In the Irish PoliRural pilot region, Monaghan Integrated Development (MID) is leading Innovating Communities, a LEADER Cooperation project, which aims to strengthen resilience, local development and community-led action, and further PoliRural focus on improving rural attractiveness and making our rural areas more sustainable and viable. This is achieved by training community groups, businesses, and individuals in Design Thinking. The free training and mentoring in Design Thinking, which is a Creative Problem-Solving process, is being delivered through a series of free facilitated Courses formed around a locally identified Challenge.

Design Thinking is a 5-stage problem solving process: at Stage 1 a person learns how to EMPATHISE with the people affected, at Stage 2 they DEFINE the challenge, at Stage 3 the person is supported to develop IDEAS, at stage 4 they TEST these ideas and then finally, at stage 5, they MATERIALISE the solutions.

Innovating Communities invites local people to submit their local needs in the form of Challenges in a ‘Challenge Bank’ at From there, people can view the challenge, agree, ‘like’ it and perhaps get involved in addressing it. If a Challenge is securing enough interest, it will be turned into a free facilitated Design Thinking Training Course to help the group work through the Challenge and reach a solution. Some Courses that are currently running and directly tie in with PoliRural are; ‘Attracting People to Live and Work in County Monaghan’ which addresses the idea of rural attractiveness, ‘Attracting Tourists to Sliabh Beagh’ which focuses on tourism in the area and ‘Tackling Climate Change’, which is a secondary school course with young people examining how to make a local sustainable impact in combatting a global issue.

The training uses a ‘person centred design’ approach to identify topics important to an area and the training support helps people explore ideas and the best possible sustainable (socially, economically, environmentally) solutions. The Innovating Communities team provides high level support to community groups and would-be innovators to move more confidently and creatively in the discovery and distillation of community needs, idea generation and solution testing.  The process is very democratic and aims to animate and facilitate the rural population to solve the most pressing issues relevant at the time. Innovating Communities welcomes and offers an opportunity for new community people, who may not yet be part of a formal group, to join in on a project idea with like-minded people.

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