An Chroí Digital Hub offers top-notch remote working spaces, meeting areas, podcast equipment, training and more.
In the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, digital hubs have popped up across the country – but there aren’t many spaces like An Chroí in Ireland, and certainly few of them in rural communities like Tubbercurry. An Chroí, a completely volunteer-led social enterprise in Sligo, proves that community digitisation is well worth the investment.
“It’s about enabling the community to thrive economically – that’s important, of course – and socially as well,” Joann Hosey, a board member of An Chroí, tells us.
Ultimately, their goal is to create a natural, professional ecosystem where professionals have the opportunity to collaborate and lean on each other’s expertise.
For An Chroí, the ball started rolling in 2019 when Tubbercurry was named the first Smart Community by the Department of Rural and Community Development. Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic brought the initiative to a near-standstill – but the volunteers behind the project were determined to bring An Chroí to life. Joann Hosey, a board member of An Chroí, worked closely with other community members to secure public funding for the project wherever it was available, including the DigiWest, AEC Smart Village and Community Pilot and Connected Hubs.
“What we’ve delivered in a small town like Tubbercurry is state-of-the-art,” Joann tells us, “and I’m proud that we’ve done it as volunteers. I [worked on this initiative] because I love Tubbercurry, and I want to give something back, and I want to help Tubbercurry to thrive in the future – and this is my way of doing that.”
After securing investment, the working group invested in 500 MB broadband, a total upgrade of all the shared spaces within the office and a podcast creation studio. They also invested in excellent tech in all meeting spaces, including smart podiums, smart TVs, cameras, speakers, and microphones – making it an excellent space for meetings, both physical and virtual, as well as training and instruction.
The shift towards digital, accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic, makes spaces like this all the more necessary and welcome, especially in rural communities. An Chroí is designed to foster collaboration, inspiration and professional growth – and Joann hopes that with time, working professionals in the community will start taking full advantage of it as a resource. It’s an ideal space, with twelve desk spaces for remote working and eight private offices.
It’s not all about remote working at An Chroí, though – at its heart, it’s a community space.
Joann emphasizes that the volunteer board is involved in the project “because we want the community to thrive. We want to create internal momentum that will spill out into the community – it’s that positive impact we can have on the community if we get it right” that motivates them.
Now that in-person events are back on the table, the team behind An Chroí are committed to creating that momentum. Their efforts span across the community. An Chroí host’s regular on-site training sessions for seniors to learn the basics of getting online, from managing their devices to Internet safety. They’re also working with local schools to help transition year students utilise the technology – and especially the podcast studio – as part of their enterprise projects.
“We’re looking across the spectrum, to all cohorts of society from your youth to seniors to everyone in between, including small businesses who could really benefit from having access to training and upskilling in things like podcast and video creation,” Joann says.
At the moment, An Chroí is building out a program to help small businesses create podcasts, videos, and content to support their marketing efforts.
An Chroí is a smart organisation with the goal of helping everyone – from working professionals and students to community groups and local businesses – come together to collaborate, connect, and make the most of the opportunity that exists online and through digitisation. With a bright and welcoming space, state-of-the-art tech equipment, and a group of dedicated volunteers driving it on, An Chroí is a brilliant example of the potential impact social enterprises can have on the community.
Find out more at www.anchroi.ie