Posted 11 November 2021
“So…would you be able to make your way to Galway for graduation?” Not the question I was expecting at the online selection interview for the Diploma in Community Development in August 2021, but I have to admit, I appreciated the early confidence that the interviewers had in the potential new recruits! Having worked in Community Development in both paid and unpaid roles for over 30 years, I had become jaded by the constant demands and pressures placed on the Third Sector, which had been exacerbated by the COVID-19 Pandemic. I knew that I had to find something that would help me regain my mojo and also better equip me to deal with the new challenges I would be facing post-pandemic.
As a firm believer in lifelong learning, I knew that the Diploma in Community Development Practice would give me the chance to learn new things and also the chance to network with 24 other students and have practical experience in aspects of Community Development I had not experienced before. The chance to learn new things and to learn from other students really appealed to me from the outset.
A Global Pandemic and an unprecedented massive cyber-attack on the University of Galway did not make for a textbook start to our course in October 2021, but we persevered. My peers and I were drawn from throughout the western half of Northern Ireland, from Derry/Londonderry in the North, to Fermanagh in the South, and everywhere in-between. The organisations which we all either volunteered or worked for were also equally diverse, and included people who worked with children, youth, the unemployed, people with learning difficulties, community associations, or who were lobbying or working to improve our society by tackling issues such as green energy, the environment, and poverty. Trying to gel as a group online might have been problematic for some students, but not the class of ’21, and when we did finally meet in person it just made it all the more enjoyable and in a strange way I felt we became more connected as a result of the challenges of COVID and poor rural internet connectivity.
Reflecting on the past year, the Diploma programme has given more than I could have ever imagined. Yes, I did expect to increase my knowledge, and understanding of Community Development Practice, but what I didn’t realise was that I would get to share time with an exceptional group of Third Sector practitioners who are outstanding in each of their respective fields and who I learnt so much from. Even when submission deadlines were looming and everyone in the group was juggling work/family/study responsibilities, there was always a bit of craic, a funny meme in the WhatsApp group or a supportive email from Kate Clifford to get us over the line. I am pleased to report that my mojo has returned and I feel better equipped to address the challenges which face the Sector and now have a graduation to attend in Galway!
RCN has just commenced delivery of a further run of the Diploma in Community Development Practice in the North Eastern area.
For background information on the Diploma click https://www.ruralcommunitynetwork.org/news/nui-diploma/
For further information on the Leadership in the West programme RCN is delivering in partnership with Fermanagh Trust and Holywell Trust click https://www.ruralcommunitynetwork.org/programmes/learning-skills/