Archive for November, 2010
It’s exciting times in Barcelona, with the Catalonian regional parliamentary elections today and the football super-clasico against Real Madrid tomorrow. Tying these two things particularly together is Joan Laporta, until the summer the football club president and after today a possible member of that parliament.
I wrote a piece in this month’s When Saturday Comes magazine looking at Laporta’s not so smooth transition from football administrator to political figure. The plan appeared to be to ride the wave of his sporting success to launch a political career, and maybe even get to lead a new fully independent Catalonian nation-state.
However, this is not going to happen, as explained in the article which you can read by clicking here on the scribd link.
I really enjoy when the opportunity arises to do ‘green’ type stuff, so it was great to write a number of different features for this month’s Sunday Business Post Environomics supplement – including pieces on waste to energy, wood energy, sustainability policies and Irish national waste policy.
I should stick links to more of these pieces up here soon, but this particular post looks at investments in environmentally-focused businesses and start-ups, and featured chats with Eddie Cullen, head of corporate banking, Ulster Bank, Gavin Bourke, investment partner with Kernel Capital and BDO partner Sinead Heaney.
‘‘A wide range of investors, both domestic and international, have shown an interest in investing in the green economy,’’ said Cullen. ‘‘Private equity investors have been actively investing in early stage green ‘technology’ type companies in the energy efficiency, waste-to-energy and other power generation sectors. ‘Pension funds and dedicated clean energy funds are more active in the renewable energy generation sector, particularly in wind energy. Due to the high credit risks involved, projects with early stage and developmental technologies are largely funded by equity or venture funding.”
The full story can be read or downloaded in pdf format through here on my Scribd account.
‘‘Promising Generation Y candidates always have their ear to the ground for new challenges or opportunities,” Mark Hamill, global managing director of Spengler Fox said. ‘‘While they may be empathetic to recent workplace challenges, they recognise that this is not their responsibility. The problem for Ireland’s future is that, if we cannot retain Generation Y here in their early careers, we may never get them back.”
The article included research recently carried out by Spengler Fox, looking at the recruitment and HR challenges posed by ‘Generation Y’ candidates, who are typically “more confident, independent, creative and ambitious” than older workers but who “want to be challenged, take responsibility and feel they are progressing year after year.”
Hammill advised companies and recruiters to make better use of the web to impress these young folk going forward.
‘‘You are constantly trying to build systems, networks and communities so you know what talent is out there,” he said. ‘‘Respondents to our survey made suggestions such as online student games and portals, university partnerships and improved employer image and branding. It is about engagement and building emotional connections. This can be done either internally yourself, or with external recruitment partners, or in most cases by a combination of both.”
There’s an article in this week’s Leinster Leader (P.10 of the Living in Kildare section if you have a copy to hand), about the trip I made to Tanzania this summer to visit a school set up by an Irish priest who was a friend of our family growing up. It was really, really deadly to see some of the stuff donated by my parents years ago. I also saw that there’s still plenty of more work that could be done to help out.
It’s not on the Leader’s website , so for those of you not living in places where the print version is readily available…
Kilcullen-man Dermot Corrigan visits the site of a school established by Kildare people in the 1980s, and sent us this report.
I recognised those worn spanners and socket sets, the grimy engines and gearboxes and even the battered Datsun Cherry and Opel Astra lying outside in the burning African sun. All were familiar from a long, long time back. I was deep in central Tanzania, visiting the Nangwa Technical School and gaping open-mouthed at the tools and cars donated by my parents to family friend, Brownstown native and Palatine missionary Fr Dan Noud almost 25 years ago.
This August, before leaving for Tanzania, I had looked again at the old photos and newspaper clippings from the 1980s. There was Fr Dan with my Dad, hefting boxes of medical supplies and blankets into one of the 40’ containers organised by Kildare organisation TOIL. There was seven-year-old me in school uniform, smiling gap-toothed at one of Dan’s jokes. There was Dan pleading for help in a yellowing page cut from the Sunday World. There were letters written by my Mam to businesses all over Ireland looking for clothes, food, furniture and medicines. There was Miontini Akko, a smiling young student who had come with Dan to Ireland to study electrical engineering at Kevin Street College of Technology.
A slightly older, but still smiling Miontini met us off the rickety bus from Arusha and brought us to the school, which Dan established in the early 1980s. TOIL containers arriving regularly, along with support from other organisations including Concern and CHES, quickly made Nangwa Technical School the most important educational establishment for hundreds of miles around. When Miontini was headmaster in the early 1990s, over 450 students were there learning trades such as electrician, mechanic, tailor and welder. Thousands of Tanzanians have been through its gates, gaining the skills and experience required to return to their villages, set up businesses and support their families.
The school is now run by the local diocese, and currently has 270 students, boys and girls aged between 15 and 21, studying traditional trades as well as newer subjects like nursing and computers. There are ten long low block buildings laid out around well-tended grass squares. We met students and staff, and saw the current classrooms, dormitories, kitchen, computer room and TV room. The facilities were basic, with simple wooden benches, bare brick walls and corrugated iron roofs, but all really solid and clean and cared for. It’s a beautiful site, with lush green trees, burnt brown clay, clear blue sky and the white cloud-swathed Mount Hanang in the distance.
We then visited the hostel for twenty teenage girls which Miontini and his wife Priscilla have built in Nangwa, funding it themselves, with help from friends and supporters. It’s an impressive operation, with a dorm, study room, TV room, toilets and showers. We saw light fittings donated by Intel, desks from Educate Together and a tractor from McLoughlins in Newbridge. The hostel gives girls from the region a place to stay when they come to Nangwa to study, ensuring they don’t get distracted or worse when they move from home to the town. Again, the set-up is basic, with all students sleeping on bunks in one dorm, but they all seemed very happy with the support from Priscilla and the roof over their heads.
Miontini then drove us off down a dirt track through corn and bean fields, to the bare, scrubby land he called the bush. A few years earlier we might have seen giraffes or antelope, but they’ve been scared off by modernity’s slow expansion. We did see semi-nomadic Barabaig tribesmen herding skinny cows and goats, mud and wattle dwellings called bomas and women walking along carrying water jars on their heads. The people in Nangwa, a small town with a couple of streets, a few shops, and the school, dispensary and church built by Dan and friends, are relatively better off, but Miontini said that, without education, job prospects and a decent standard of living are still very hard to come by.
That evening Priscilla and daughter Leonarda – who lives with Miontini in Suncroft while studying nursing in Dublin – served up a superb feast of roasted meat, rice and ugali with sweet tea and custard for dessert. The family talked of frustration at the layers of administration within most big aid agencies and NGOs, and how Irish people were more generous during the simpler time of the 1980s than the boom years of the Celtic Tiger. There were also happier stories of Fr Dan befriending Tanzania’s first president Julius Nyerere and motorbiking around the bush to say Sunday masses in people’s homes or village squares, returning after dark, merry on altar wine.
Dan is now in his 70s and has moved further off the beaten track to Mogitu, where he has established another school, clinic and church. We would have liked to have met him, but had to be back on the Arusha bus early next morning. I was only in Nangwa for 24 hours, but I won’t forget the visit in a hurry. The experience definitely made me feel awkward when I returned to Ireland and heard all the talk of recession and cuts. Miontini’s main priority at the moment is to improve kitchen facilities at the hostel, where the girls currently cook their food on an open fire, using fuel they gather themselves by hand. A fuel efficient stove made locally would cost €1,250 and mean the girls could spend less time out collecting sticks and more time hitting the books and preparing for their futures.
If you’d like to support Miontini’s work in Nangwa, or just want to learn more about what’s being done there, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
According to LinkedIn, the business-oriented social networking site has over 80 million members in over 200 countries with a new person signing up each second. The official stats don’t say how many of these accounts just lie dormant or are rarely used, but I’m betting most people check their Facebook page more often.
Part of this is because Facebook is more fun, but other reasons for people’s reluctance to really engage with LinkedIn are that the value of its tools is not always immediately evident and it’s interface can be kinda finicky and hard to get used to.
Luckily then, I put together a guide for professionals who want to get the most of LinkedIn for the latest ebusinesslive newsletter from Enterprise Ireland. The article covers how to create a profile, make connections, manage your reputation, search for individuals or businesses and, most importantly perhaps, how to leverage LinkedIn to build offline, real-world relationships. The full piece is through here on the ebusinesslive.ie site.
Oh, and here’s a link to my own LinkedIn profile too. I should probably update that pic.