Archive for the 'Communities' Category

Housing Ourselves Conference in Cloughjordan

Last Saturday, we attended the “Housing Ourselves” conference in Cloughjordan eco-village.

The conference is part of the Convergence Festival, that is at its 20th edition. Cultivate hosted this conference in partnership with Cloughjordan Co-Housing and Cloughjordan Ecovillage, and its aim was to explore new models of housing, smaller homes and more liveable neighbourhoods for healthier and more sustainable local communities. The participants – from all the ways of life, all around the country, and all ages- were all interested in how a community-led approach to housing could work. The introductions session was titled “Voices from the field“, and we really heard a variety of voices, from young couples interested to build a tiny home to seniors in search of the ideal retirement solution (as were we!).
Housing is a real problem in Ireland, and the number of people (and families) who become homeless is rising.
The event was facilitated by Davie Philip from Cultivate. In his introduction, Davie mentioned the Irish Community Living Unconferences series that happened earlier this year in Dublin, Cork and Galway and attempted to bring together people interested in the areas of Community Living, Co-operative Housing and Eco Villages. In Cork, an initiative group formed following the unconference held there.
In the morning, we started with a series of presentations.

The first part was dedicated to Irish case studies.
Prof. Peadar Kirby spoke about the Cloughjordan ecovillage project started 20 years ago. The economic crisis prevented the project from being completed, and only 55 family houses were build on the existing 120 plots.
After that, Margarita Solon gave a talk about McAuley Place in Naas. The former convent was redesigned and extended to host people from all paths of life for a weekly rent of 100 Eur. As Margharita Solon emphasised, the centre does not provide care – but they really care. The initial idea emerged in 2000, and the first resident moved in in 2011. The facility includes tea rooms, a garden, a charity shop and a reception. Art exhibitions are organised periodically. The centre hosts many kinds of community events, that allow the residents to interact frequently with people from their local community.
The next to present was Hugh Brennan, one of the founders of O Cualann. O Cullann was created in 2014 and is a voluntary housing cooperative based on the principles of co-housing approved by the Irish Council for Social Housing. The first estate built is located in Ballymun. The development includes 49 units(while there are more than 700 people on the waiting list at the moment. It is dedicated to families with a household annual income between 36 and 79,000 Eur per annum. The future residents meet periodically, get to know each other and write their own rules for communal living. The development started the construction in Oct 2016, and. The first 5 families have already moved in. 70% of people are from the local area and only first time buyers are accepted.

During the next session – Learning from Europe, Davie Philip gave us a tour through various co-housing projects in Europe, from the Eva-Lanxmeer project in the Netherlands and East Whins in Findhorn, UK to the SUSI Vauban project in Freiburg, Germany, that gave a new life to a Vauban fortress. The beautiful images in Davie’s presentation gave wings to my imagination!

Paul Allen’s stories from communities formed around CAT  in Wales were really fascinating. Turning a derelict mansion into a co-housing place makes a lot of sense now that I’ve listened to Paul. Paul mentioned Radical Routes , a network of co-ops and individuals working toward a world based on equality and co-operation, the One Planet Development law that was passed by the Welsh Parliament and the Llamas ecovillage.

Dreamers and Diggers, Communes Britannica and the Communities magazine  were all mentioned as sources of inspiration for anyone who aspires to create a communal living place.

We had a delicious lunch prepared with local produce and we enjoyed meeting more of the participants and hearing about their reasons of being there.

The next session was dedicated to conversations in a World Café format.We discussed what hinders and what enables a cooperative approach to housing.
As factors hindering the approach, mentality, a culture favouring ownership, the lack of information and facilitators, the difficult access to land, passive and dominant people, people seeing themselves as disempowered, fear and conflict avoidance were listed. On the side of enablers, the Friendly Societies Act and CLG companies, crowdfunding and access to financial resources were named.

Community Finance Ireland and Clann Credo were mentioned as potential funding sources for such projects, and the example of the Calann Camphill Community was brought into discussion. We watched this video and got a better idea of the goals of the Camphill Communities,  which I had only heard vaguely mentioned before.

The PIMBY concept (as opposed to NIMBY) was mentioned in relation to this inclusive neighbourhood project involving mutually interested citizens.

The next set of presentations, dedicated to Financing Cooperative Housing Projects, started with John Masterton, the Head Financial Officer of  Cooperative Housing Ireland. The organisation was formed in 1973. The houses they develop are 25-30% cheaper, and they currently have built 5800 houses that are owner occupied. 2300 houses are under management, and 600 units are leased. They are approved to borrow from the Housing Finance Agency. The building of a 8-10 houses estate involves the identification of a site, a general specification and contracts signed with all future home owners.

Finally, Jackson Moulding and Anna Hope  from Bristol’s Ecomotive spoke about their work in Bristol. Jackson had just returned from a 2 months study trip through Japan, the US, and Canada, where he sought inspiration from other co-housing projects. Jackson and Anna initiated the Ashley Vale Action Group, building their own houses in an area that was initially supposed to become a parking lot. Jackson spoke enthusiastically about Bristol as an ecosystem of innovation, where things often happen in spite of the local authorities. He maintained that “a No is an uneducated Yes”, and it is our duty to educate the people around us when it comes to social innovation.

The final discussion was dedicated to Community Led Housing and Modular Homes, and ended with a reflection on the day.

I found the conference extremely well organised and informative. It was useful both from a personal point of view, giving me alternative ideas for when we’ll retire, and professionally, providing me with a unique chance to reflect on the existing gaps in the efforts toward ensuring proper housing for everyone in Ireland that technology might help filling. I am already looking forward to the next edition of Housing Ourselves, which will take place in May 2018.

September 23 2017 | CollaborativeEconomy and Communities and Events | No Comments »

Reflecting on volunteering and work-life balance

I spent the morning doing web archaeology work – I updated the Limerick Riverpath Volunteers website by digging content and dates out of its lively Facebook page and of my photo folders. There are still a few posts in draft stage, because I need to confirm names and events, but it’s almost there. We are organising an event dedicated to the Plassey Black Bridge tomorrow, as part of Heritage Week, and people will probably check our website.

Maintaining a digital presence for groups and organisations I am part of is work that I am inclined to take on without thinking about it as “work”. But when I run out of time and my university work obligations become overwhelming, the pressure of having these on my to-do list and the guilt feeling brought by the thought that I am disappointing people are simply too much!

Trying to do a quick count: the Limerick City of Culture 2014 projects I worked on last year all have websites I am still responsible for. The Limerick Lace one is up-to-date. The Are You Dancing? website still needs work and the transfer to its permanent home is not yet complete. The video recordings from last year’s 3Dcamp still need to be uploaded.

The website of the  Communities & Technologies conference, that we had the honour to host this year at the University of Limerick has done its job for this edition and I am preparing its transfer to the Troyes University of Technology for the 2017 edition.

The IxDA Limerick website needs to be brought up-to-date with this autumn’s events, as part of a Year of Irish Design 2015 grant that we received. Maintaining the website is part of our in kind contribution.

The UL Environmental Committee site needs to be updated too. I contribute quite a bit to the UL Community Roof Garden blog and Facebook page.

And there’s plenty of work to be done on the Creative Communities website as well.

I like this kind of work and I am good at it. But I will have to stop one day, because the sheer amount of work is not sustainable. So, who wants to take over?

We tend to upload everything to Facebook and Twitter on the go nowadays, and although this is excellent for immediacy – you read about events as they happen – they are not suitable for keeping a permanent archive of what a group or organisation does. Any of these needs a public facing permanent home on the web for various purposes, easy to find, to access and search.  I’m almost thinking about a plugin that would repost stuff from Facebook to WordPress, although I am quite sure that Facebook wouldn’t like this idea!


August 22 2015 | blogging and Communities | No Comments »

Field trip in the Burren

As part of an agreement with Clare Local Development Company, I have worked with a number of communities in co. Clare. My role was to put in place the technology and support its appropriation depending on each community’s needs and aspirations.

One of the groups I’ve been working with is Clare Pilgrim Way, an initiative group that aims to create pilgrimage routes connecting sacred places in co. Clare. As the group is taking control of their own website, Facebook page and Twitter account, they also need a way to track and share their routes. I’ve recommended EveryTrail, and a few attempts have been made.

I decided to join them for the second of their three days Stage Two of the Clare Pilgrim Way, and I have looked at the Burren from a completely new perspective. The day started in Carron, with a visit to the old school where Michael Cusack once taught. At Burren Life, Brendan Dunford (the project manager) gave us a brief but passionate presentation on the objectives and achievements of this organisation.

The walk started with a visit to Cronan‘s Well , then to Chronan’s Church. We met a lot of tourists on our way.

We passed several penitentiary stations and arrived to Fachnan’s Well. The final target was St.Colman MacDuagh‘s hermitage at Eagle Rock.

Here’s the trip as recorded on EveryTrail:

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I had a great time out in the Burren, talking to people from all paths of life. And within that day, I have gained an understanding of this particular group of mobile technology users that I couldn’t have got in any other way!

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August 23 2013 | Communities and Technology | No Comments »