Smarter Cities Challenge Team Experiences a Slice of Limerick and Irish Cultural Heritage

Arriving in Limerick just over two weeks ago, the team came with little context outside of the challenge goals, past tourist visits and what we read in preparation for the Limerick Smarter Cities Challenge.

We have had the good fortune to gain context through our interactions with the Limerick City and County Council, the dedicated people we met during our 42 interviews and through meeting a lot of the Limerick locals.  While this will prove the most significant in allowing us to get a better sense of cultural context, we also had experiences that added a great deal of spice.

During the weekend of May 14/15 and May 21/22 we started with a walking tour of Limerick and in the afternoon, visited the historic Bunratty Castle.  The walking tour brought the team to historic Saint Mary’s Cathedral and to a tour of King John’s Castle, including the strategic importance the castle played in the history of the region.  Bunratty was much more than a walking tour.  The team attended a banquet that included amazing entertainment with history interwoven throughout the evening.  Two of the team members were the King and Queen for the evening!  The King and Queen maintained order throughout the land by sentencing “offenders” dance in front of the court!  Yes, a good time was had by all.

Sunday May 15 landed the team in Dublin, with visits to the historic Trinity College, a viewing of the Book of Kells, the historic library it is housed in, and of course a visit to Dublin Castle.  The place in Irish history of Trinity College and the Dublin Castle became a bit more clear with the help of our guide through the city of Dublin and provided us even more historical context.

On Saturday May 21, we went to the stunning Cliffs of Moher on the Atlantic coast of Ireland.  The trip over and back brought us past ancient castles and keeps, each with histories contributing in their own way to what has become modern Ireland.  The Cliffs of Moher however was breathtaking and needed no historical backdrop to appreciate.  On Sunday, a trip to picturesque Adare provided a relaxed view into small town life topped off with a lesson in the proper way to make Irish coffee.

With just a few days left to deliver our recommendations to our new friends here in Limerick, it has become clear we have all become invested in Limerick’s success.

 

And now …… the anecdote!

We all prepared thoroughly for our trip to Ireland.  This of course included packing for a wide variety of activities and events. There’s only one catch….if you pack it, you must remember not to leave your sport coat hanging in the back seat of the car that drops you at the airport.

 

 

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Who is Limerick?

Limerick has Ireland’s fastest aging population.  By 2046, the population of the 65+ age group will grow by 263%.  This conjures up images of streets filled with walkers and wheel chairs, but that is most definitely not the case.  With 42% of the population under 30, there is the vibrancy evident within the city.  Limerick hosts 18,000 students as part of this demographic, flavoring the city the college town vibe found the world over.

Based on a week of meeting various agency and academic representatives, along with seniors actively advocating for their needs, we can state with confidence that the vibrancy we experience is a result of this community as well.  That does not diminish the needs of this population in any way.  Rather the way we have come to view the seniors we have met has perhaps shifted somewhat.  We see the seniors contributing to the life of the city in significant ways, it’s just that they collectively wish to have the opportunity to contribute to this vibrancy more.  From what we have witnessed, they most definitely can and will.  The barriers to achieving this share a common theme, which we will share once we meet with more of the stakeholders invested in transitioning Limerick into a premier “Age Friendly City”.

And now for the anecdote!  In one of our meetings with a member of the Older Persons Council, we met a gentleman who not only teaches dancing, but dances with a frequency that would be the envy of any active athlete!  Animated and full of stories to share, there are few who could keep up with him on our best days!  Evidence that the city vibe comes from the talents of all its residents.

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First Impressions – Limerick

With our first two days on the ground and in the field in Limerick, first impressions have been very powerful and humbling.  We have been greeted by city leadership and organizations who serve the aging population of Limerick with warmth and clear commitment to the vitality of Limerick.  The clear successes of the vision to revitalize Limerick are evident throughout this historic city, and the drive to ensure the aging population is part of that revitalization is why we are here as partners to all those who share in that vision.

Limerick leadership is clear in their goal to get out ahead of the rapidly growing population of their aging citizens, not because they see this as a problem, rather an opportunity to engage this population as equal partners to ensure an outcome that elevates the overall quality of life in the greater metro Limerick area.  What we have seen and heard in just two days leaves no doubt this will be achieved.

All that said, no initial blog entry is complete with anecdotes….. On arrival in Limerick, one of our team members opened her suit case only to discover that the powdered health drink mix had exploded during the flight to Ireland.  What does one do when their clothes are covered in powder?  Well one vacuums them of course!

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Smarter City Challenge Limerick, Ireland

Ireland
SCC Limerick is LIVE!

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You Decide….

So, is this an example of

A.)  Australian dry sense of humor,

B.)  Poor calculations of bicycle stopping distance ???  !!!

 

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Art, food, and wildlife

We are already in our third week in Melbourne, and I think it is fair to say we have definitely used any time off we have had to explore the city. This is such a walkable city; our feet have taken us all over the CBD (Central Business District) to try new things and explore. I feel like I have been making personal connections with the city itself, reflected in three main areas that have made my short visit special: art, food, and wildlife.

Art

Before I came, I didn’t quite understand what street art really meant. After seeing various parts of the city throughout our “walk-abouts”, I am beginning to get an inkling. The street art in Melbourne is not only for others to view; it also expresses the very core of the individual who has left it there. It is an ongoing story of the city and its residents, one which I have really grown to appreciate!

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Art along South Bank

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Images are everywhere!

Food

Someone told us today that if we were to eat at one Melbourne restaurant each day, starting when we were very young, we still wouldn’t get through them all by the time we leave this planet – and I believe it! We are definitely spoilt for choice here, with cuisine available from any country. We can eat at a cute sidewalk table in one of Melbourne’s many lanes, at a nice restaurant, or on the go (“take-away”) – seemingly any time of day. This city seems even more vibrant than many other cities I have traveled to around the world. Foodies, you have to put Melbourne on your bucket list! I wonder how many more places I can get to in our last week here, between work and sleep?

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Queen Victoria Market – a treasure trove!

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Enjoying a gelato after a long day…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wildlife

We had the pleasure of venturing outside the CBD and visiting beautiful Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary today! Among the wildlife we saw were wallabies, wombats, Tasmanian devils, emus, and koalas. Some of us had the privilege of feeding the kangaroos as well! I got to know Kiki the kangaroo; she greatly enjoyed the goodies I was given to feed her. A very memorable experience indeed. I am so grateful to be able to see such wonderful creatures in one spot; the Sanctuary is doing great work! Thank you!

Kangaroo feeding Melbourne

Feeding time at the Healesville Sanctuary

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Week 2 in Melbourne

After a very intense week of work (including Saturday!) we have been really fortunate to have had two truly unique experiences!

This morning, we had the great opportunity to visit the Front Yard Youth Services – part of the Melbourne City Mission.  MCM has been helping the citizens of Melbourne for over 150 years.  Front Yard is a one-of-a-kind integrated services facility that addresses the physical, social and emotional needs of young people aged between 12 and 25 years.  Over 7,000 youth visited Front Yard last year, and the MCM team helped another 10,000 by phone – primarily homeless kids.  We were all genuinely touched by the powerful impact the MCM team has had on the youth and tough job they do every day.

The team gave us a tour of their facility (within a couple blocks of our hotel) and we had a roundtable discussion with the staff covering a wide range of IT, social media, and business model transformation topics.  We left with a renewed spirit, and a special place in our hearts for this fantastic work.

Friday evening, a couple of us were able to attend the Australian Football League match between #1 North Melbourne Kangaroos and #2 Western Bulldogs.  The scene in Etihad Stadium was incredibly exciting.  As this was our first ever “footy” experience, we were thoroughly impressed with the intense, fast paced nature of the game!  I’ve already told my American friends that these footy players are tougher and play a harder game than both soccer and American football!!

Sadly, we had to leave before the match was over to get back to work (we all got back together in our team room from 10pm to 12:30am!) – but returned with a deeper appreciation for the Australian athlete!

 

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