Waterford News

WIT researchers collate ‘Rural Conversations Series’ report launched

Rural Conversations RIA launchThe ‘Rural Conversations Series’ report was launched by Mr Michael Ring T.D., Minister for Rural and Community Development, at the Royal Irish Academy (RIA), Dublin in September.

The series was spearheaded by Dr Felicity Kelliher, RIA Social Sciences Committee member and Senior Lecturer and co-founder of RIKON research group, School of Business, Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT), and developed in association with the Department of Rural and Community Development.

Speaking about the report Dr Kelliher noted “Rural Ireland accounts for 57% of Ireland’s population. This is a significant pool of talented citizens who contribute to the economic and social wellbeing of the entire nation. The rural conversations series gave them the opportunity to offer their thoughts and ideas in relation to the forthcoming Rural Development Plan.”

Launching the report, Mr Ring shared examples of successful rural businesses operating throughout Ireland. He congratulated those involved in the work culminating in a report which conveyed “a great sense of the opportunities and challenges facing rural communities”.

The rural conversations series focused on (1) Economic development, (2) Social cohesion and (3) Vibrant and sustainable communities.

The reports collated the contributions of over 200 rural community stakeholders, government agencies, government support agencies and academics from around the country who participated in three roundtable consultative events hosted by NUI Galway, Dundalk Institute of Technology and Waterford Institute of Technology in 2018/19.

The resultant reports were compiled by Dr Kelliher and Dr Leana Reinl, two senior researchers from the RIKON research group. Dr Reinl is Lecturer in Management and Academy Lead, Rural Tourism Development, RIKON, WIT School of Business. The RIKON group, WIT undertake leading research into many aspects of rural and regional business development.

“A key viewpoint across all three roundtable events was the need for a sustainable economic and enterprise infrastructure,” said Dr Reinl.

Policy actions specifically called for support for diverse co-working spaces in tandem with the promotion of rural areas as smart working locations, a sentiment echoed by Michael Ring at the report launch.

Dr Kelliher noted that these policies could offer the momentum needed for sustainable development, “With an anticipated 500,000 new rural inhabitants expected by 2040, there is significant potential for these communities to gain from greater cohesion within and between local development groups and for multi-national corporations to locate in these communities”.

Dr Thomas O'Toole, Head of School of Business commented that rural Ireland is an asset that is underutilized. “The RIA and the Government have started a conversation on development, cohesion and sustainability that resulted in the publication by my colleagues Drs Kelliher and Reinl. The report contains so many ideas and practical solutions that can be used to produce action plans and further conversations. It is a real gem,” he said.

You can listen to the launch, hear the main findings, and download a copy of the report on the RIA website. Recordings of the individual country-wide events are also available on the RIA website.

Following on from these initiatives, the Department is now inviting wider public feedback through an online survey. Key themes emerging from both consultations series are reflected in the questions.

The survey, launched by Minister Michael Ring is available at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/CTPVSHB and will remain open until Friday, 11 October 2019.


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