Finding innovative ways of converting ‘being Irish’ into a mutually beneficial asset, is at the heart of the Irish diaspora.
An estimated 70 million people across the globe are of Irish ancestry and Ireland’s diaspora has permeated every corner of the world, and in all professions, from financial, technology and science to energy, aviation, arts and culture.
The Gathering Ireland 2013 – a year-long celebration of all things Irish – is encouraging the Irish diaspora to reconnect with family and friends and to rediscover their heritage and culture. This is the year when communities throughout Ireland are showcasing and sharing the very best of Irish culture, tradition, business and sport. And with nearly 40 million Irish in the US, over four million in Canada and at least nine million in the UK alone, the Irish diaspora experience is vast, dynamic, innovative and resourceful. By reaching out to our diaspora, we can share ideas, collaborate and foster new global, industry-specific communities.
Given the global reach of the Irish diaspora, Ireland too has an opportunity to become an example of best practice in diaspora engagement and policy. Early this year, the European strand of the Global Diaspora Forum was held in Dublin. The Global Diaspora Forum is a celebration of diaspora communities, and has been held annually in Washington DC since 2011.
The forum was inspired by the former US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and is coordinated by the US-based charity, the International Global Diaspora Engagement Alliance (IdEA) and the US State Department.
The European strand was organised by the Irish International Diaspora Centre (IIDC) Trust, which is working to deliver a world-class diaspora centre in Dublin. Opening the conference in May, Gerry Dunne, CEO of Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company, said: “Despite its size, Ireland punches far above its weight when it comes to diaspora issues. That’s why – in her final days of office as Secretary of State – Hillary Clinton asked the Government to make Ireland the first partner, outside of the US, to collaborate in the delivery of the Global Diaspora Forum.
“However, diaspora engagement needs to be facilitated by governments,” Dunne. “Given the scale and good reputation of Ireland’s diaspora, we are ideally placed to become a best-practice model in terms of how we engage with our diaspora communities and how we implement policies and structures to maximise benefits.
“Issues such as voting rights for diaspora; structures for creating business linkages; and ways to help generations of diaspora connect with their roots are some of the areas that can be explored as measures to maximise the benefits of connecting with our diaspora. Of course, diaspora communities who have established themselves in Ireland in recent decades present another area from which we can garner new insights and connections.”
Making a difference
And there are many other organisations and initiatives working towards greater appreciation of the benefits of harnessing the global diaspora. In 2009, while with The Ireland Funds, Kingsley Aikins co-authored ‘The Global Irish Making a Difference Together’ – a review of international diaspora strategies.
In 2011, he founded Diaspora Matters believing that by connecting with dynamic people globally, diaspora communities can find innovative ways of converting what was once considered a national loss into a mutually beneficial asset.
Aikins produced a ‘Global Diaspora Strategies Toolkit – Harnessing the Power of Global Diasporas.’ His subsequent work, the ‘Philanthropy and Fundraising Toolkit’ was based on his own experience of having raised over a quarter of a billion US dollars as CEO of the Worldwide Ireland Funds.
Speaking in May in the The Irish Times, Aikins said that despite the economic doom and gloom, more than 100,000 Irish people have returned to live in Ireland since 2008.
“Internationally, there is a growing awareness that there is such a thing as ‘diaspora capital’ and that this is a resource that needs to be researched, cultivated, solicited and stewarded. Many see this as a way of addressing domestic economic challenges and core to economic recovery.”
More than 215 million people now live in a country other than that in which they were born – that’s including more than 80 million Europeans. This population has tripled in 25 years. “If this were the population of a country it would be the fifth largest in the world,” Aikins added.
The fact that Ireland was chosen this year as the first co-host of the Global Diaspora Forum, suggests that there is an opportunity for Ireland to be a world leader in diaspora research and innovation, engagement and policy generation. Developing, engaging, connecting and harnessing the diverse, global Irish community as an active social network, will not only capture and map the global Irish, but will also prove beneficial to all, both nationally and internationally.
Reconnecting past pupils
Blackrock College Union website has become an excellent channel of communication with past pupils of the school. Not only does it help keep reconnect with other past pupils worldwide, it also informs on events, support groups and projects the Union and School are involved in.
One initiative the Union has spearheaded is the Blue and White Support Group which to strive to reach out to Rock men going through a difficult period in their lives by providing support, guidance and friendship. The needs of those seeking assistance ranges from moral support to practical support and from financial planning to some financial assistance. Funds are raised through the generosity of other fellow Rock men by a combination of individual donations, reunion dinners and it is planned to relaunch a standing order facility soon.
If you would like to make a donation or connect with past pupils contact: Greg Moore on +353 1 278 4310 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.