By Cormac McCarthy
Local voluntary groups are working hard to improve our ecological sustainability on every level.
As part of the Stories and Conversations process in glór we explored the activities of a range of groups working throughout the county and how they fit into the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
In this article, the second of this short series, Cormac McCarthy writes about the Ennis Tidy Towns biodiversity initiative.
Participation in the Stories & Conversations initiative was an excellent learning experience for Ennis Tidy Towns. We were into the first year of our ‘Wild about Ennis’ Biodiversity Plan and being asked to present the process and learning outcomes in this setting proved to be very positive for us as a group.
In doing so, we unearthed a number of lessons that might not otherwise have presented themselves. This, in addition, to the other conversations on the night left us with a much greater understanding and appreciation of the dynamics and added value that community organisations like Ennis Tidy Towns bring to their local areas.
Our project was the development of a community-led Biodiversity Plan for Ennis. The emphasis on community was such that we wanted to take ownership of the positive impact we could realise on our local environment and this was the mechanism by which we developed it. To start we were interested to know what the people of Ennis felt about biodiversity.
Biodiversity can be such as nebulous term and part of the pre Plan online questionnaire we launched sought to drill down into the everyday understanding of the term. Not only was it well known, the importance of local wildlife and habitat assets around the town was very interesting. People had strong connections to green spaces; both landscaped and wild. The River was also a strong influencer on people’s connection with biodiversity.
From this early engagement exercise we decided to host two community workshops which were facilitated by a professional ecologist. This gave the Tidy Towns the scope to be active participants in the process as opposed to organising it. We took the decision to open the workshops to the entire county, as we were conscious that Ennis was the County town and as such, the entire county had a stake in maintaining and promoting the areas biodiversity. In addition, we felt we had a responsibility as one of the larger and more resourced Tidy Towns groups to aid in the facilitation of upskilling and capacity building with other smaller community groups.
The results were far beyond what we could have wished for; there was a real sense of shared purpose amongst all the attendees. People recognised what was being developed went beyond Tidy Towns points or rivalry between different groups competing for resources. The workshops were open, honest and uniting.
Strategic actions that were developed included developing awareness campaigns, community workshops, facilitating knowledge sharing and engaging across the community with biodiversity as the focus. We collaborated with the Ennis Community Employment Scheme and launched the Plan at their community garden in Gordon Drive. The attendees represented the full cross-section of the community and very much gave us the start we wished for.
At the end of the process, from initial online engagement, to the workshops to the final Plan the entire experience was very positive. It would not have been possible without assistance from Clare County Council who helped with securing grant aid from the Heritage Council. More importantly though it would not have been successful without the community participation and goodwill from throughout the County. This is a key outcome which we have taken with us since the completion of the Plan. Strong, cohesive communities are central to the success and delivery of any strategy. It is only with this sense of shared purpose can we ever attempt to become sustainable communities.
Ennis Tidy Towns are always keen to form partnerships with individuals, groups and Agencies to see the ‘Wild about Ennis’ Biodiversity Plan implemented. Queries are welcome to firstname.lastname@example.org or we can be contacted through our Facebook Page.
Cormac McCarthy is a local member of Ennis Tidy Towns and co-ordinator of the Wild About Ennis biodiversity initiative. See https://www.tidytowns.ie/ for upcoming details on this years biodiversity lecture