Collectively we stand a chance

In a country facing serious challenges, the burden of implementing solutions falls to its citizens. Five Change Leaders say why collaboration is crucial.


John Concannon
Chairman, Gaisce
and co-creator, Change Nation

As we live in a world of immense change, a major factor in the future success of individuals and teams will be the degree to which people collaborate, support each other, and innovate.

This is a big change from the legacy model of organising around repetition where one masters a body of information that then defines both the individual and the organisation. Rote learning encourages the acquisition of information as relatively discrete bundles, whereas meaningful learning relates material to other relevant information and encourages independent thinking and connectivity.

Change Nation initiatives such as Scientist Factory, championed in Norway, are creating a new generation of creative problem-solvers, in this case by integrating experimental science into classrooms and the everyday lives of young people. Playworks is another example of these skills in action, creating safe and inclusive environments for play both within and beyond the school day to build empathy, increase learning, and improve behaviour.

In Gaisce, the focus is on the development of young people through meaningful applied learning. Gaisce will this year challenge over 20,000 young people to get involved in their community, and introduce them to the concept of active citizenship. These young people will seize opportunities to realise their immense potential and contribute as engaged participants into a society experiencing an exponential rate of change.

As against championing efficiency and repetition, Ashoka and Change Nation focus on the pillars of empathy, creativity, teamwork and leadership underpinned by meaningful learning through supporting a multiplicity of social entrepreneurs around the globe.

Mark Ryan
Managing director, Accenture Ireland

We are experiencing a serious dilemma in Ireland – high unemployment and an excess of people qualified to work in industries with limited job opportunities. Paradoxically we have a shortage of people with the right skills to fill thousands of positions that are currently open, particularly in Information and Communications Technology.

In research undertaken by Accenture among 1,000 individuals and 100 businesses in Ireland, we found a disconnect between employers and employees in terms of understanding what skills are in demand, how this talent shortage should be addressed and who’s responsible for addressing it.

Different sectors are all making efforts to address this paradox, but as a country we require far more joined up thinking. Change Nation has been designed to bring this multi-stakeholder approach to bear, connecting leaders from across sectors to implement innovative new solutions. First Works, who Accenture have been supporting since last year, is preparing to launch in September through the combined partnership of the business, education and citizen sectors. A model that provides top quality training and professional work placements to students from economically disadvantaged areas, First Works goes beyond developing skills for open job opportunities, changing the entire career trajectory for these students. In combination, this and other Change Nation solutions can help bridge Ireland’s skills gap and tackle unemployment.

The education sector must ensure its curricula are fostering creative problem-solvers, while business must focus on the development of existing employees and unlock potential throughout their organisations. The Government needs to ensure that all the necessary levers are being used to support academia and businesses in developing talent and creating jobs.

By bringing these groups together around practical solutions, Change Nation facilitates exactly the kind of collaboration needed. We have a shared responsibility in creating employment, but we must do this in an integrated and joined up manner. Our future economic growth depends on it.

Eamon Ryan
Leader, Green Party

It is a worrying time in the environmental world. Carbon in the atmosphere is at record levels. Across the world beehives go quiet. Mighty forests are still being chopped down for short-term commercial gain. You could despair but it would get you nowhere. What motivates people to change is the sense that there is a better path that we can take. The cluster of social entrepreneurs that are changing our nation to a more sustainable way are showing what is possible. They are delivering practical solutions to help us eat better, travel lighter, waste less and be energy clever. By getting those four actions right we can solve a lot of those environmental problems and make ourselves feel rich in a whole load of different ways.

I think we all get the sense that there is a new economy coming and that the overemphasis on market based solutions over the last thirty years is going to be replaced with a system that adds collaboration into the creative enterprise mix. Grow It Yourself (GIY) is the perfect working example because at its heart it is bringing people together to help each person learn how they can grow their own food. Likewise, Evergreen puts the emphasis on community development in turning parts of our cities back into nature reserves. More than anything else Citymart.com is another example of how collaboration can work in providing cities with low cost urban innovations that others have already tried and tested. We are only at the birth of this new economy. Watch it grow.

Cathal Kelly
Chief executive and registrar, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland

Irish healthcare is facing a crisis. There are 200,000 people on hospital waiting lists, and it is common for people to be waiting between 15 months and two years to access specialist services. There is a high likelihood that this system under stress will be pushed into crisis by planned HSE savings of €721 million and planned reductions in staff of 4,000 this year, unless there is a significant re-think and change in our healthcare delivery model.

Change Nation is a platform that brings together leading social entrepreneurs to start working on these challenges. Project Echo, for example, is a model to increase access to specialist care that has reduced waiting lists in America from eight months to just eight weeks. ECHO has been replicated across 14 states in the US and is now expanding internationally, preparing to launch in Ireland in 2013 in partnership with RCSI.

Similarly, in mental health, MyMind guarantees affordable access to professionals within 72 hours, using a self-referral model and online services.

Other solutions are working to place patients at the centre of the healthcare system, and, perhaps more importantly, keep them out of the system altogether. The Patients’ Forum bridges the knowledge and communication gap between patients and medical professionals, while KaBoom! addresses childhood obesity through play – helping communities to design their own playground, and build it together in one day.

Innovations such as these, inspiring healthier lifestyles and achieving early intervention, have the potential to reverse Ireland’s crisis, but require everyone to lead in their delivery.

Caroline Casey
Founder of Kanchi and co-creator of Change Nation

There is a great sense of excitement and possibility stirring in Ireland at the moment. We need to capitalise on this by inspiring and equipping everyone in the nation to not only be a part of this change, but to lead it.

Exclusion is at the core of some of our most pressing issues in Ireland at the moment; a lack of employment opportunities for people with disabilities, a punitive criminal justice system and our long standing history of political exclusion. Change Nation showcases a number of proven models grounded in inclusion that can enable us to revolutionise these particular social issues in Ireland.

In Kanchi, inclusion is at the heart of everything we do. We are committed to ensuring every single person is valued for their ability and contribution. We work with decision makers and leaders to promote the business case for disability through the Ability Awards and the Kanchi business network’s training and consultancy. Similarly, UserVoice focuses on the strengths of former criminal offenders, providing an innovative model to reform criminal justice systems through their leadership and insight.

Historically in Ireland we have operated under a relatively closed political circle, one that Dáilwatch is determined to open up to the general public. It allows Irish citizens to enter into direct conversation with political representatives and makes the political process more transparent, accessible, and truly representative of the Irish people. Through this politically neutral platform, Dáilwatch is ensuring the active inclusion of Irish citizens in the political landscape.

It is imperative in designing the Ireland of our future that we systemically drive inclusion at all levels, as critical to any success is the contribution of all our citizens.