What do you think of when you hear the word ‘sustainability’? It’s safe to say that most people associate it with protecting the natural environment – ensuring that we use natural resources in such a way that future generations can also access them. Well, that’s part of it, but there’s more to it! 

The Wheel sees ‘sustainable’ communities as being economically thriving, environmentally healthy and socially resilient.

This matters! The community voluntary and charity sector in Ireland makes a hugely important contribution – economically, environmentally and socially – to society in Ireland, but our work more often than not goes un- (or under) recognised when priorities are being drawn up for where resources will be allocated. 

Ireland’s National Implementation Plan for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is being launched later this month with public engagement at its core. The SDGs are a UN framework that countries around the world, including Ireland, have signed up to for tackling poverty, inequality and major environmental challenges by 2030. 

The Wheel believes that the all our members, and the wider community, voluntary and charity sector, will find their missions reflected across one, and probably more, of the 17 SDGs. We’ve put this work at the heart of our strategic plan for the coming years and are embarking on a number of exciting initiatives to work with our members and the wider sector to put the community, voluntary and charity sector centre-stage. 

We will be working to ensure that the voice of the community and voluntary sector is listened to when the contribution that Ireland is making to achieving the SDGs is being considered and that new and adequate resources are provided to support and grow the contribution made by the sector. The Wheel is working with Trinity College Dublin on a major research project, led by Dr Vincent Carragher, to map the contribution that communities across Ireland are making to the SDGs.

And we have some experience in this regard… 

Following on from our Funding Handbook for Community-led Groups and our Governance Resource Book for Small Community and Voluntary Organisations, The Wheel has, in partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), recently published the third instalment of our Sustainable Communities series of resources.

Living Better, Using Less: a Sustainable Communities toolkit for Community and Voluntary Organisations is an online toolkit to help communities achieve greater sustainability.

The toolkit provides community and voluntary organisations with practical guidance for implementing sustainability solutions within both rural and urban communities.

It covers five topics:

  1. ecological integrity

  2. health and wellbeing

  3. participation and engagement

  4. culture and heritage

  5. economic resilience.

Each topic is covered in a separate section with a video introduction, case studies, a list of suggested actions and access to other resources and supports. It aims to support local communities across Ireland to awaken an awareness, deepen understanding and activate participation in sustainable development with a view to living better by using less. The toolkit shines a light on what is already there, validates and recognises this work and provides some frameworks for communities to draw on for their own organisation and community context. It can be accessed at www.sustainabletoolkit.ie.

We’d really like to continue the conversation with you about this important work and to hear more about the great work you are doing locally, or nationally, to make your communities more sustainable.

Feel free to get in touch with me ([email protected]) or Vincent ([email protected]).