LINKThe Newsletter of Better Government • www.bettergov.ieSettingHighStandardsTaoiseach’s PublicService ExcellenceAwardsPlease recycle thiscopy of LINKMAY 2008 – ISSUE 54SpecialReport onthe Awardsinside!
2LINKContents2. Editorial3. Inspiration and Focus4. Show and TellTaoiseach’s Public ServiceExcellence AwardsAND THE WINNER IS…By Tony Kavanagh, Editortony.firstname.lastname@example.orgTHIS, MY FIRST INVOLVEMENT with the Taoiseach’s Public Service Excellence Awards,has been a fascinating experience (notwithstanding the crazy amount of hard work it generatedfor my colleagues and me – pictured below). In all, 183 submissions were agonised over beforebeing painstakingly whittled down to the final 20 Awards. Having seen the staggering rangeand standard of projects submitted, I’m glad I wasn’t in the invidious position of having toselect just 20 from that mountain of great work.LINK – editorial6. Glittering Prize8. Go WestAward-winning projectsshowcased in Sligo9. Paris Rendevouz10. Assessing the SituationOrganisational reviews welladvancedIt is important to set the Awards in the context of the bigger Public Service Modernisationpicture. Our article on page 3 stresses the importance of keeping our eye on the Public ServiceModernisation ball. The recently published OECD review of the Irish Public Serviceunderlines that importance. To this end, an important special edition of LINK, focusing on theOECD report will appear very shortly.The Organisational Review Programme (reported on page 10) is another part of that biggerpicture. The ORP will review Departments’ and Agencies’ structures, capacities, proceduresand leadership.The Dublin and Sligo conferences related to Taoiseach’s Awards provided informal, yetimportant, networking opportunities. We shouldn’t forget the importance of existing networkseither – one of which, the Women Managers’ Network, is featured on page 10.10. Networking Women11. Competition12. Lending a Helping HandThe Department of ForeignAffairs’ Irish Aid Volunteeringand Information CentreWE PAY YOU!LINK wants to hear from you. Writean article for LINK and, if we print it,we will send you d50.Email your articles email@example.com.If you would like some guidanceon writing an article, email us at thesame address.We round off this edition of LINK on page 12 with a look at the Department of ForeignAffairs’ Irish Aid Volunteering and Information centre on Dublin’s O’Connell Street.My thanks for the great comments about LINK’s smart new look, by the way. I am alsodelighted by the response to our article on SMS/text messaging as a customer service tool.Apparently, many people see great potential in this communications medium. Tony Delaney,Assistant Commissioner at the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner offers animportant note of caution, however. “It is unlawful for text messaging to be used for directmarketing purposes in the absence of the prior consent of the mobile phone subscriber. Suchunsolicited text messages can be penalised on conviction in the District Court with fines of upto €3,000 per text message.” It would be essential, therefore, to get the express permission ofyour customers before engaging in text exchanges with them. A visit to www.dataprotection.iecould be useful too.We have pulled out every stop we could in an effort to organise the simultaneous preparation,translation, proofing and delivery of both LINK and NASC (the Irish language edition). In thehope that you are pleased with the results, I am off now to sweep up the remaining shreds ofmy nerves.So that’s another action-packed edition of LINK (and NASC!) done and dusted. Until nexttime, take care.We regret that we are unable toaccept short stories, poetry, recipes,social/personal articles, etc. All workremains the propertyof theDepartmentof theTaoiseach.Any comments? Email us firstname.lastname@example.orgPictured left to right are Aidan Timmins, Tony Kavanagh,Bridget Estridge and Marc McManus.
3Inspiration and F ocusLINK – inspiration and focusTaking inspiration from the successes celebrated by the Taoiseach’sPublic Service Excellence Awards.IF THE TAOISEACH’S Public ServiceExcellence Awards didn’t already exist, it wouldmake sense to invent them. The Irish PublicService now enjoys a very good reputation but,if excellence and a culture of continuousimprovement are to be the norm, we need topersistently motivate the urge to excel.Since their inauguration in 2004, the Awardshave become a key part of the Public ServiceModernisation initiative. They come from anunderstanding that acknowledging excellencehelps to spur more excellence. The Awardsput a positive focus on the great work beingdone by many public servants in a vast rangeof roles.Nobody is suggesting for a second that thepublic service has a flawless record. Only themost wilfully myopic would fail to see thecracks and gaps. Whether those imperfectionsare in the policies, practices or personnel, wehave a responsibility to look at them in arealistic way and continuously seek to makeimprovements. That is never an easy task.The reality is that the more complex thesystem, the more carefully we need to treadwhen it comes to implementing change.It is the concentration of effort that yields themost effective results. That effort is embodiedin the diverse strands of the Public ServiceModernisation initiative. Irrespective of ourroles or grades, as public servants every singleone of us contributes to the success of at leastone, if not more, of those endeavours.“It is our collective responsibility toensure that this work will continueto be meaningful and that no easyoptions are taken. It is importantthat we examine our systems in anhonest and realistic way to identifynot just what we need to improvebut how we will go about it”This year’s Award-winning projects represent agreat deal of imagination, commitment andhard graft. This is work put in by the peopledirectly involved in service delivery. Withoutthe Taoiseach’s Awards, the chances are thatthese efforts might go unsung. These teamshave worked hard and have shown exemplarycommitment to their customers. They deservethe recognition. This is an edifying look –with rightful pride – at the enormous effortsmade by teams and individuals in making areal difference for the citizen.It is important that the Public ServiceModernisation initiative continues to take uswhere we need to go. Supporting that processis a range of measures carefully designed toexamine and evaluate our systems and ourefficiency. It is our collective responsibility toensure that this work will continue to bemeaningful and that no easy options aretaken. It is important that we examine oursystems in an honest and realistic way toidentify not just what we need to improvebut how we will go about it.It is essential that we also understand theimportance of our engagement with thePublic Service Modernisation endeavour.This year’s Award-winning projects exemplifythe kind ofcommitment,initiative andzeal to which weshould all aspire.Heartycongratulationsto the winnerswhose successhas been verywell earned.That successwill be aninspirationto the rest of us.
and TellThe presentation of the Public Service Excellence Awards by theTaoiseach was preceded by a showcase conference in the DublinCastle Conference Centre on Friday 18th April 2008.4ShowLINK – show and tellINTEREST IN THE CONFERENCE was high,with unprecedented numbers reserving places. Onthe day, presentations by all of the 20 award-winningprojects were showcased. This was an opportunityfor the audience to get an understanding of thebackground to those projects, the work involved andthe challenges surmounted to achieve successfulresults.Mr Dermot McCarthy, Secretary General at theDepartment of the Taoiseach, set the context forthe event in his opening address. In welcomingdelegates to the third Taoiseach’s Public ServiceExcellence Awards Conference, he encouraged themto take the opportunity to see the examples of bestpractice across the Public Service that would be onshow. He also extended a special welcome andsincere congratulations to the award-winning projectteams, many of whom had travelled long distancesto be there.Increasing interestMr. McCarthy tracked the success of the Taoiseach’sAwards since their inauguration in 2004. He waspleased to note that the starting point of 83 entriesin 2004 increased to151 in 2006 all the way to theimpressive total of 183 entries received for this year’sAwards. This kind of development shows that thereis a lot of great work going on out there. But it isalso evidence that public servants are increasinglywilling to talk about their achievements and sharethe lessons that they have learned.The volume of entries meant that the SelectionCommittee faced quite a challenge in distilling somany high-quality entries down to 20 final winners.Recognising this, both Secretary General McCarthyand the Taoiseach made a point of thanking theCommittee for their contribution.Professor Mary Daly of UCD chaired theCommittee which comprised Ms. Catherine Byrne,ICTU; Mr. Jim Duffy, Dept. Finance; Mr. LiamDunbar, former Chief Executive of St. James’sHospital; Mr. John Fitzgerald, Chairman of An Post;Dr. Peter Humphreys, Executive Director ofResearch at the IPA; Mr. Philip Kelly, Department ofthe Taoiseach; and Ms. Berenice O’Neill, formerRefugee Applications Commissioner.Representing IrelandThe focus of the plenary session of the conferencewas the three projects chosen to represent Ireland inParis this October at 5QC, the 5th Quality Conferencefor Public Administrations in the European Union.These projects – from the Irish Prison Service,Dublin City Council and the Office of the RevenueCommissioners – are closely aligned with 5QC’stheme, “the Citizen at the heart of public quality.”Learning from successA series of focused workshops during the morningand early afternoon allowed delegates to see projectpresentations and engage in detailed questions-andanswerssessions. Sharing information in this kindof detail is a key feature of the Awards process – it isimportant that organisations learn from the successesof their peers. The feedback from delegates wasextremely positive, with comments on the highstandardof the presentations being a recurring theme.OpportunitiesThe day’s schedule incorporated opportunities beforeand after lunch to peruse the exhibition stands in theconference centre’s foyer. The stands offered furtherinformation on the award-winning projects, andallowed delegates a more in-depth look at the workinvolved in achieving their success. Many of thestands included information not just in relation tothe Award-winning projects themselves but onrelated aspects or projects underway too.Following the afternoon workshops, the delegatesmoved over to St. Patrick’s Hall for the presentationof the awards by the Taoiseach.Left to right top: Delegates from Department of theEnvironment, Heritage & Local Government; PatDunne, Irish Prison Service and Philip Kelly & DermotMcCarthy.Left to right middle: Jacinta Hunston, RevenueCommissioners; Taoiseach with photographer NicMacInnes and members of the conference audience.Left to right bottom: Hugh Coughlan, Dublin CityCouncil; Prof. Mary Daly and the Taoiseach onstageand the Property Registration Authority's exhibitionstand at the conference.
5LINK – show and tell
6LINK – glittering prizeGlittering prizeThe regal interior of Dublin Castle’s St. Patrick’s Hall was the elegant setting for theceremony at which Taoiseach Bertie Ahern would present Public Service Excellence Awardson Friday 18th April.IN HIS OPENING COMMENTS, SecretaryGeneral at the Department of the Taoiseach,Dermot McCarthy, said that the Awardwinningprojects “are examples of how publicservants can make a difference.”Staunch championTaking the stage in front of more than 350invited guests, the Taoiseach spoke warmlyabout the Public Service Excellence Awards,which he inaugurated in 2004. “I am proud”,he said, “to have remained their staunchchampion ever since.”In creating the Awards, the Taoiseach’sambition was to create a means ofacknowledging excellence in the public service.In particular, he was keen to award projectsand initiatives that have enhanced the quality,efficiency and effectiveness of services andadministration in Ireland. He said that he sawthe Awards process as a central step inpromoting the principal aim of the QualityCustomer Service Initiative, which is theprovision of a consistently high level of serviceto customers of the Public Service.“In creating the Awards, theTaoiseach’s ambition was to create ameans of acknowledging excellencein the public service. In particular,he was keen to award projects andinitiatives that have enhanced thequality, efficiency and effectiveness ofservices and administration inIreland”Effective cooperationHe went on to express his appreciation for allthat has been achieved by the Irish PublicService, especially during his time asTaoiseach. “The provision of excellent serviceto the public was one of the cornerstones ofthe Strategic Management Initiative,” said theTaoiseach. He urged the Public Service tocontinue to embrace change whilemaintaining the high standards andprofessional values that have always been itshallmark. “The complexity of our societyrequires, more than ever, that different PublicService bodies and agencies cooperateeffectively,” he noted.Making a differenceIn concluding, the Taoiseach remarked thatthe Awards Ceremony marked the lastiteration of the Public Service ExcellenceAwards under his stewardship. He thencommended the Award-winners, and indeedall those public servants who are striving tomake a difference and to improve publicservices.“My experience as a public servant convincesme that we have a public service of which wecan be proud,” he said. I wish to express myappreciation for all that has been achieved bythe Irish Public Service, especially during myperiod as Taoiseach.”Impressive standardSpeaking briefly before the presentation of theAwards, Professor Mary Daly said that it had
7LINK – glittering prizeOpposite page: All the winners of the Taoiseach's Public Service Excellence Awards 2008. This page, top row, left to right: Dept. Social &Family Affairs project team; the crowd gathers in Dublin Castle and Jim Duffy and Berenice O'Neill, members of the Selection Committee. Bottom row,left to right: The guests mingling in St. Patrick's Hall; the Taoiseach taking photos and Roscommon Mental Health Services.been an honour to chair the selectioncommittee that chose the eventual winners.This had not been an easy task, given theimpressive standard of all of the entries.She said the range of entries this year was wideand varied and that this clearly demonstratesthe diverse work being done across the PublicService. She also drew attention to the evidentcommitment and enthusiasm of publicservants for the work they are doing.She then thanked her fellow selectioncommittee members and also all of thoseorganisations that participated in this year’sAwards. Before announcing the winners,Professor Daly publicly thanked theTaoiseach, for his commitment to PublicService excellence over the course of his11-year tenure as Taoiseach.Satisfying triumphThe presentation of Awards followed, with atotal of 21 organisations receiving plaquesfrom the Taoiseach. Although the Awardsscheme allows for 20 projects to be recognised,the Selection Committee spotted a synergybetween two mental health projects andargued that it would allow for a joint Award.Speaking ahead of the event, Prof. Mary Daly,Chair of the Selection Committee happilydescribed this as a “moderate rebellion againstthe parameters of the Awards Scheme.Increasing the number of Awards recipients to21 was a small but satisfying triumph.”“Professor Mary Daly said that ithad been an honour to chair theselection committee that chose theeventual winners. This had not beenan easy task, given the impressivestandard of all of the entries. Shesaid the range of entries this year waswide and varied and that this clearlydemonstrates the diverse work beingdone across the Public Service”Following the presentation ceremony, thejubilant recipients moved to the Throne Roomfor a group photograph. The Taoiseach, inbuoyant mood, borrowed a camera andmoonlighted momentarily as a photographer.SELECTING THE WINNERSThe 20 award winning projects were selectedby independent selection committee, chairedby Professor Mary Daly, UCD. She wasjoined by: Ms. Catherine Byrne, ICTU Mr. Jim Duffy, Asst. Secretary, Dept.Finance Mr. Liam Dunbar, former Chief Executiveof St. James’s Hospital Mr. John Fitzgerald, Chairman of An Post Dr. Peter Humphreys, Executive Directorof Research at the IPA Mr. Philip Kelly, Asst. Secretary, Dept.Taoiseach Ms. Berenice O’Neill former RefugeeApplications Commissioner
8LINK – sligo showcaseACHIEVING A TAOISEACH’SPUBLIC Service ExcellenceAward is not simply a matter ofcollecting a trophy and smilingfor the camera. For the Awardsprocess to make real sense, it isimportant that other publicservants get an opportunity tosee best practice showcased andto learn from the successes oftheir peers.Regional showcaseA special Regional Showcase inSligo was organised by theDepartment of the Taoiseach.This allowed interested partiesin the region to tap intoinformation on the diverseprojects. It also supported thosewho might not have been in aposition to travel to Dublin forthe Showcase Conference andAwards Ceremony on 18 April.Anticipate demandsMinister of State at the Departmentof Health & Children, JimmyDevins, opened the event onWednesday 2 April. Addressingthe invited audience, he stressedthe importance of celebrating thesuccess stories and hearing aboutthe improvements andinnovations achieved by theaward winning projects. “We livein a more sophisticated worldwith ever-changing demands,” heClockwise from top left:workshop participants; NormanGillanders of the RevenueCommissioners; Courts Servicerepresentatives and Jerry Linehanand Valerie Cowman, FAS.Go westAward-winning projects showcased in Sligosaid. “The real challenge is havingthe capacity to meet thesedemands – and perhaps even toanticipate them.”Geographical spreadGiven the location of theConference, Minister Devins wasalso happy to note the high levelof Award-winning projects fromthe west of Ireland.Indeed, there is quite an impressivegeographical spread among thewinners: from Donegal to Cork,Wexford to Roscommon andfrom Clare to Dublin to the westof Ireland where Galway andRoscommon were represented.Good news storiesThe internal “geography” of thepublic service was wellrepresented too, with projectscovering health, education,justice, central government andlocal government alldemonstrating the improvementsthey had made to their services.“Let me say that there are manyother good news stories thatcould have been told here today,”added Minister Devins. “I thinkI can speak on behalf of theselection committee and theDepartment of the Taoiseachwhen I say that the standard ofentries was extremely high.”The sharing of best practicebegan in earnest after the openingsession. The Award-winningprojects showcased theirachievements in the day-longseries of workshops. Attendeeshad opportunities to delve formore information duringquestions-and-answers sessions.NetworkingInterest in the diverse range ofsubject matter was high, withdelegates dashing betweenworkshops to ensure that theywere tapping into the widestpossible array of information.The interactive elements of theworkshops saw an excellentexchange of information. Provingthat innovation and creativity ofone project can spark ideas forpeople in seemingly unrelatedfields, people who had presentedtheir own projects used the otherworkshops as opportunities to pickthe brains of other presenters.Networking opportunities wereseized right and left during theregistration period, over coffeeand at lunch. These informal,impromptu meetings establishedpotentially fruitful connectionsand allowed for the clarificationof information.Looking aheadAs the conference drew to itsconclusion, the presenters lookedforward to the forthcomingDublin Showcase Conference,where they would furtherpromote their projects and collecttheir well-earned Awards.
Paris rendevouzA MAJOR FEATURE OF the Taoiseach’sPublic Service Excellence Awards is theselection of three of the award-winningprojects to represent Ireland at 5QC – the 5thQuality Conference for Public Administrationsin the European Union. The central theme of5QC will be ‘The Citizen at the Heart of PublicQuality.’ It will take place in Paris, France inOctober this year, with over 1,200 delegatesfrom around Europe attending.The biennial Quality Conferences are hostedand organised by the Member State holdingthe Presidency of the EU. This year’sconference will be hosted by the FrenchDirectorate General for State.Proud participationEU Member States use the Conference toshowcase examples of best practice from theirpublic services. The inaugural Taoiseach’sPublic Service Excellence Awards in 2004provided the platform for Ireland’s proudparticipation in the Quality Conferences.That pride is illustrated by the 20% increasein applications for Awards this year.Heights of excellenceThe projects presented at the conference inDublin Castle clearly show that Irish publicservices can achieve the heights of excellence.Understandably, selecting just three torepresent Ireland at 5QC was not an easyprocess. While the final twenty projects are allof very high quality, it was felt that the threeBelow left to right: Jacinta Hunston andNorman Gillanders of the RevenueCommissioners; Representatives from theCourts Service and Warren Phelan and HughCoghlan from Dublin City Council.chosen projects represented particularlytangible improvements in services to theirparticular clients and customers.Ireland will be represented by the RevenueCommissioners’ PAYE Customer ServiceReform programme, the Irish Prison Service’senvironmental strategy project and DublinCity Council’s “Free Trade” recycling initiative.“EU Member States use theConference to showcase examples ofbest practice from their publicservices. The inaugural Taoiseach’sPublic Service Excellence Awards in2004 provided the platform forIreland’s proud participation in theQuality Conferences”Tax transformationThe Office of the Revenue Commissionershas revolutionised the way the average citizencan handle their tax affairs. Tottering towersof files and papers have disappeared fromRevenue offices to be replaced by efficient,modern systems that utterly streamlinepractices. There have been huge benefits forpreviously stressed staff members but thecustomers are reaping major rewards too. Thecitizen can do business with the RevenueCommissioners using email, text messages,touch-tone telephone and even voicerecognitiontelephone interaction. Thedramatic drop in waiting times has beenmatched by the very positive surge incustomer satisfaction.Secure environmentThe Irish Prison Service developed andimplemented an innovative EnvironmentalManagement System that has also earnedcertification to ISO 14001 environmentalstandard. The system fundamentallytransformed their approach to wastemanagement. The disposal of everything fromfoodstuffs, to electronics, to clothing anduniforms is managed carefully to minimize theimpact on the environment and minimizewaste. The system also helps inmates developnew skills that may enhance their employmentprospects on release.Waste not, want notDublin City Council are also taking care ofthe environment with their Free Traderecycling initiative. Adding value to theiralready extensive waste management methods,they have developed an innovative approach tothe disposal of unwanted household goods.Despite being in excellent condition, many ofthese items might otherwise have found theirway to landfills simply because their ownershad no more use for them. The Free Tradewebsite allows householder to offer thesegoods free of charge to other interested parties– be they private citizens or charities.“Ireland will be represented by theRevenue Commissioners’ PAYECustomer Service Reformprogramme, the Irish Prison Service’senvironmental strategy project andDublin City Council’s “Free Trade”recycling initiative”9LINK – 5QC
10NetworkingWomenLINK – ORP & networking womenOPERATING UNDER THE AEGIS OF the Civil Service Trainingand Development Centre (CSTDC), the Civil Service WomenManagers Network promotes equality for women in the Civil Serviceand to support women managers. Among its key functions, it providestraining and development for women managers. It provides animportant forum for information exchange and a platform from whichto liaise and maintain links with relevant national and internationalorganisations.Executive CommitteeThe Network is managed by an Executive Committee, elected by themembership at the Annual General Meeting from among theirmembership. The Executive Committee selects an annual programme ofactivities and organises quarterly meetings for members.“The Network gives women managers the opportunity tocome together to discuss issues that impact on their livesand careers. Meetings of the Network often include apresentation on an issue of relevance to the members”ForumAn important training forum, the Network gives women managers theopportunity to come together to discuss issues that impact on their livesand careers. Meetings of the Network often include a presentation on anissue of relevance to the members, followed by discussion and/orworkshops, as appropriate. Over the past twelve months alone, topicsfor discussion at Network Meetings have included Women inManagement; Gender Equality; Career Development; PensionEntitlements and Networking among Women Managers.Join upMembership is open to women managers from Higher ExecutiveOfficer/Administrative Officer to Secretary General – and equivalenttechnical grades. The Women Managers’ Network welcomes newmembers and anyone wishing to join can do so by email@example.com.Members can attend Network meetings as part of their individualtraining and development programmes and may qualify for travel andsubsistence support from their parent Departments.Assessing the situationOrganisational reviews well advancedLINK READERS WILL already be familiarwith the Organisational Review Programme(ORP), especially if working in one of thethree Departments participating in the pilotphase: Agriculture, Fisheries & Food;Enterprise, Trade & Employment; andTransport.The ORP is one of four interlinked initiativeson the next phase of public servicemodernisation – the OECD review of thepublic service; the ORP; a leadershipdevelopment initiative; and a review ofstrategic performance indicators. The ORP isbeing undertaken by a team of four Principalsworking to a steering committee chaired bySecretary General at the Department of theTaoiseach, Mr. Dermot McCarthy.The ORP will assess individual public serviceorganisations on three core grounds:How effective is the organisation atdeveloping strategy?How good is it at managing delivery,especially to customers?Does it evaluate what it does and do thefindings feed back into new policies?To address these questions, the staff,stakeholders and agencies of the threedepartments under review were engaged inone-to-one interviews, focus groups andquestionnaires. Over 6,000 questionnaireswere issued and around 150 meetings held.The full and open co-operation of so manywith the process had been invaluable.A report likely to be published in June willinclude follow-up action plans by the threepilot Departments. The pilot phase will thenbe reviewed to identify lessons to be applied tothe next phase, which will cover a furtherthree organisations.
WIN!WIN!WIN!1 st Prize – iPod Touch2 nd Prize – iPod Nano3 rd Prize – f1004 th Prize – f5011LINK – competitionISSUE 53COMPETITIONRESULTSFirst prize, an iPod Touch,goes to Roisin O’Brien,Office of the Refugee AppealsTribunal.Gary Ó Donnchadha,Department of Education &Science, won our 2nd prize,the iPod Nano.Our third prize, d100, goes toMoira Griffin, RevenueCommissioners; and the d50fourth prize was won byAnnette McManus at theDepartment of Finance.Congratulations to all of ourwinners!The answers to the questionsin LINK 53 are:1. 18 April 20082. Meryl Streep3. Charles Schwab4. 29 February 20085. Prof. Mary Daly6. Short Message Service7. Dustin the Turkey8. “Safe Home, Slán Abhaile”9. 199610. b50answer the following:1. Name one of the three organisations representing Irelandat 5QC in Paris2. When did Brian Cowen take over as Taoiseach?3. Where did the Taoiseach’s Awards Regional Showcaseconference take place?4. Who is the new Minister for Finance?5. Which country won the Eurovision Song Contest?6. Where is the Irish Aid Volunteering and InformationCentre located?7. Which former Irish boyband is getting back together for atour this summer?8. The Women Managers’ Network operates under the aegisof which Civil Service organisation?9. What is 5QC the shorter name for?10. Who is the Data Protection Commissioner for Ireland?HOW TO ENTER: Email your entries to firstname.lastname@example.org; enter online at www.bettergov.ie; orpost your entries to LINK Competition, Public Service Modernisation Division, Department of theTaoiseach, Government Buildings, Dublin 2. The closing date for entries is Friday 20 th June 2008.Name:Telephone:Address:Email:Image courtesy of Apple
The Department of Foreign Affairs’ Irish AidVolunteering and Information Centre, onDublin’s O’Connell Street, has attracted animpressive 6,000 visitors since opening inJanuary.12LINK – volunteeringLending ahelping handState of the artThe state of the art, high-techCentre has proved a hit withschool groups and people lookingfor information on overseasdevelopment and volunteeringopportunities. The new Centre isa handy first point of contact foranyone wanting to engage withglobal development, includingthrough volunteering overseas.Fulfilling commitmentsIreland’s overseas aid has grownconsiderably – from c177 millionin 1998 to over c900 million thisyear. This support is focusedlargely on least developedcountries, especially those in sub-Saharan Africa. It represents thefulfilment of a commitment madein the Programme forGovernment and also in thePAY US A VISIT!White Paper on Irish Aid, to raiseawareness of development issuesand make more and betterinformation on developmentrelatedvolunteering available.EventsThe Centre on O’Connell Streetcomprises over 500 square metersof exhibition space, includingstate-of-the-art multimediadisplays. The Centre – free tovisit – is open Monday toSaturday each week, with debates,talks, volunteering seminars andother development related eventstaking place. International dayssuch as Africa Day in May andWorld AIDS Day in Decemberhave their own special events too.One of the first events to takeplace in the Centre was thelaunch of Fairtrade Fortnight inIrish Aid Volunteering and Information Centre,is at 27-31 Upper O’Connell Street, Dublin.It is open Monday to Saturday, with late openingon Thursday. Low-call: 1890 252 676www.irishaid.gov.ie/centreFebruary. Check out the calendarof events on the Irish Aid website, www.irishaid.gov.ie/centreLearning resourceAn educational programme,specially designed for the Centre,introduces second- and third-levelstudents to the challenges ofglobal poverty and the responseof the international community,the Millennium DevelopmentGoals. Minister of State forOverseas Development, MichaelKitt TD, describes the Centre “asa wonderful learning resource.”He is delighted that over 1,500students from across Ireland willvisit the Centre in the first half of2008.Special designThe Centre’s specifically designedintroduction to volunteering webprogramme has proved verypopular and is nowcomplimented by a volunteerpack for all interested callers. Thevolunteer pack contains generalmaterial from Comhlámh onvolunteering as well as leafletsfrom volunteering organisations.Volunteering organisations canuse the late opening on Thursdaynights for volunteer sessions. Todate, Comhlámh, Education inLearning, Goal, Habitat forHumanity, Suas, VSO and VSIhave held public informationsessions.Thinking caps onVisitors to the Centre areencouraged to think of ways inwhich they can make a personalcontribution to overseasdevelopment. This doesn’t have tobe through volunteering in adeveloping country! There areplenty of opportunities tovolunteer at home with NGOsactive in overseas developmentand little changes to our dailylives can make a big difference.These changes might includepurchasing Fairtrade products ortaking steps towards moresustainable living.