Offaly Local Development Company and the Technological University of the Shannon plan to embark on a new development project to address the challenges and opportunities facing the County, and the wider Shannon area, as the region faces the next phase in its transformation. This project will be base within a larger Global movement we are currently calling the Communiversity movement, initiated by our partner Trans4m Communiversity Associates (TCA), in Africa, Europe and the Americas. In Ireland the project will be led by TUS Thurles, in collaboration with OLDC. The TUS Thurles campus – and the Technological University as a whole - is on a distributed campus stretching from Limerick to Athlone with a hinterland traversed in its entirety by the River Shannon. The region is predominantly rural; is the primary locale of Ireland’s peatlands; has a higher than average dependency on agriculture; lower participation rates in higher education and substantial pockets of socio-economic disadvantage.
TUS and the OLDC together propose to address this region as an action-research laboratory in forging an approach to development which is neither primarily market based or state based, but as a citizen’s initiative, aligned with the Integral Green citizen’s initiatives in Southern Africa - Zimbabwe and Central Europe - Slovenia befitting and co-evolving our “emerald green isle”. Thereby, drawing on Ireland’s rich history of cooperative development and addressing a latter day context of ecological and cultural degradation, limited social and economic opportunities and the economic transformation necessitated by the transition from the fossil fuels, the project will attempt to reshape the debate and the approach to rural development, in such integral green guise. In this regard, the project will draw heavily on the thinking and approaches referred to as Integral Green guise as developed by TCA in a particular societal context. This approach accentuates a development framework and a matrix of interventions which simultaneously addresses the socio-cultural; the economic and the environmental as equally significant and symbiotically connected elements of developmental approach focused primarily on wellbeing, personal agency and the healing and regeneration of the biosphere.
This project will be one of a number of similar initiatives within the wider Communiversity, inclusive of learning communities, transformation journeys, integral laboratories, and a research academy – as for example in the Southern African case an Unhu inspired Centre Integral Ecology in Green Zimbabwe to be rolled out in Europe, in our case building on our distinct Irish natural and cultural, artistic and scientific, as well as technological and economic, heritage and throughout the world all endeavouring to find a ‘third way’ of meeting economic needs while simultaneously celebrating the cultural richness and diversity within and between the partners; committed to the protection and regeneration of the biosphere and placing the concept of care above that of competition as the core underpinning value of all its endeavours. TUS as such will be part of a worlds-wide network, coordinated by TCA, that aims to create a Communiversity which will pioneer training, education, participative research and overall social innovation, locally inspired by a moral economic core, for example in our Irish case that of original Irish Polity as developed by our artist, philosopher and social activist A.E. Russell, globally informed by an integral ecology, such as that pioneered by Latin America and Vatican based Pope Francis, and Sean McDonagh based in Ireland , in rural regeneration specifically and the Greening of Europe, generally, altogether reflected in their Care for the Common Home. This will enable the TUS/OLDC/TCA Partnership to develop educational and training interventions which build a practice-based curriculum aligned with the developmental challenges and opportunities that the Offaly area, and the wider Shannon Valley, poses.