IUSA CONFERENCE 2015: Leadership in Creativity and Innovation
By Declan Dunne, IUSA Vice President and Conference Chair
We were delighted with the excellent feedback from delegates whom spoke of their enjoyment of the fourth annual conference of the IUSA took place on Saturday 24th January at the Intercontinental Hotel Ballsbridge. One hundred and eight people turned out in their own time for the event. Declan Dunne Vice President of the IUSA welcomed delegates and set the tone for a relaxing but stimulating morning. He reminded everyone present of the commitment of the IUSA to the Ireland United States relationship and set the scene for the conference theme.
Declan introduced Niamh Bushnell the newly appointed Start up Champion for Dublin highlighting her achievement as a serial entrepreneur and the recognition she has received in the US and in Ireland. Niamh’s keynote address recounted her journey in creating new products and services and going on to establish and support businesses in her field. The audience was impressed with her energy and perseverance to start up and stick with significant projects from conception through to commercialisation and sustainability.
He then introduced Bryan Dobson RTE Sixone TV news anchor who had kindly agreed to give freely of his time to moderate the panel discussion. Bryan went on to introduce the Panel members, Superintendent Collette Quinn, DCU President Brian MacCraith, TCD School of Education PhD student and Alternative Miss Ireland Sinead Burke, and Social Entrepreneur and Presidential appointee to the Council of State Ruairi McKiernan. With typical skill and professionalism Bryan Dobson drew out from the panel members examples of their creative process and innovations across their wide ranging sectors.
Colette Quinn talked about her work in collaboration with the FBI and how she was involved in bringing back learning from the US and leading the implementation of the Garda Cycle Unit which was a big innovation at that time in Ireland. There was keen attention and lots of laughter from the audience as Bryan encouraged the panel members to share insights into the practical challenges of leading innovation in their organisation and he was challenged playfully about his own work in leading change.
Brian MacCraith spoke about leading a third level institution, making the connections with key business leaders who go on to employ graduates, understanding the skills they wanted from graduates and changing the course connect to make that happen. He spoke of business leaders initial disappointment with some graduates in terms of their communication skills, their problem solving skills and ability to apply the learning in practical ways in the work place. He described how he went back to DCU and added modules to every course address the acquisition of these and other key skills. He described the e-passport which allowed students progressively document their progress in developing these competencies.
Sinead Burke, a little person, described to the audience her first day as a primary school teacher in inner city Dublin where the students were taller than her. When challenged why she was so short she asked the pupil “Why are you a boy?” When he replied he was born that way, she replied “Well I was born this way”. Sinead enthralled the audience with her passion for her PhD subject which looks at learner centred education and empowering the learner voice.
Ruairi McKiernan, a serial social entrepreneur and a challenging voice for Ireland realising its full potential not just as an economy but as a society spoke about what we have lost in the crash. Clearly driven from higher order values he challenged us, inspired us and made us laugh. His humility, courage and honesty was refreshing as reflecting on past successes he described the process of breaking down everything you currently do and conceive of to make space for a new reality you have not yet conceived of. Wow.
Bryan Dobson moderated a lively audience discussion with a queue of delegates waiting their turn to participate. As it evolved the subject of innovation in the educational system was the overwhelmingly most popular subject.
As we moved into the ballroom for lunch Siobhan Byrne Learat the President of the IUSA took up her position on the second stage of the conference. She spoke passionately of the work of the IUSA and Ireland US relationship and introduced US Ambassador to Ireland Kevin O’Malley. The Ambassadors own family story of his grandparents leaving Ireland for the US with nothing and his pride at returning as US Ambassador had the audience enthralled. He spoke about the importance of the TTIP transatlantic trade agreement and encouraged support for it.
Siobhan and the Ambassador presented both awards and we were again wowed by the amazing international achievement of these IUSA alumni. Finally we were entertained over coffee by The Young Folk back from the US South by South West music festival in Austin Texas, one of only six emerging bands selected to represent Ireland.