This post is part of the VET Gazette 3
Catherine Friel
Community Education Facilitator
Donegal Education and Training Board



ChangeMakers was established in 2012 and is a multistakeholder project partnership between Inishowen Development Partnership Donegal Education and Training Board and two overseas Development Agencies, namely Self Help Africa and Trocaire.  Funded primarily by Irish Aid, it has the objective of raising awareness of Development Education and building capacity of community groups, activists, and leaders in County Donegal, to act for a fair and just world.  

The ChangeMakers project is designed to deliver transformative change in several ways.  The approach is to start with a local and practical focus on topics and apply ‘global framing’ to offer context, build solidarity and promote an understanding of the ripple effect of local actions.

To accomplish this, the project promotes activities aimed at supporting awareness and understanding of Development Education.  To this end, a wide range of workshops have been delivered encompassing an extensive range of themes including Climate Justice, Migration, Consumerism, Gender Equality and Environmental Sustainability.  Where possible, workshops include speakers from the Global South.  They are offered in conjunction with a range of community organisations, as well as multinational companies and a local third level Institution.  Examples of raising awareness also include the delivery of debates with themes ranging from Energy consumption to Biodiversity.  Awareness of Development Education has also been explored through the ‘Arts’ and an ongoing relationship with a local film festival.  Donegal ETB has also provided training for several adult education tutors to integrate awareness of global issues into their teaching.  This has been supplemented by the development of suitable training materials, and delivery of student workshops in conjunction with ChangeMakers. Finally, transformative educational change has been promoted through the delivery of several Level 4, 5 and 6 QQI accredited Development Education modules throughout the county. 

ChangeMakers also supports activities that are intended to directly encourage action.  It has underpinned the establishment of Fairtrade in Donegal since its inception.  Fairtrade offers us a powerful way to highlight injustice and support some of the world’s most disadvantaged farmers.  Assistance involves leading the organisation of an annual Fairtrade fortnight event, and in assisting local towns to both obtain and retain Fairtrade status.  

Examples of our project work also includes the establishment of a ‘Seeds for Change’ grant which enables community groups to develop actions centred on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  To date the seed grant scheme has supported thirty-three local actions and reached two hundred and thirty individuals. Applicants make submissions under three categories namely Social Justice, Economic Justice and Environmental Justice.  Examples of projects supported under this initiative include the establishment of a vegetable and wildflower seed saving scheme; beekeeping; the rollout of online educational workshops based on marine life and ocean welfare; and the creation of three ‘Tiny forests’ in a number of housing estates in an urban town in Donegal.

ChangeMakers has continually evolved its strategies in response to emerging needs and opportunities.  Critical to the evolution of the project has been the relationship of the project team with its facilitator panel which generates ideas for future activities.  The project hosts an Annual Seminar based on key issues relevant to the time.  In 2021, the topic covered was the impact of Covid 19 on a range of themes including education, health, and ethnicity.  Keynote speaker for the online event was Dr Mike Ryan WHO.  A mentoring programme has also been established, and this has provided support to eighteen organisations across Donegal to deliver a range of development education and social justice actions.  ChangeMakers has also begun to explore the possibility of expanding this programme to other sectors, notably business and social enterprise. In addition, the project has developed customized projects for specific target groups.  The ‘Elder Tree’ Project engaged several older people in Ireland and Uganda in conversations about different SDGs and their personal experiences of life fifty years ago.  Video recordings of these are currently being disseminated in a county wide roadshow.  Furthermore, in response to requests from participants, ChangeMakers is developing a resource targeting adults, communities, and businesses to take actions in support of Sustainability.  The ‘Sustainability Passport’ will provide key facts and figures, suggested actions (differentiated by individual/household, community/town, and business) and their measurable impacts; as well as a directory of national and local groups engaged in sustainable development, equality, and inclusion.  This resource will be complemented by the development of an online library.  

Crucial also to the success of the project is an extensive and growing partnership portfolio.  ChangeMakers now has a total of twenty-five collaborators from multiple sectors both within and outside the county.  These are key to expanding Global Citizen Education within and across the Adult and Community Sector.