FOREIGN DIRECT INVESTMENTS & ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PROMOTION
THE CONNECTIRELAND COMMUNITY PLAN
There is now an estimated 70 million members of the Irish diaspora around the globe. When the country’s economy went into free fall in 2008 the potential for this group to contribute to the economic development of Ireland was noted. However, keeping in mind that many of the Irish diaspora are business leaders in their chosen industries, there was no official structure for communicating with this specific group about the benefits of Ireland as a business venue.
The potential to utilise Ireland’s diaspora worldwide to improve the economic situation at home was recognised, however it was unclear what shape this would take. Thus, ConnectIreland was introduced to provide an avenue
through which news of expanding companies could be passed from the diaspora to the Irish Government.
Irish business man Terry Clune, covers the operational costs of the company as his contribution to economic development in Ireland. To compliment the work being done at Government level and so as not to duplicate or confuse the work being done by IDA Ireland (the Government’s inward investment agency) ConnectIreland has been given a list of criteria which companies eligible for their programme must comply with, including a list of target sectors. It was also decided that ConnectIreland would not be permitted to target companies directly, using only introductions made by members of the diaspora to decision-makers in expanding companies. As such, ConnectIreland does not partake in B2B messaging but focuses solely on campaigns that target the Irish abroad or those in the wider Irish diaspora.
Considering these restrictions, ConnectIreland has introduced innovative and efficient campaigns to target members of the global Irish community. One such campaign has been the ConnectIreland Community Action Plan, which sees
local communities reach out to their diasporas and promote FDI through these channels.
The ConnectIreland’s Community Action Plan, has mobilised the Irish public to reach out to the Irish diaspora and spread the word that Ireland is a great place to do business. The overall objective of the campaign is to create visibility and awareness for ConnectIreland abroad, using the Irish public as brand ambassadors. The ConnectIreland model aims to attract overseas investment. Communities have vast connections, which reach across the world to Ireland’s diaspora both recent and remote and to those who have a strong felt affiliation to Ireland. The Community Action Plan has inspired, energised and engaged communities and county councils to get involved and do something for themselves using the ConnectIreland model and to assist in the creation of real sustainable jobs for their children and their community.
The Plan has two parts; the first to engage the local communities and the second, to promote these local areas as FDI venues amongst the diaspora.The first phase of the Plan is focused on meeting with local community groups and mobilising them to identify their contacts abroad. This phase is extremely important to the overall plan as the success of the project relies on the
involvement of the wider Irish public. By creating an understanding in the minds of the people of Ireland of the importance of job creation to the national, local and social fabric of our country and the role they can play to create real jobs, ConnectIreland is fortifying the strength of this campaign. All communities are being asked to do is identify, through their connections, family, friends, etc., companies outside of Ireland considering expansion abroad. The Community Action Plan strategy is to empower citizens to shape the area brand and promote Ireland internationally. Through a successful campaign citizens will feel a sense of pride to their area and a connection to their local diasporas. This in turn will strengthen the national brand in relation to attracting FDI. The second part of the campaign sees ConnectIreland working with local groups to market their area as a venue for FDI in
the most innovative and savviest way possible. Several materials have been produced to date including county videos, county specific landing pages, postcards, brochures and the ConnectIreland newspaper ‘The Connector’ and focuses on ensuring these materials are shared with the correct audiences.
Initially, ConnectIreland met with communities throughout Ireland sharing the story of the initiative with them and highlighting the value of ConnectIreland to their local areas, to inform the public and inspire them to get behind the work being done by ConnectIreland. Following on from this, a number of counties were carried through to the next phase of the Plan and a liaison officer was then appointed to each county to co-ordinate the Implementation of the plan. The community works to spread the ConnectIreland message and reach out to contacts worldwide, encouraging FDI. Each county is encouraged to appoint a high-profile local ambassador who will champion the campaign in their area. Already to date, sports stars, business people and nationally recognised personalities descending from these local areas have participated in promotional materials.
A 12 month media plan for 2015 was distributed to assist groups through the Community Action Plan. Actions included in the media plan are worked on in conjunction with ConnectIreland who guide the group through the process but ultimately rely on the groups ‘local knowledge’ to promote the area. Each Community participating has been assigned a landing page through the ConnectIreland website. Through this, diasporans who have been contacted through the plan can register with ConnectIreland and thus, be tracked as members of their county’s diaspora. A ConnectIreland newspaper features news about the companies relocating to Ireland through ConnectIreland and success stories from local areas. ConnectIreland have secured the permission of the OPW to distribute the newspaper in all heritage sites under their control. The ‘Connector’ is seen as a valuable method of connecting with those who are visiting home for holidays and what to reconnect with their local areas. Some counties have chosen to print postcards that can be sent by local communities to their contacts abroad. These postcards are designed to reach out to the diaspora and promote FDI.
Brochures, have also been designed to promote each county as a venue for FDI. The brochures have 3 messages; a county message, a business message, and the ConnectIreland message. To date, they have been distributed throughout
communities, at tourist attractions and by the county councils. They are also promoted abroad at diaspora events. County videos, including local ambassadors have been produced, with the aim of sharing the county and ConnectIreland message online. This videos have captured the unique qualities of the county and promote FDI in the area.
The Community Action Plan has been a great success for ConnectIreland and the communities involved. It is a truly unique project with no other country in the world promoting its country as an FDI venue through its diaspora via community engagement.
In 2015 ConnectIreland increased its Connector figures from 39,902 to over 60,000. This is an incredible increase considering that the Community Action Plan was the only new campaign ran by ConnectIreland that year. Connectors
have registered from across the globe thanks to the Community Action Plan, with strong numbers appearing from the U.S., Australia, Israel, the U.A.E, South Africa and the U.K.
Connector figures are just one aspect of the success the Community Action Plan has seen. To date, 25 of Connect Ireland’s 61 companies have relocated to areas outside of Dublin, in large part due to the Community Action Plan. Companies introduced to ConnectIreland have been shaped by the plan, this is most evident by the regional focus of relocating companies. There are several examples of this.
County Tipperary launched their Community Action Plan in December 2015 after several months of implementation. Not only were over 120 people present at the project launch night but one company based in the US was immediately
introduced as seeking a location in Ireland. This also shows how the Community Action Plan is recognised worldwide.
Likewise, a similar situation has occurred where companies have been introduced elsewhere in the country. New York based company Ciphertech’s announced their relocation to County Kilkenny in 2015. Again the introduction to this company was made as a result of the Community Action Plan and has resulted in 28 approved jobs for Kilkenny.
It is evident that the work being done by ConnectIreland at community level is having a positive effect not only on ConnectIreland but on Ireland’s overall image as an FDI venue.