Our work began in partnership with the Belfast-based Workers Educational Association (WEA). WEA invited IISC to Northern Ireland to partner with them in their effort to build capacity for leadership across the community divide in Derry, Belfast, and the rural parts of the country.
Since then, IISC has transferred the skills and tools of collaboration to thousands of change agents and community leaders through workshops in leadership development, conflict resolution, facilitating change, and partnership building. In addition, through our Train the Trainer program, we built a network of IISC trained consultants and began to lay the foundation for establishing an IISC presence in both the North and the South. Over the years, the network of IISC trained leaders has evolved and they have continued to invite us to partner with them in their social change initiatives. Our clients have included the Springfield Interface Community Project, the Civic Forum in Northern Ireland, and, more recently, the West Belfast Advice Forum. In the South, we have hosted several open to the public Facilitative Leadership workshops and have worked throughout the Women’s Sector and with staff of City and County Development Boards.
Most recently, we joined with the Institute for Public Health in an effort to advance its ambitious mission to provide leadership to combat inequalities in healthby increasing the capacity of those working to build a healthy society. A collaborative effort between the Health Ministries of the North and the South, this initiative is a historic first.
Building on the power of partnerships like these, the strength of our relationships and the depth of our commitment, IISC opened our first satellite office in Europe. Our services are now even more widely available to an expanding network of global change agents.
And in the words of IISC Ireland’s Regional Director Louise O’Meara:
I have just finished a three day workshop with a great group of people… Participants came from lead networks, organisations and teams throughout Northern Ireland and brought with them lots of energy and plenty of challenges!
We started with a reality check – we listed the challenges participants are facing (it was a pretty long list!) – and then over three days explored a range of frameworks and tools to use in addressing them. These included frameworks for designing and implementing inclusive, collaborative planning processes and for involving others in decision making in ways that build ownership and real buy-in. Tools for building agreements and reaching consensus were tested, and the role of developing and communicating a vision in ways that inspire and engage others was explored.
We looked at how to set about designing results-focused agendas and implementation plans that really give coherence and focus to our work. A number of models were applied to help deepen our understanding of how we – and others – respond to change and what helps people make the transition – emotional and otherwise – to new beginnings.
The workshop ended with another reality check – we revisited our original list of challenges generated at the start of the workshop and dialogued about how the models and tools we met will help us address these. The creativity and inventiveness of participants and how they intend to make the models and tools work for them was powerful to hear. No silver bullets, no magical solutions… but a series of real, tested tools and approaches grounded in values of respect for human dignity and the need for greater involvement of others. Last word to Goethe… “Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”’