary Redmond was strongly drawn to the value-based approach that Faustino created.

“By removing the traditional prisoner-jailer relationship of conflict and creating co-managed spaces, called Units of Therapy and Education (UTEs), trust is built and breaks down the traditional fear and confrontation. In Ireland, this model would decrease inter-prisoner violence, over-crowding and drug use .”

Upon release, the programme keeps on working. “Faustino promotes a network of associations, businesses and institutions that create links and opportunities to the outside world.”

Mary has been progressing the idea for the last year and has drawn in the key stakeholders; the Irish Prison Officers Association, the Department of Justice, the Prison Service and the Irish Penal Reform Trust.

“It’s very exciting. This is a project whose time has come.”

Shay Garvey
IQ Consult
Fifteen years ago Germany had a high rate of youth unemployment. IQ consult established in Berlin, secured seed funding from large German corporates and directed it into microfunding for young Germans looking to set up their own businesses.

Shay Garvey of Frontline Ventures believes that Ireland needs to learn from the German experience. As Change Architect for IQ Consult in Ireland, Garvey is working to bring best practice in seed funding to Ireland to help tackle youth unemployment here.

Along with Cathal O’Sullivan, Shay is consulting with IQ Consult experts in Berlin to see how the model could be adapted for Ireland.

“We’re trying to learn from their experience of the process. IQ Consult got seed funding from large companies and many applications through the German equivalent of FÁS.

“People in their 20s have a lot of skills and networks and it’s easier to set up small business now than it was. If mentored correctly these small ventures can have an impact.”