Tangible Leadership

  Where we’ve been and where we’re going!


In 2009, David Allen Ibsen
published, “Leading your way out of the recession”.

It was a recipe for what it would take to survive the global economic crisis.

The ingredients included:

• Self Confidence
• A clearly articulated and broad vision
• A willingness to be flexible
• The skill to act upon intuition
• A talent in mobilizing resources (the right type, at the right time)

The skill to act upon intuition” was evident here in Ireland when, in January 2009, Raymond Sexton convened what he imagined would be a “one-off” session to bring a group of colleagues together. The meeting was designed to kick off the New Year and attend to:

• the move from despondency to a sense urgency and passion which would lead to focused actions, individually and collectively
• rediscovering the basic elements of success, in his view- Time, Treasure and Talent
• providing each other with needed inspiration, encouragement, and support
• curating a body of knowledge which would provide participants access to mentorship, connections and empathetic financial resources

The enthusiasm generated that day resulted in a call to “do this again”. In April, they convened Limerick. An ancient city and home of Shannon Development, created by some of the most forward thinking and action oriented change-makers in Ireland. Their initiatives from the 1960s forward have made Ireland the commercial gateway to Europe it is today.

In the three months between those the Howth & Limerick meetings, attendees at the first had launched nearly a dozen positive initiatives. Clearly, Tangible energy was catalysing change.

The momentum generated in Limerick drove the initiative forward to New York City in May. Scheduled on the morning of the annual Ireland Funds Gala, it was enthusiastically received. A July seminar followed in Sutton, Co Dublin and the leadership series was born.

As the series enters its ninth year, with over 60 seminars behind us, it includes 7 annual sessions in Ireland. Thanks to the enthusiasts, ambassadors and conveners we have met along the way, the global outreach now extends from New York to Sydney, and London to San Francisco.

We’ve proven that resilience is born, as the Irish proverb puts it, Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine, “In the shadow of each other, the people live”.

You are welcome to join us in Oranmore, County Galway on 6. October or in London on 17. November for the remaining #Tangible16 seminars.

In 2017, alongside our “events as usual” we will begin to deliver a structured programme designed to offer continuing professional development.

Next year’s events begin as we “Bring it On” in Howth, Tangible’s 65th event in it’s ninth “new year”!

Oranmore, County Galway

Oranmore, County Galway


On…Continuing Education

“A mind is a terrible thing to waste” images

So goes the very powerful fundraising campaign launched by United Negro College Fund in 1972. It’s one of the most enduring tag-lines Madison Avenue has brought the world. It endures because the sentiment is universal.

Dust off the cobwebs, turn off the talking heads and find out what real people working on the front lines of social, political and educational change, are up to.

The season of “Summer Schools” is underway. It’s a glorious opportunity to surround yourself with the intellectually curious, to have your thinking challenged and be infused with a dose of positivity.

We are sadly lacking mature leadership on the island of Ireland and it has never been more important for all of us to develop ourselves into an active and engaged citizenry.

The McGill, Merriman & xChange Summer Schools are now behind us. There is ample coverage of all available and still time to consider The Thomas D’Arcy McGee Summer School in Carlingford  which will address “D’Arcy McGee, 1916 and Revolutionary Republicanism” and Tangible Ireland’s Ambassador Summer School which covers “Business & Civic Leadership”.


Don’t do it for yourself, do it for your children and grandchildren. Education doesn’t end with “qualifications“, it’s a life-long process. Model it!

Why? Frederick Douglas sums it up perfectly: “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men



*(per the 2014 post – and an excellent incentive to mark your calendars for the 2017 events…)  The McGill Summer School will stream its programming on “Reforming and Rebuilding our State”. And there’s still time to plan an outing to Glenties. Audio highlights of the xChange Summer School about “Changing Conversations” are available. Still ahead are the Merriman Summer School where “Emotional Life in Ireland” will be explored; The Thomas D’Arcy McGee Summer School in Carlingford  will address “The Famine in Ulster”; Tangible Ireland’s Ambassador Summer School covers “Business & Civic Leadership” and there are many more.


Leadership, Tangible style

“Do as I say, not as I do!” …or not!

When Tangible Ireland began in 2009, we were experiencing a lot of that kind of leadership in Ireland.

Founder, Raymond Sexton believed that an emphasis on the positive was required.

• What was going well?
• Who were the people driving the success stories?
• Did anyone else believe we were better than our bottom line?

He began to examine what drove excellence in leadership both at home and abroad.

The perspective was that of an engineer and project manager experienced in helping multinationals invest and build facilities in Ireland, a homecomer returned from a decade in Australia, and a closet historian.

Who the Irish are in Ireland and who we become when we go abroad is a fascinating study.*

And the many Tangible ambassadors, partners and guests have joined him in studying it – up close and personally, across the island of Ireland and worldwide.

There have been over sixty Tangible seminars in global cities – Dublin, London, New York and Sydney; regional capitals – Belfast, Limerick & Galway; and in the urban & rural villages that lie at the heart of Irish life and values – Howth, Kilmallock and Crossmaglen.

There’s a common denominator in all these communities. We honor our original associations, whether counties, communities, schools, or team affiliations, we pay it forward and take care of our own. We are industries, joyous, playful and determined.

Here’s what we do:

Imagine the simplicity of a “3 pinned plug” and the energy it channels. It’s the way each Tangible Seminar is designed. We showcase and model the best business and civic leadership in a region by:

• focusing on the maverick and entrepreneurial “live wires” – the local leaders driving change
• highlighting and sharing connections to the startup, trade & inward investment support offered in the Republic and in Northern Ireland
• recognising our citizens at home, abroad and in transition, uniting them in their efforts to prosper both here and across the Diaspora

Here’s what we’ve learned:

• at home and abroad our values never change
• our Diaspora represents our greatest asset; vast supplies of human capital available for spending and investment
• our citizens never cease to be our citizens

Here’s what we believe:

• Personal, business and trade relationships empower us individually & collectively, in our new lands and across Ireland.
• Our citizens never cease to be entitled to be heard.
• At home, abroad or in transition, we owe each other a duty of care, including responsible stewardship of this island, economically, environmentally and politically.

This drive for excellence in leadership and best practices reflects our duty of care to the next generation by making this island fit to come home to, or to never be forced to leave.

We are survivors.

Who we are and who we become, whether we stay here or go abroad needs to reflect our best hope for the future of our Irish or Northern Irish children and grandchildren in the Americas, the EU, the UK, Oz or elsewhere.

To join us in San Francisco on Thursday, 21. July  or at the annual Ambassador Summer School here in Ireland follow the links to register.

For a great summary of why Tangible travels the globe in search of “live wires” – here it is:

*…who we become when we go abroad as described by one of our own:

Beehan; psychosis






#Tangible15 – Limerick

LimerickDipticWe had a great day in Limerick for “A Winning Culture“. The setting was the beautifully restored Bishops’s Palace and David Deighan, CEO of Limerick Civic Trust led with an overview of what they’ve accomplished and where they’re going!

Limerick is coming off it’s year as Ireland’s first “City of Culture” and some wonder “What’s next?’.

That’s where Tangible Ireland comes in. We never stop to wonder. Leaning in to the positive, we’re here to highlight everything that is moving forward.

Limerick has a history of courageous and innovative thinking. “Shannon Development” the world’s first “free trade zone” was as cutting edge as it got in 1959. It gave rise to the National Technology Park, now part of the University of Limerick campus. The University shared it’s trajectory  with Shannon Development, the Shannon Free Trade Zone and with the help of fundraising efforts in America, established itself as a leading academic institution.

What the founders did in the late 1950s was actively imagine a different future for the region – and in fact the country. The manufacturing base required to move Ireland forward from an agrarian economy was imported from America and relationships were cultivated with Asia – then just emerging. The region still owes it’s economic viability to the creativity and foresight of these leaders.

Maintaining momentum matters! Tangible Ambassadors are invited to present on a range of subjects which serve to educate, inspire and promote their personal, business and civic initiatives.

I was inspired by three young innovators – David O’Shea of nTrai Crowd Funding; Neil O’Hagan of Atlantic Youth Trust and Robbie Gilbert of Premium Power.

Do what you love” comes to mind! David O’Shea is an athlete who is bringing an innovative approach to funding sources for athletes in training. Crowd Sourcing has been around for a few years now – but the focus has been on products!  nTrais approach is genius.  Sponsors ‘back’ an athlete, who then seeks matching funds. The athlete is supported, the sponsor gets exposure to the community built up around the athlete, their personal or team effort and across the sport.

Neil O’Hagan has been driving this project forward from concept through development and now into the funding stage. The Atlantic Youth Trust has a tall ship to build!

The youth leadership programming has begun, the plans are drawn and a ship has been sourced for preliminary voyages. Some matching funds have been promised  from both the UK and ROI* governments – and application will be made for EU funding as well. Help Atlantic Youth Trust get the remaining donor support it requires.

Electrical Engineer Robbie Gilbert talked about bringing his skills from a market leading, international engineering consultancy to Premium Power a niche energy startup with a mission focused on quality. Reared and educated here in Ireland, with family on both sides of the divide, he credits the sacrifices made for his education for his success.

What all three young men modeled were work and career choices clearly aligned with their personal values.  I have every confidence that these “leaders in waiting” will put the last generation of chancers to shame!

Tangible folk hail from across the island of Ireland and the Diaspora. We are entrepreneurs and mavericks, mainstream professionals from both the corporate and third sectors, middle managers, civil servants and retirees.

The events create a forum for entrepreneurs to benefit substantially from the expertise shared by professional consultants. Eoin Barry of ARV Excellence delivered an overview of their “Better Results” program.  It is clear that a methodology to accelerate a company’s culture shift to one of accountability is critical to micro businesses as well as the industry leaders they serve.

Aoife Healy of Pathway Consulting challenged us to focus on a strategy -no matter the size of the business or industry. Her reminder to identify and analyze the barriers to success, was as significant as exercise in goal setting. It echoed ARV’s addition of  “velocity” to accountability and reliability. She too emphasized “maintaining momentum”.

Paul Ferns and John Webb O’Rourke presented on the latest economic development initiative in Kilmallock, County Limerick.

RISE is a social enterprise in what was once the Medieval capital of Munster. Proximate to Limerick and Cork cities and the Ballyhoura Mountains, the plan is to restore and develop an historic structure as a centre for sustainable businesses as well as a destination for educational programming. Sustainability is assured by co-locating complementary businesses and industry.  This diversity in it’s base, the move from service based businesses to production as well as the range of businesses will cushion the local economy in the event of a future downturn.

Imelda McGrattan, Coach and Belfast blow-in to Dingle – grounded us, as always with her perspective. She shared a part of her journey recalling the influence of a business owner and boss who modelled relaxed, grounded and centered leadership. Having arrived there, she reminded us that there is much to be learned by documenting your journey and respecting the incremental changes that reflect how far you have come. Aim high, stay grounded.

My own message was and is to ask that we demand excellence in leadership, praise it when we see it and voice our disaapointment when it falls short. Embrace digital media and share the stories of #PositiveIreland. Draw attention to what is #Shameful, #Unacceptable or of which it can be said #WereBetterThanThis. Case and point, a Tourism Ireland Event page that hasn’t been updated since 2007. Things will change only when we demand that they do.

Raymond Sexton closed with an overview of Tangible’s Mission, Values & Ethos. He reviewed the remaining meetings this year set in villages in Ireland to Global Cities where our diaspora thrives. It’s about Collaborative Leadership, Shared Excellence and a commitment to “Pay it Forward“.

We’ll be in New York (23. April), Crossmaglen (28. May), Sydney (25. June), Summer School in Ballyhoura 18, 19. 20 August, Galway in September and London in November. The schedule can be found on the “Leadership Seminars” page of the Tangible site.


*The ROI government has been asked to contribute the €3.8 million insurance money it collected at the loss of the Asgard II







Global Ireland

Generations have left the island of Ireland to find opportunities around the world. We hear often of the “Global Irish“, estimated at near 70 million. That is just part of the story.

Global Ireland is far bigger than that.

America boasts 22 Presidents with “Irish Roots”, but on closer inspection we find 13 of them actually hailed from Counties Antrim, Derry, Down, Fermanagh, and Tyrone. Here in Northern Ireland we call those Northern Irish Connections!

They are a significant portion of “Global Ireland“.

And why “Connections” vs Diaspora?

Beyond their ancestry, whether Irish, British, Ulster-Scots or Northern Irish, the term recognizes the millions who feel a connection to Northern Ireland by virtue of their years in school here, their connections as expats via “time served” posted in business here or on UK, Commonwealth or EU government service.

A “Prosperity Process” will carry us far beyond the economic and social benefits the peace process has yielded. It will get there when fueled by a vibrant economic recovery in both the Republic and Northern Ireland.

Growing the economies on an island of less than 6 million people requires export. Global Ireland can provide those markets.

We, in turn, can provide a highly skilled workforce to provide engineering and marketing support allowing companies from Americas to Asia to bridge the timezones. We can also deliver those services in every European and Eastern European language.

Lastly, Global Ireland does business beyond any connection to Ireland.

The diaspora does business with it’s own between Silicon Valley and Asia, between London and New York, from South Africa to Scandinavia and beyond.

Because as this oft quoted verse1 says of parents –  Ireland is merely the bow from which our children were sent forth ….(and they) dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

Let all of Ireland’s children support each other; it will be a great model for their “parents” on both sides of the border!

1 On Children; Khalil Gibran


Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.


The Irish Language

My relationship with the Irish language has evolved over the half dozen years I have been here.

It’s doubtful I’ll learn to speak it, I’ve little facility with language, but what I’ve learned about it has certainly informed my understanding of the people of this island.

Three people opened the door to that understanding.

Carol Conway, Freelance Catalyst, facilitator and youth leadership trainer was the first. I’d no idea that she “had Irish”. She’d studied it for the love of the language.

She held my frustration with the use of it – often politically on the border – as a weapon designed to divide an audience into “them vs us”.

Eve, you won’t understand the Irish people until you’ve studied the Irish language .”

She got my attention with two relevant aspects of the language:

  • The absence of the possessive to have. I don’t have a coat. It’s the coat on me or the coat beside me.
  • Tenses are constructed differently. We haven’t had a conversation – the absence of a “past perfect” means we’re “after having a conversation”.

The net effect informs our use of English – and I’ve heard it posited – makes us the storytellers we are.

Linda Ervine, is a Belfast teacher and an Irish Language evangelist. She sees merit in teaching the “Hidden History of Protestants and the Irish Language” going so far as to suggest that in refusing to become familiar with it we deny the connection of the language to the culture of Ulster.

Beyond opening my eyes to the inclusive nature of the language she opened the door to tolerance. In delivering “The Hidden History of Protestants and the Irish Language” as a talk at the 2012 PUP Conference she even addressed my intolerance of what I once thought was a Northern Irish ignorance of grammar. It’s not! *

This abstract is from the Slugger O’Toole blog on the event.

Linda Ervine spoke about the “hidden history of Protestants and the Irish language”. In what was probably the best delivered session, she explained how she had been filling out the recent census online when she looked back at the 1911 census and discovered that her husband’s relatives had lived in East Belfast and spoke both Irish and English. Yet their signatures were listed on the Ulster Covenant. Linda deduced that their knowledge of Irish wasn’t linked to their politics…

She quoted Douglas Hyde, son of a Church of Ireland minister, first president of Ireland and founder of the Gaelic League in 1893, an organisation set up to preserve the Irish language. In 1905 he said:

The Irish language, thank God, is neither Protestant nor Catholic, it is neither a Unionist nor a Separatist.

 Linda went on to illustrate how Irish is behind many place names, and words and phrasing we use in everyday vernacular. She also pointed to the Red Hand Commando’s motto which is in Irish! During the coffee break, several delegates signed up for Irish language classes at East Belfast Mission!

She concluded that language was neutral, only a tool to communicate.

She drove home Carol’s point about the structure of the language and what we have carried over into English. Things she used to correct about her Belfast students’ grammar were actually correct in Irish. This among people who are many generations removed from Irish speakers.

She is “Beating swords into plowshares” in Belfast.

And lastly, a cultural and evolutionary observation which bears out the message of both women:

Anthony McCann has proposed imagining an Irish cultural equivalent to “Ubuntu

Garaiocht: An Irish Value for an Energised Ireland

A linguist, musician and coach he reflects on Garaiocht as a deeply hopeful value which allows an understanding of the possibility of potential and an openness to a deeply hopeful future.

The link will take you to a brief video describing it in greater depth.

Briefly though, imagine the folks of this island – at our convivial best, in good company with a pot of tea and the time to express ourselves in stories. This concept of Garaiocht embodies:


“Ultimately, Garaiocht is a deeply hopeful value” A. McCann

1. Nearness
2. Hereness
3. Withness
4. Helpfulness
5. Conviviality
6. Continuous Action (verbal noun – a nount that acts as a verb) Can’t have an absence of action in the notion of Garaiocht
7. Mutual support/interdependence
8. Resourcefulness/Entrepreneurship the ability to make the best use of the resources that you have (opportunities for helpfulness)
9. Response-ability appropriate to context. Leadership quality with its core values at the heart of Irish life This notion of leadership which is not authoritative – not reliant on command and control.

In “sourcing” the wisdom from this ancient language – he reiterates Douglas Hyde’s point, Linda Erivine’s point and Carol Conway’s widsom when she told me:

You won’t understand the Irish people until you’ve studied the Irish language

We can better understand each other with the gift of a language that predates our generations of conflict. A language that is neither Protestant nor Catholic, it is neither a Unionist nor a Separatist.

Thank you Carol, Linda and Anthony – for opening the door to knowing what I might never have otherwise known!

For more on this subject: “Beating Swords into Ploughshares”



* at 16:55 Linda Ervine discusses the structure of the language. To “twig on” begin a bit before that for a fascinating overview of the words that have entered the Northern Irish vernacular directly from the Irish.

Swords into Ploughshares…

UN Park

Ralph Bunche Park, between Tudor City & the United Nations

They shall beat their swords into ploughshares… Isaiah 2:4

This New York City park sits just below my first apartment. I visited it often during the years I lived in Tudor City.

The adolescent, protesting child of the Vietnam War era wondered whether those words would come to pass in my lifetime. Here in Northern Ireland, I believe they have.

Given the full blush of naive optimism, I assumed that should I live to see such a thing, it would be momentous. It is not.

Moving from war to peace has nothing to do with signatures on treaties or momentous occasions.

It has everything to do with a sustained desire of the majority to maintain the peace, coupled with their sustained and vigilant attention to creating a new reality.

What swords into what ploughshares?

The Irish Language

Hijacked as a weapon during The Troubles there’s an oft repeated quote by then Sinn Fein Cultural Officer and Belfast teacher Padraig O Maolchraoibhe in 1982: “I don’t think we can exist as a separate people without our language. Now every phrase you learn is a bullet in the freedom struggle.”

He added that the restoration of the Irish language was part of the process of the “decolonisation of Ireland”.*

My relationship with the Irish language has evolved over the half dozen years I have been here. In early days I heard it used only in the public space by politicians intent on dividing an audience into “them” and “us”. I viewed it as a weapon, as when it was wielded, I found it hurt not to be able to understand.

I’ve made peace with it now. The journey is described in a blog post called “The Irish Language“.  It includes the stories of the three people I have to thank, both for enlightening me and for their wider impact on the culture.

It is in the work of one of them that I see not only the ploughshares, but this:

Tell them to beat their swords into ploughshares!

And then tell them to beat their ploughshares into musical instruments!

Then, if they want to make war, they’ll have to stop and make ploughshares, first.*

Linda Ervine is a Belfast woman making such music with the Irish Language. Simultaneously , it’s being embraced by the Diaspora. I can’t imagine a better way to “de-politicize” the language.

A young colleague, passionate about Irish and it’s cross-community cultural significance has been sharing his vast knowledge of it’s history. Between his and Linda Ervine’s evangelizing I have learned:

  • the Ulster Scotts forefathers of America lived there in Irish speaking households and communities
  • there are currently 11,000 Protestant Irish speakers in NI
  • every 3rd week of the month  there is an inter-denominational Irish language service at a Protestant church in Belfast
  • more newspapers magazines and books have been recently published in Irish then in the last 150 years
  • in Australia the number of Irish speaking households more than doubled between 2001 & 2011 – 828 to over 1825
  • in Bucks County, Pennsylvania a volunteer runs a FB page and an outreach to Irish Language Learners. It has over 14,000 likes!**

Interest in the Irish Language emerging in the Diaspora, the growing number of Irish speakers in the Protestant community in Northern Ireland and a hunger to understand the cultural significance of the language among many – all mark a move toward reclaiming the language for all the people of Ireland.

Use of the language is no longer about “decolonizing” but rather reflective of a common cultural heritage. It embraces how we are related to the ancient land and not attached to recent politics.

We who have sprung from this island – from Ulster, Leinster, Munster or Connaught – have more in common than that which divides us. The Irish Language may now be the vehicle that unites the people of the island of Ireland, irrespective of their taxing authorities.20121119-healing-tongue-dscn0827


An article by Camille O’Reilly, which is a studied review of the Nationalists and the Irish Language in Northern Ireland may be of interest for more on this.

My exploration and understanding why reconnecting with the Irish language is so significant can be found at: The Irish Language

* a remembered quote from a sermon over 20 years ago – I was delighted to find it on the dedication page of Roger H. Siminoff’s book,  The Luthier’s Handbook . I’m afraid I still don’t know the original source.

**nearly 37,250 as of February ’17





#Tangible14 – Dublin

#Tangible14, DublinThank you to our hosts at the Landsdowne Rugby Club and all who participated. Once again, Raymond Sexton gathered an eclectic group of participants, Carol Conway pulled the disparate threads into a tapestry of leadership styles, business opportunities and socially responsible engagement with community.

The facility was beautiful! Special thanks to Michael Diskin for the welcoming remarks in which he reminded us that he advises folk who ask: “why join?” that the benefit is community, a wider network for business and social contacts.

It made us think – is that what Tangible Ireland really is? A club?

Opportunities for our wider network engagement abound. Jason Hier presented on “Facilitating Global Collaboration”. Imagine a user friendly tool that makes visual collaboration possible when working with people in different locations. Sharp Cloud is definitely a tool for Tangible Ambassadors.

Dan Feaheny was brilliant in introducing us to both the Simon Community & Focus Ireland. Pat Greene & John O’Hare had us transfixed with both the breadth of the problem of homelessness in the Republic and the depth of talent in the committed professionals working on solutions. There are opportunities for businesses of all sizes to to be involved.

Dan’s philosophy is clearly to never raise a problem without providing a solution. He then introduced Johnny Ryan author of The History of the Internet & the Digital Future. Now the Excecutive Director of the Innovation Academy at UCD, he shared a step by step model for innovative thinking – as well as the opportunity for a Design Thinking Master Class. Beyond that there are graduate and undergraduate classes in innovation at UCD.

Nowhere is the need for innovation in leadership greater than in both governments on the island of Ireland!

Alec Drew, the Straight Talker & Yanky Fachler both focused on the personal skills required to make the best of every introduction. From Alec we heard about clarity and focus in our message – from Yanky we learned about chutzpah!

Tony Allwright introduced a bit of history as a case study for “Doing Much by Doing Little”. Sir John James Cowperthwaite was his model. I’m convinced we need to examine the experience of his “hands off” economic policy, aptly named positive noninterventionism and the post war economic boom in Hong Kong. Did I mention it included a focus on social housing as “Job #1”.

The Atlantic Youth Trust will be the only island-wide initiative that brings youngsters from North & South together. This leadership development program is modeled on The Spirit of Adventure Trust voyages. It is a 40 year old program in New Zealand and has served 3 generations. Neil O’Hagan is on track to bring our own version of the program here in the next three years. Programming is underway & the ship plans are drawn – funding the build is all that’s required.

Catherina Casey,  the director of Irish Arts UK and founder of the soon to be launched Craic-It LDN is in the business of promoting Irish Arts and Culture in the UK. She Skyped in and  you’ll hear more about specific events from the London meeting next month.

We closed with a good news story from Connect Ireland. James Steele gave us an update on what happens when you put average citizens in the business of “inward investment”. They bring jobs – and get a reward! Up to €1500 for every job created.

Know someone – a friend or relative who is in business outside of Ireland? We all do. You can ask them if they’ve ever considered a European location? Support for developing import/export markets in Europe and beyond? Or better yet – just register the company with Connect Ireland and they’ll do the rest!

Thank you to all the speakers, our hosts and new visitors. We’re off to London on 6. November. We’d love to have you join us. Get in touch!

Global Ireland, Global Cities

Dublin DipticGlobal City!

Tangible Ireland’s Dublin meeting October 9th is a special one. It marks the first session of my “senior year”* at Tangible.

Four years ago, with the help of Linkedin’s algorithms, I found my way to a meeting at the Dublin Civic Trust.

Welcomed by Dan Feahney, an enthusiastic, ex-pat American, I felt comfortable. Joining over 20 men and women from Northern Ireland & the Republic – it was the best collective company I’d found since arriving two years earlier. Remarkably, a full quarter of the group were women!

2010 was a bleak time in Ireland. We’d already hit bottom. My response was that there was no where to go but up. Everywhere I turned I saw opportunity.

Not so my Irish neighbours.

I was frustrated. The passivity of most and their despair was overwhelming. Where was the outrage? Where were the protests? Why were people saying “We got the run of ourselves, now we’ll pay”?

No one deserved it. It was clearly a failure of leadership, abuses of power and downright incompetence and it was going unpunished. (Sadly, still is…)

Compounding my frustration, I was still confounded by life on the border. The Good Friday Agreement was over a decade past and I lived every day with new messages about “them” & “us”. Somehow we could rail against historic wrongs, be willing to fight imagined enemies over exaggerated slights, but we were passive about the real and present danger.

Not at Tangible. It was different there, among these people.

One by one people rose to present.

I finally heard a language I recognized. Passion was alive in the voices of those calling for new & responsible leadership, self-reliance and a prosperity process!

Presenters came from across the island. I heard the language of respectful citizens of both governments interested in addressing the needs of the island’s economy with no political agenda.

Everything I heard at that meeting affirmed my vision of what life in Ireland could be. This community and their messages have sustained me.

There were 11 speakers that day. They included a young activist and social entrepreneur, Killian Stokes. He’d created a charity. Conceived in Dublin driven by a software platform built in Belfast, he recounted fundraising in America. Nothing passive about a young man equipped with a file of Google images, doorstepping executives and funders at meetings and conferences in New York. Here was passion, confidence and enthusiasm I could relate to!

Next up was Paul Smyth. The quiet dignity of this Belfast based Chief Executive of Public Achievement – belied the passion behind founding WIMPS – Where is My Public Servant? He was answering my near constant musing: Why isn’t anyone holding politicians to account? He was empowering teenagers in Northern Ireland to “speak truth to power” – with microphones in their hands plus the training and wherewithal to disseminate the interviews.

And then Ronan King took the floor. The theme of the day was Excellence in Ireland and one of the most powerful moments was when he put up a slide and said: “Do you know what happens when you Google Fianna Fail & Dynasty?”

Suffice it to say much blood was spilled to form a Republic that is shockingly dynastic.

His focus on demanding the accountability of regulators and bankers was refreshing in light of the self-flagellation I was used to hearing.

Noreen Bowden, an American ex-pat then living and working here presented on diaspora relationships, specifically, the disenfranchisement of emigrants.

Talks on talent management and leadership development by Alan Jordan & Danica Murphy were delivered in language I recognized. Empowering, not self-effacing; proactive and not passive.

Carol Conway then went on to deliver a summary of the first Ambassador Summer School. I knew I’d found a home. She and Dan Feahney closed by moderating a discussion: A Shared Future, the potential to design an Ireland of excellence.

Every seminar since has done precisely that. Tangible Ambassadors share the vision of an excellent, prosperous and sustainable island of Ireland fueled by the wisdom, strength & wealth of Global Ireland.

Join us as we gather annually in other Global cities – London in November, New York in May or Sydney in the summer; Belfast in February, Limerick in March;  Howth in January, Crossmaglen in July & Kilmallock in August.

Why? Noreen Bowden has returned to America, Killian Stokes is living and working there, along with 1000 like him who leave Ireland every week. Let’s develop the leaders who will create a dynamic, sustainable and prosperous Ireland for our children and grandchildren to come home to!


*College & high school years are called freshman, sophmore, junior & senior in America.

On Storytelling & Learning to Repair the World

imagesA few years ago when a colleague’s grandson was only 6, he came home from school having been taught the biblical story of Joseph.

“Daddy, why did his brothers throw Joseph in the pit?”

“Because Joseph was his father’s favorite. Jacob didn’t treat the other brothers as nicely.”

The wee one went off. A good while after he was back, having seriously contemplated the matter at hand.

“They should have thrown Joseph’s father in the pit!”

That, dear readers, is precisely why we tell stories.

Whatever your relationship to, belief about or even disdain for The Bible, the Book of Genesis is a good read. A psychology professor of mine once opened a class in group dynamics with:

“…and if you’re working with families don’t underestimate the complexity. Everything you need to know about that can be found in Genesis”

In an earlier post on Storytelling, I explored the archetypal nature of stories. Simply put, it’s the way in which groups, families or societies behave, illustrated by common threads, patterns or characters that appear across most human behavior.

Changing behavior, becoming resilient and recovery of any kind all rely on our ability to observe behavior, elucidate patterns and reflect on their origin.

So whether it’s about a personal recovery – or a societal one, the lessons apply.

The six year old who has genuinely contemplated the parenting lesson at the core of the Joseph story, will parent differently in later life. There is little doubt his own father’s parenting is at the core of his power to observe, reflect and conclude.

There is application also to our wider human family and more specifically to us here on the island of Ireland. I would encourage you to consider the divisiveness of our “Green” & “Orange” narratives in the context of families, human behavior and Genesis.

This Joseph story doesn’t begin with Jacob’s poor parenting. Jacob’s own father rejected him for his twin. His own favoritism of Joseph was born of his grief at Rachael’s death. Joseph was a motherless child, the youngest and the only one of a favored wife; how much of this story is owed to that accident of birth? To the times in which he was born?

And if you never knew the historical context or the family background does it inform your understanding of Jacob, Joseph and his brothers? Leave you more compassionate, perhaps?’  A “family conflict of legendary proportions” is how it is further discussed by David Lewicki, Our Dysfunctional Families (Genesis 37: 1-4, 12-28), an excellent read.

3cc4bee70e877c0133a073f41c368d1aI would argue that were we to explore the Irish historical narrative in this way, we would come to a more compassionate understanding of ourselves and each other.

For more on changing narratives in Ireland see On Changing Conversations in Ireland or listen to a range of speakers from the Changing Conversations series at XChangeNI Summer School 2014.