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All for one and one for all

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

GET Local is a new platform to help small businesses tap into nearby resources, says Oliver Moore

By Oliver Moore

FOUR ‘green’ entrepreneurs are empowering communities racked by austerity to start new businesses. Their initiative is called ‘GET’Local (Generate Enterprise Together).

Launched last year, GETLocal has had an impact in Borrisokane and Lower Ormond, in Tipperary, with more places due soon. The idea is simple: provide a platform to help communities develop new local enterprises in crucial areas.

“Our mission is to reverse the outflow of wealth from the Irish economy, which will reduce energy, food and transport costs, and redirect spending power for the benefit of the local community,” they say.

GETLocal focuses on the localised, low-carbon economy. They aim to help unemployed people create their own enterprises, by sharing information, coaching, niche skills, start-up capital, back office services, and customers.

The focus has been on food, energy and transport. The GETLocal social franchise is the brainchild of Aidan O’Brien and Ross Rabette, who live in what is fast becoming Ireland’s eco-business hub, Cloughjordan.

Rabette, 37, wanted to set up bioenergy villages in Ireland. “I moved to Cloughjordan, knowing that I would meet like-minded people to work with there. Aidan O’Brien brought a distinct jobs focus.”

O’Brien specialises in construction with natural materials, and has built many of the houses in Cloughjordan’s eco-village. The two have been joined by Alice D’Arcy and Dave McDonnell. D’Arcy supports food enterprises, while McDonnell fund-raises.

D’Arcy has a PhD in environmental science, specialising in the environmental impact of food and farming.

“My work in ecology, environmental sustainability, and research made GETLocal attractive to me. I like the fact that it has joined up a lot of economic areas, and that empowering communities to run things themselves, using their own resources, is a key part of it. The ethos of collaboration is important,” she says.

McDonnell is fundraising in the US, capital which GETLocal will make available to new enterprises, in partnership with a lending institution. Rabette is a biosystems engineer, and has designed and installed district heating systems and renewable energy technologies.

Cloughjordan’s eco-village has a district heating system powered, each year, by 200 tonnes of woodchip, while eco-villagers and residents of Cloughjordan own and operate a community farm.

Rabette said of his experiences in Germany: “The bioenergy villages in Germany were certainly inspirational,” he says. “In Juhnde, for example, they use fermented energy crops and farm slurry for gas capture, which provides heat and electricity. The community ownership model is key to the success of over 50 bio-energy villages there.”

Rabette says there are sustainability issues with bioenergy villages — many plant and then cut the growth to generate energy. He says it’s possible to take the best of the energy-capture technology without destroying the locale. “With, for example, food waste composting for energy capture, or more sustainable woodland management practices, to thin, rather than clear-fell, the forests.”

Community ownership of resources is growing in Germany, where 50% of renewable energy is owned by individuals or communities. This provides one fifth of all of Germany’s electricity.

Rabette cites the sharing economy. How often does anyone use all their power tools? Pooling those tools into an easy-access library would be savvy.

Rabette says communities import massive amounts of energy through their food, transport and houses. Energy is money. “The average household consumes about 90,000kw hours of imported energy, and food is the biggest category of fossil-fuel dependence, at over 40,000. Transport is second, and in-house costs, such as heat and electricity, are third,” he says.

Borrisokane, a few miles from Cloughjordan, is the first town to which many of these eco-business ideas have diffused.

There was resistance to the idea initially. “Because of the potential green agenda. But most of the best business opportunities lie in the green economy anyway, so money talks.

“We mapped resources, found gaps, helped develop business models and sought out the right kind of people to deliver them. We put on collaborative start-your-own-business courses, which created lots of synergies”.

Rabette says people interested in retro-fitting can use materials sourced from the materials bank, to also make chicken coups, or wood-log stores. “So just by putting on these courses, we supported people, but they also supported each other.”

At the GETLocal office in the town, they have built back-of-house supports, including developing software systems for purchasing products and services, a database of customers, training, contracts, sites and innovative fundraising techniques.

The latter, spearheaded by McDonnell, is vital in an economy where banks are not lending significantly. These services are part of how GETLocal will generate its own income, after the start-up phase.

Concurrently, a range of connected, nascent businesses is developing. These include libraries — tools, arts and materials — and a community food compost service.

Is there space for such initiatives to blossom? Maybe it all comes back to the price of potatoes, as Rabette says. “Borrisokane is a big potato-growing area. Middle-men pay farmers here €200 a tonne. After the potatoes are driven to Belfast and then Dublin, for processing and packaging, the consumer, even in Borrisokane, pays €1,300 a tonne. Why not form a consumer hub and approach farmers with a price just over €200 a tonne? Or, approach a hub member to start growing potatoes for that price?”

D’Arcy says: “A lot of friends and colleagues have emigrated, there aren’t huge opportunities in my area. After my PhD, I was unemployed. I’m hoping to help create employment, to help people establish businesses, so people who don’t want to leave the country don’t have to.”


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I get asked a lot about my experience – which is hard to define – except to say I’ve 8 All Ireland medals and a few Irish nominations and of course the top EU eco-prize of The Green Flower Award (ISO14001) being one of only 125 in Europe. I enjoy being one of the emergency first aid responder (cardiac) pre-hospital team in the West Waterford area.

However my diplomas and certifications mean a lot to me too.

Lismore Community First Response Programme

 Curriculum Vitae of Peter O’Connor, Dec 2012

Glenribbeen Eco Lodge,



Co Waterford


058 54499                086 601 7176

Born; Drogheda-Co Louth. July 1956.



·    1974 completed Leaving Certificate De La Salle, Dundalk.

Irish educational achievements include; 1 HETAC, 6 x FETAC-6 diplomas, also one Scottish and two Dutch diplomas.


1978      National Certificate in Construction Studies        ……      …..       …….     Major    FETAC-6

1992     T.E.F.L. Teaching English as a Foreign Language   (TEFL Dipl)

Scottish International Learning Collage at Polsworth Gardens Edinburgh,..(Merit). (FETAC-6)

1993     Dutch National (All Boats) Certificate for Sail &  Speedboat and Sail Coaching.

2001     T.T.C.T. Teaching Traditional Irish Music. C.C.E. An Cultúrlán, Dublin. ….   ….     (FETAC-6)

2004     Completed modules in Master’s Degree in Domestic Sustainable Energy,

unfinished due to car accident.

2008     Building Energy Regulations exams. B.E.R. ……            …….     Meritorious        ……      (FETAC-6)

2009     Green Flower Award (E.U.) ISO14001  …..     European Commission Award

2010     Certificate in Tourism Business Practice……       Fáilte Ireland     ….        …         (HETAC-6)

2012     Nominee for Irish National ‘Tourism Business Challenge, finalist. Fáilte Ireland.

2011     Certificate in Sustainable Development … ECO-UNESCO….Meritorious   ….        (FETAC-5)

2011     Certificate in Renewable Energy Systems, Greenworks, Cork. …….         ….. ….  (FETAC-5)

2011     BSc in SME. RPL, WD-BSMEM_D Acceptance to degree course in WIT

2012    Capacity Building (Community Forums) Certificate of Completion.

2012     Manual Handling Instructor’s Certificate …Anderlift, Glanmire  .    Distinction   ….  (FETAC-6)

2012     Safe Pass (100% score).  …. Dungarvan Enterprise Board, Dungarvan ….

2012     Train the Trainer. MCX Training, Skillnet, Waterford…..    ……      Meritorious   …..(FETAC-6)

2012     HACCP Food Safety. FSPA, Kenturk via FC                   …….     Meritorious   ….  (FETAC-5)

2012     Microsoft Word 2007/10 Advanced. Waterford Chamber, Skillnet.

2012     First Aid (Community Responder) and Cardiac First Response (Pre-Hospital Emergency Care).

2012     e-Marketing and Promotion (evening course) WIT. Higher Certificate…    …..(FETAC-6)

2012     Heritage  Business (part-time) Postgraduate Certificate, Trinity St David, Wales.

Currently studying for a degree in tourism with Fáilte Ireland in W.I.T. (BSc Small Enterprise Management).

Presently helping to run Glenribbeen Eco Lodge B&B and Self-Catering, the only accommodation provider in south of Ireland with EU Eco Label (Green Flower Award).

Presently working as music teacher on a 1 on 1 basis and running a B&B+ Self Catering. I also teach archery and work with a Viking Re-enactment Society and am a First Aid Community Responder (FACR).

Career History

1978     Travelled extensively in Europe and N.Africa playing music and working at technical drawing jobs.

1980     Contracted for temporary work for 12 months in Amsterdam. Asked to stay on on a caretaker-basis while a work colleague travelled for a year. Stayed on primarily due to having been in a music band.

1982     Started ‘Small Building and Renovation Company’ renovating old Amsterdam Canal Houses and (later) classic boats; work came mostly via the museums and Amsterdam City Council. Some technical drawing for Fokker aircraft.

1986     Studied boat electronics and expanded renovation company (O’Connor Decoration) to include boat restoration

1998   Returned to Ireland. Purchased and renovated a property near Lismore Co. Waterford as B&B. Priority being the music school and eco-friendly-tourism. All renovations were designed to be as eco-friendly as possible and to further enhance the ‘green-build’ of the house as learned while studying Domestic Sustainable Energy course at Clonmel IT.

2007    Opened self-catering apartment under the B&B which sleeps 5.

2008     I worked hard to feature in RTE’s ‘At Your Service’ programme; they researched and selected our B&B business specifically due to our eco projects. Several repeats were broadcast.Also British TV (SkyTV) in Nov 2012.

2009 – 10       I’ve won various awards within the tourism industry (including Nomination for Small Business Enterprise Award 2010) and been accepted for BSC Small Business Enterprise degree course. 6 modules Enterprise, Networking and Marketing have been completed and passed so far.

2011     I have passed two modules in ECO UNESCO Sustainable Development.

Our Ethos is to create a holiday environment that doesn’t cost the earth.

                          I believe that we can provide a holiday experience without the footprint.

Ongoing:     Developing eco-projects and alternate fuels. We received E.U. ‘Green Flower Flag’ for Ecological Accommodation Businesses in spring 2009. It is the only ‘Green Flag’ south of Leitrim and one of only 125 in Europe. We were also awarded The Irish Green Hospitality (Gold) Award 2010 and the Georgina Campbell ‘good food’ Award. My work for the “Certificate in Tourism Business Practice” meant I won a nomination for the Fáilte Ireland Business Enterprise Awards 2010.

Presently:      working as music & archery teacher privately with individuals and in small groups, member of Lismore Community Response Team. I have been Class Representative for our BSc class WIT since Sept 2011.

Hobbies include: playing various musical instruments, archery, orienteering, water sports (Advanced PADI), working on ecological projects – my own and those of friends and neighbours.

For entertainment I watch rugby and hurling, I also like to garden and read. I run an eco-blog.

 I run FaceBook Pages Glenribbeen, Knockmealdown Vee.