The Transformative Leadership Programme: Participants tell their story Ciaran Mc Neill Ligoniel, Spring 2020

23 Oct 2020 Mary McCaughey    Last updated: 23 Oct 2020

Ciaran Mc Neill is recreation manager at Ligoniel Improvement Association. He shares his TLP story here.

Ciaran did his TLP course in the Ligoniel area in Spring 2020 – the course had completed 4 days before the COVID lockdown kicked in. The course was finally completed in September. The group has now planned a joint project together – a community farm in the Ligoniel Dams area.

“The course reminded me that community is everything in community development.”


What motivated you to sign up?

I saw the course leaflet – I thought that would really benefit the community and I was keen not just to do it myself but to have other members of our team take part – this would mean that everyone would learn together.

Experience and Learning

What did you like about the course? 

I loved leadership styles – I saw a bit of myself in every one and have had to change styles with different job roles and different people. The examples were really relatable – they simplified it. And I also loved social innovation and really enjoyed examples we looked at – it showed how something so small and easy can have such an impact in their communities. 

The course was very informal but educating – you knew the facilitators made sure you wouldn’t miss out. It was so relatable, even if the terminology at the start was a bit “What’s that?” the examples made it simple and relatable.

What are you likely to ‘take back’ to your life/work in the community?

Definitely social innovation – how easily it can be done, but that it has to be community led, especially if you’re changing things. You’ve got to get their go ahead and build trust and relationships, otherwise it can have a negative impact – the course reminded me that community is everything in community development.

 What difference has it made?

Is there anything you could or would do now that you wouldn’t have felt able to do before?

Yes. In our team I’m the youngest, with others having been there much longer. I think that the course has given us a new lease of life and will renew our processes. It reminded us we have the power to bring about positive change. We are so aware often of the lack of resources in the area, it reminded us we are a resource and about what we can bring to the table. It will get the team motivated.

Are there people/agencies you feel able to talk to and work with now that you weren’t before?

We were introduced to the participants from the Housing Executive and got a sense of what they do and how they played a part in the area. It would easier for me now to talk to others like them, and also other community organisations. I’d be confident with our new approach, and how involved the community should be in everything we do. I’d be more inclined to work with others, e.g. Ballysillan Community Forum. Those connections will be invaluable. We all have targets to work to and there’s no reason not to meet them together.

What difference will this make to how you engage in your interface area?

The main difference is the need to engage with community. And in terms of any projects we do, we don’t shout from the rooftops enough here – we will now get the media involved, Belfast Live etc. that would be a massive change. We need to get the message out to others, and to use our Councillors more.

The project which is funded through the programme will make a difference because the wellbeing garden will allow us to bring more people in and we’ll be able to use it as a basis for community consultation – kids, mums and dads, word of mouth travels very quickly. This all feeds into the community led approach – bring your father to shed day, bring a friend – this will allow us to be innovative using the community resource we have, it will be a cracking resource.

To what extent do you think these changes would have occurred in the absence of this course?

The course has created a feel good factor, not just for me but for the whole team. It has brought a lot of energy to all of us, reinvigorated things, reminded us of our goals and what we do have. It has given us a new lease of life – using good ideas and thinking outside the box.

What difference will the course make to the interface area overall?

It has made us think about why Ligoniel is lagging behind and how things could be fast-tracked – I feel more motivated about this and more inclined to get involved. For example the pitches at the back of two local primary schools - the two pitches project. There has been talk with developers and other external organisations about the potential of developing houses and a community hub with facilities there and this has the potential to blow the peace line out of the water because it would bring the communities together to do activities. The course has led us not to take second best and fight for our community to develop positively, it has enabled us to think clearly about things we can do for positive change in the area.'s picture
by Mary McCaughey

Programme Support Officer (TLP)

[email protected]

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