The Ballyhoura region is scenically diverse, and rich in local history. It is dominated by the Ballyhoura Mountains which are located on the border of two Irish counties: Co Limerick (195,000 inhabitants) and Co Cork (124,000 inhabitants). One of the characteristics of this rural region of Ballyhoura is the absence and limitations of public transport: it is almost impossible to move around the area without one’s own car. At the same time, what might be equally surprising for visitors is the richly developed network of recreational, hospitality and tourism outlets and facilities.
Ballyhoura Development CLG a socially-innovative non-profit organisation
The head office of Ballyhoura Development CLG is located in Kilfinane, a small town of less than 1,000 inhabitants. Ballyhoura Development’s mission is to work in partnership to develop empowered and inclusive communities and to drive positive sustainable social, environmental and economic change across the Ballyhoura area. One such activity is supporting communities to develop and fund community centres, on social enterprise models. These community centres act as meeting spaces for local residents and combine various functions, such as recreational facilities, community cafés, workspaces and meeting rooms. Their function is to act as hubs which respond to the multiple needs of the local community.
Researcher’s Notebook: Mara van Twuijver
Reflections on the Ballyhoura Region (Ireland)
Joint development of action plans: Croom Community Centre
Croom Civic Centre in Croom town is located in the newly developed town park. Elaine Butler, CEO of Croom Community Development Association, explaining that the Civic Centre, Town Park, and Community Enterprise Centre in Croom have all been developed following a community-led, bottom-up development approach.
Researcher’s Notebook: Lucas Olmedo
Impressions from rural Portugal and Ireland
Integration and care of people with dementia: Carebright Community
CareBright is a social enterprise which has been providing care in the community for over 20 years. CareBright Community is Ireland’s first purpose-built community for people living with dementia, and is centred around three bungalows, each containing six private living spaces and gardens. The environment supports social interaction but also provides peace and autonomy
Nisha Joy, Director of Nursing explaining the Carebright Community ethos of creating a ‘home from home’ for clients. Clients have their own spacious en-suite bedroom and can bring items of furniture from home. The facility’s 4-acre parkland has a large kitchen garden, sensory and remembrance gardens and outdoor seating areas.
Mary Ann Kelleher welcomed us into her home in the Carebright Community. Each bungalow has a spacious living room, dining room, kitchen and utility room and ‘nook areas’ for quiet time. Mary Ann also showed us her private bedroom and was very proud of her collection of spoons, which she had gathered throughout her life.
Noreen Mullane, another resident, enjoys availing of the community spaces in the Carebright Community. The communal spaces, including a community café, are open to both residents, guests and visitors, which facilitates ‘real-life’ interaction.
Colette Ryan, the General Manager, outlining that the layout and design of the Carebright Community is one of many innovative aspects of the facility. All aspects of the facility have been conceived and designed to facilitate social interaction and to replicate opportunities for socialising outside the Community. In this way, Carebright Community has found a novel model to meet collective needs, within the broader Bruff town community.
Local sports activities: Mitchellstown Leisure Centre
Mitchelstown Leisure Centre in Mitchelstown is a community-led social enterprise, which provides a range of sports facilities to residents of Mitchelstown and surrounding communities. Facilities include a fully equipped gym, fitness classes, basketball hall, meeting rooms, and an outdoor football pitch. The complex is used by community members and groups of all ages.
Community members and users of the Leisure Centre take great pride in having a new, fully equipped, multi-purpose sports facility in their relatively small town of less than 4,000 residents. The fact that the Leisure Centre is managed and funded by the Community gives further cause for civic pride.
Innovating through the bottom-up creation of facilities for everyday life in structurally weak rural regions
Community, social and economic development in the Ballyhoura area is grounded in the principle of working with communities, based on the needs and priorities which they have identified, to enhance their everyday lives. This model of social development and innovation has become Ballyhoura Development’s hallmark.
This idea of social innovation proposed by Ballyhoura Development and its collaborators is therefore straightforward yet delightful in its simplicity.
The bottom-up approach to community facilities is evident in everyday activities, such as the bingo games organised regularly by Croom Community Development Association. These bingo games provide a focus for intergenerational social interaction in rural towns such as Croom, and attract large numbers of local residents, in the hope of winning prize monies!