Having Belief in Your Town is Just the Beginning #72 #cong19


This is an article about a civic pride and community engagement campaign set up in May 2019 in the town of Ballinrobe Co. Mayo.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Use what we have
  2. Don’t be a Martyr
  3. We need Advocates, not just Volunteers.
  4. Work Smarter, not harder

About Pat Donnellan:

I’m a resident of Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo and involved in various community groups mainly Ballinrobe Festival and the Community Development Council, I am a founding member of the Believe in Ballinrobe campaign.

I work full-time as a Software Engineer for a multinational company in Galway city, focusing mainly in web technologies.

Contacting Pat Donnellan:

You can connect with Pat on LinkedIn or send him an email

By Pat Donnellan

Having belief in your town is just the beginning

Like so many towns in Ireland, Ballinrobe in Co. Mayo is one of enormous potential and lately it is beginning to exploit it’s most valuable asset – it’s people, those who are living in the town or connected to it in any way.

#BelieveInBallinrobe – Use what we have
In May 2019 we launched the “Believe in Ballinrobe” campaign and began using the #BelieveinBallinrobe tag for all things positive about the town ever since.

When a group of us from the town decided to work on this concept we used our own experience and skills in business, design, technology, journalism and community involvement to understand the problem we are trying to solve, decide what the campaign would look to do, and what it wouldn’t do.

We looked at the key stakeholders in the town be it volunteers, community groups, sports clubs, businesses, youth and diaspora. We listed some key motivations and frustrations they are facing and looked at their collective goals and aspirations.

We learned that so much great work is being done by these stakeholders all year round and much of it is not known about by the average person living in the town – it is just taken for granted. These stakeholders told us they need more help and volunteers, but we felt there was also a responsibility on them to be more open, to remove any barriers that might prevent or discourage new people form joining them or committing more time.

#BelieveInBallinrobe – Don’t be a Martyr
Certain groups and individuals not just in Ballinrobe but in other towns can develop a “Martyr Mentality” which leads them to believe they must carry the burden alone and do all the work themselves, taking on all that pressure that comes with it.

This is obviously not a sustainable approach, leads to burnout and ultimately does more harm than good. Individuals and groups must be encouraged to ask for help, be open to new people and fresh ideas, and to give more ownership to these new people. This is exactly the campaign hopes to achieve.

#BelieveInBallinrobe – We need Advocates, not just Volunteers
We needed a call to action, and the “Believe in Ballinrobe” message is just that, we have challenged people to become advocates for their town – being and advocate means you talk up the town publicly, you have it’s back and let others know that you are behind it. You actively support all the initiatives, events, local businesses, clubs and groups that are striving to make the town a better place to live and visit.

We need to understand that “volunteering” is not always a positive word for people who are afraid of getting dragged into odd jobs or standing around with a Hi-Viz vest, and for those who genuinely don’t have the free time or maybe just don’t have the confidence to put their hands up – we need to give opportunities for people to help out in other ways.

Whether it’s sharing content on social media, or writing comments and reviews to publicize what’s happening in the town, maybe it’s simply answering a phone call and passing on a key contact for a club or group in need of some expertise for an upcoming event. ]

The more advocates we have, the more problems get solved, the more success these stakeholders will have – and success breeds success.

#BelieveInBallinrobe – Work Smarter, not harder
A critical success factor is to use events and projects to bring new people in – then hold onto them. We are not trying to duplicate the efforts of existing groups, instead we are providing them with the platform to gain new members and new opportunities, and a chance to work with other groups to share their ideas and resources – working smarter, not harder, and far away from that martyr mentality..

Since the campaign launched in May 2019 we have hosted and organised events alongside the usual stakeholders in those areas, providing them with a chance to relaunch their group or organisation and with our campaign behind it, attract new people and advocates to attend, support and help out.

• Tidy Towns clean-up day – over 70 volunteers joined up with Tidy Towns to do a full town clean-up and this is already in the calendar again for next year.
• GlebeFest street festival – music, heritage, art and family fun organised by the businesses on Glebe Street for an opportunity to open their doors to new customers from the town, a huge success and again now an annual event.
• Pride of place competition – our campaign was highlighted by Mayo County Council and put forward for a national civic pride award, we showcased all the groups and clubs in the town during a judging day supported by 100’s of people from the town.
• Summer Festival – this year was the festival doubled in size with 6 days of concerts and family activities bringing thousands of people through it’s doors and around the town.
• Spirit of Ballinrobe awards night – another which will be become an annual event, recognizing individuals and groups for their community spirit, and a night of celebration and networking with all groups and clubs together under the one roof.

The list above represents only some of the highlights from the first 6 months of a campaign which is here to stay. The response and support that we have gotten proves to us that the town’s most valuable asset is its people.

Using the experience, skills and passions that are unique to our town – the more we keep that mindset, the more we can all Believe in Ballinrobe’s future, and why not?

You. can see the progress of the campaign on Facebook or visit the #BelieveInBallinrobe

  • Bob Kennedy says:

    Very interesting account of a community in action. I’ve looked at the BelieveinBallinrobe link.
    The video intro is impressive but leaves me wondering who do I turn to now.
    I would like to see some names here even if there is no committee and all that entails.
    We need to see the people behind this great initiative and the skills they are bringing to the task.
    To help change the culture you need to embrace transparency from the outset.

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