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St Patrick And The SDGs

Updated: Dec 28, 2018

Strategic Intervention Tactics - Cahersiveen St Patrick's Day 2018 parade themes - SDG 14, 15

SDG 15 - Life on Land The Hungry Caterpillar, Puffins nursery Image: Marc Moller

There are four key principles underpinning the pCr praxis and embedding of two of the SDGs that CoDesRes is working with within the St. Patrick's Day parade, illustrates the second principle - Strategic Intervention Tactics. Much has been written about strategies, tactics and interventions that have relevance for the CoDesRes project.

Tactics and strategies are often described as simply the method (tactic) to gain an objective within the overall plan (strategy), which may contain several tactics. But looking closely, these terms originating within military contexts, often allude to power structures a legacy derived from their military origins. It has been argued (De Certeau) that strategies, given their power dynamics can create their own autonomous space (1984) and therefore those forced to use tactics must ‘make use of the cracks that particular conjunctions open in the surveillance of the proprietary powers’ (1984:37).

'This opportunistic approach exploits the gaps in a system, cutting across a strategic field

innovatively and imaginatively. Understanding the system and recognising its

vulnerabilities is the strength of the tactician. Therefore, a process of system analysis and

recognition of the power structures at play is a crucial part of the tactician’s tool kit.'

(McKeown, 2015)

CoDesRes's underpinning pCr methodology operates as a tactical intervention; both into the UN SDG 2030 agenda and the local landscape as a means of engaging communities to implement local expressions of the Sustainable Development Goals 4,11,14 and 15. The research aims to go beyond citizen inclusion in governance and decision-making and actively engage them in problem-finding and solving. If we are to adopt a ‘beyond-compliance’ culture, we have to consider how to make the SDGs, indeed all policies and strategies, locally (or contextually) relevant.

The CoDesRes project explores this aspect and the the need for ‘culturally situated local approaches that include multiple worldviews and a systemic design thinking perspective that integrates science’ and technology (Mckeown, 2018). Community events like the St Patrick's Day parade offer a great opportunity for engagement, particularly with SDG 11, and other themes, depending on the context.

For us, SDG 14 and 15 were obvious themes to explore. Kerry has the longest coastline in Ireland; there are issues that the Iveragh Peninsula communities are dealing with daily that sit obviously within these goals' landscape. The pCr praxis is a culturally situated approach and the team are investigating how cultural activities could be explored further by looking to incorporate more of our indigenous culture (Irish language, mythology and cultural heritage) into the process of engaging with the SDGs. This enables the knowledge from the past to be integrated and re-imagined for the 21st Century, and knowledge that CoDesRes views as important contributions to sustainable resilient communities.

We had so many great comments about this year’s St Patrick’s Day Parade with 26 floats; it was the largest it had been in years. However, we're not negating the motivational factor of €1000.00 prize for the best float. This went to Puffins Nursery walking group's entry for SDG 15 Life on Land with the Hungry Caterpillar, including the full life cycle. Anita and Sean had the pleasure of dropping in a few times to help them with their costumes and heard how much they knew about the caterpillar’s life cycle. This is where sustainability starts, by building an interest and enjoyment through education about the physical world early on. This provides the foundation enabling an awareness of our place in the planetary ecosystem to grow.

But it wasn't only the engagement with the embedded themes that we believe had value. The night-time event, involved putting the 30ft snake puppet, that led the parade, to bed. Made from old coal bags, old piping and willow, the night time parade, enabled those who don’t or can't continue the celebrations in local pubs to join in a community event. Mostly families with small children, who brought their pots, pans and wooden spoons as requested, to form the Domestic Percussion Ensemble, formed a temporary community to escort the snake through the High St to the Fair Green, while older children and teenagers animated the puppet.

This co-creation and sharing of experience can contribute to a community's resilience, through the relationships developed and the agency and action they can encourage. At the end of the parade, teenagers were asking our fire juggler, Darragh Lynch could they learn fire-juggling. Darragh, is mostly known for his musicianship and teaching music, but he also trained in Cork doing circus skills and performance, and is now considering setting up a workshops and sessions to teach these skills to others. Learning difficult skills that encourage responsibility and require dedication are transferable life and career skills, the sharing of such knowledge can also expands opportunities that enable those who wish to, remain in SW Kerry.

Why does this matter?

Between 2006 - 2016 Ireland's rural population dropped form 39.5% of the total population to 36.47% (Trading Economics, 2018). This is a trend that unless reversed will see rural communities' continued decline. Reversing this trend, through socially and environmental equitable development opportunities will not only enable rural communities to remain sustainable but it could also alleviate the pressures on urban settlements particularly, Ireland's East coast.

Others, who experienced the festival reported that they want to get more involved in local events, inclusion in community events not only contributes to social resilience but also can enable the development of more tangible skills e.g. project management and production skills. Self-organisation or the ability for a system to change through new structures and behaviours, is one of the strongest forms of resilience (Meadows, 2008). A resilient system portraying adaptive behaviour has the potential to evolve new responses that will influence the system and enable it to sustain aspects it has never encountered before.

Although some of the CoDesRes team were driving aspects of the parade, it was everybody’s involvement and enthusiasm that made it great - the community that plays together, stays together; or at least can come together to collaborate or address shared aims. Some groups working in local organisations valued the opportunity to work together differently and although it took time, energy and commitment they felt the 'payback' was worth it. With the engagement this year, encouraging younger people to get involved and offering opportunities to learn more skills and practice using those skills, we imagine we will have a bigger team and a bigger parade next year.

CoDesRes knows this won’t end poverty or directly create jobs or suddenly solve all the issues a location may have, but it shows that there’s a great opportunity to make something out of nothing; whether using materials considered as waste or just coming together to make something happen. Also, we really hoped the parade showed that there are local concerns that can be addressed at least initially within inclusive activities that encourage everyone to participate.

Rather than DIY and doing it yourself, it’s much more fun to do it with others (DIWO, Furtherfield, 2006) and perhaps in the future our resilience will depend upon creative collaborative activities that help us engage with difficult issues. Afterall, creativity and innovation are generative practices that have been part of human evolution for millennia. Increasingly, the links between the concepts of resilience and creativity are being recognised in research, something that the pCr praxis as a culturally situated approach and the CoDesRes project is investigating. We have three more projects in the pipeline and we look forward to sharing them with you over the coming months.

Special thanks to Marc Moller and Rachel Rae (Asana School Garden) for the photographs and videos.


De Certeau, M (1984) The Practice of Everyday LIfe, Berkley, CA. University of California Press

Furtherfield (2006) Do It With Others (DIWO): E-Mail-Art at NetBehaviour available here accessed 28th March 2015

Catlow, R and Garrett, M (2018) (DIWO) from the web to the blockchain NeME available here accessed 30th April 2018

Meadows, D. H. (2008) Thinking in systems: a primer. Vermont: Chelsea Green Publishing

Trading Economics accessed 20th March, 2018 available here:

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