I’m fairly new to this scene, having only developed a “social conscience” relatively recently.
Though my formal adult education focused on History and Irish language, the majority of my experience and skill comes from a background of entrepreneurship and business management.
I’m 25 now and I feel the time to take responsibility and become an active citizen is long overdue. However, unfortunately, this is not the mindset of the many Irish citizens at the moment. Apart from a select few controversial issues, there seems to be a general sense of apathy towards taking active roles in addressing our societal problems and creating a better future for Ireland. As far as I can see, this is mainly due to a combination of:
- distractions of modern life
- inadequate political and sociological education, and a lack of cultivation of critical thought in our school system
- a feeling of disenfranchisement due to a series of corrupt and/or incapable governments
- lack of easy-to-use infrastructure for the public to communicate their opinions and desires to government and have those opinions and desires reflected in legislation.
While the distractions of modern life may live on, the group I work with “Grassroots Ireland” looks to tackle the other three issues.
We are a grassroots, community-led movement that aims to empower people to become active citizens through providing simplified education opportunities and resources on useful topics such as politics, sociology, law and economics, so that people can understand and begin to shape the systems that govern their lives.
This, along with the promotion of critical thought and positive mental and physical health, we believe, will naturally breed community development and social progress.
One project we are currently working on in this regard is direct/liquid democracy software that will act as a platform for debating, voting and also as a resource for relevant information and simplified summaries of existing and proposed legislation.
The plan is to spread the application nationwide in an open-source manner and generate enough interest and demand from the public that the government have no choice but to adopt it, or an improved form, voted on by the public.
In our society convenience is often considered to be king. If we make it as easier for people to educate themselves, develop well-informed opinions and give them a means of expressing those opinions, this will lead to increase in confidence, and a desire to participate in the democratic process.
Some other projects we are working on at the moment are:
- A community hub that will act as a café and safe physical space to build a community and active citizenry around, for educational talks, wellness classes of all kinds, meetings of community groups and just somewhere to encourage the discussion of important issues
- A community garden and vegetable growing co-op.
- A renewable energy co-op
While it would be great if we could release the direct democracy software and everything would sort itself, we are not banking on it. We realise that people can be skeptical of any kind of change and also reluctant to accept any more responsibility than they already have.
So, as a grassroots organisation first and foremost, we hope to use the above social enterprises to provide working alternative models on the ground in our communities to show them that there are better and fairer ways of doing things.
We believe that through social enterprises like the ones above, which are scaleable and replicable, we can work with and change the systems that exist from within. “Hack the system”, as they say. I’ve recently attended An Áit Eile’s pre-unMonastery event in Cregg Castle and see even more opportunities for positive change and connections between the many initiatives in Galway and beyond.