New Programme Designed to Empower Women

New Programme Designed to Empower Women

A free programme of workshops, targeted primarily at rural women in the Mid Ulster District Council area, is starting later this month.  

Hosted by the Northern Ireland Rural Women’s Network (NIRWN), the bespoke #SELFIE programme begins on Tuesday 22 September in Magherafelt and Thursday 24 September in Cookstown, with the aim of helping participants feel more confident, find it easier to develop relationships at individual and group level and ultimately voice their own concerns.

The sessions will include a range of workshops on building confidence, exploration of good relations, inspirational guest speakers, feminism and leadership skills. All social distancing guidance and government advice will be facilitated and adhered to for the duration of the nine-week programme.

NIRWN Director Louise Coyle said, “In this instance SELFIE is an anacronym (self-esteem, leadership, friendship, influence and empowerment), but also came from a statistic that most women will take just over 40 selfie photos before finding one they are happy to post on their social media. This clearly spoke to us of a lack of confidence women feel in their daily lives and the pressure they are under to conform. 

“By the end of the nine-week programme participants should feel more confident in their abilities, feel more supported in their role in society and work towards being effective agents of change and civic leaders in their communities.”

This is a project supported by the European Union’s PEACE IV Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB) and match-funded by the Department of Rural and Community Development in Ireland and The Executive Office in Northern Ireland.

Places are limited and primarily open to women in the Mid-Ulster District Council area. Register at

Picture caption: Lorraine Griffin, MUDC Peace IV Partnership; Deirdre Mc Cann, MUDC Peace IV & Good Relations; Louise Coyle, Director NIRWN; Charmain Jones, RCN launch the NIRWN #SELFIE programme of free training programmes starting w/c 21 September in Magherafelt and Cookstown. Sign up for free at
Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend to Take Place Virtually

Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend to Take Place Virtually

This year’s Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend, which was originally postponed due to Covid-19 restrictions will now become Bank of Ireland Virtual Farm Weekend and be held virtually from Friday 31 July – Sunday 2 August.  

Although visitors cannot physically attend farms, the online activities shown throughout the weekend on Open Farm Weekend’s social media channels and website will still give the public the chance to connect with up to 18 farms from across the province. 

Online viewers will get the chance to discover the wonderful range of fresh farm produce from Northern Ireland and celebrate our food heroes by interacting online with farmers who have been providing vital food and drink supplies over the last number of months.

Throughout this year’s event there will be a chance to see specific farm activities such as robotic milking, grain harvesting, sheep shearing, virtual farm tours, wildlife watching and potato harvesting, as well as a special programme of live activities. 

Led by the Ulster Farmers’ Union, the free Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend initiative, now in its ninth year, has highlighted working farms particularly to those from a non-farming background, showing the story behind our food and helping to cultivate an understanding of quality farming practices. 

Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend chairman and UFU deputy president David Brown added; “Although Covid-19 has changed the format of this year’s Bank of Ireland Virtual Farm Weekend, we believe the virtual activities will still capture its spirt and ethos and ultimately showcase our farming industry and the wonderful work our farmers do. Having the ‘live’ element is an exciting twist to help farms engage directly with the public and show them what it’s really like to live and work on a busy farm. 

“We’re delighted to be able to continue with this new format as it lets us achieve our aim of putting Northern Ireland food and its producers at the forefront of the minds of the consumer. We encourage everyone to get behind Bank of Ireland Virtual Farm Weekend 2020 and show farms and farm families how much we value the outstanding contribution they make to the whole community.”

Sponsors for Virtual Farm Weekend 2020 include: 

Bank of Ireland UK | Asda | NFU Mutual | Livestock and Meat Commission NI (LMC) | Moy Park

Irish Farmers’ Journal

More information on Bank of Ireland Virtual Farm Weekend at 

Global Design Leaders Bring Innovation Event to Belfast

Global Design Leaders Bring Innovation Event to Belfast

One of the world’s leading design driven innovation companies, The Design Thinkers Academy, who counts Nike, Google, Philips and Shell as clients, is partnering with Big Motive in Belfast to create Design Thinkers Academy Ireland, with tickets for its first event now live.

Hosted in The Mac, the two-day event on Tuesday 7 and Wednesday 8 April will give participants fundamental skills to develop and deliver change, generate innovative ideas and build the mindset required to tackle big challenges within their organisations.

Founded in Amsterdam, The Design Thinkers Academy is represented in 18 countries worldwide and has involved more than 25,000 design thinkers in its global events. Its aim is to help ambitious teams make the transition from being strictly product orientated and sales driven, towards being service orientated and human centred.

Design thinking is being adopted into the Northern Irish business terminology aided by the work carried out by Big Motive over the last 10 years. Although brands such as Coca-Cola, Allstate, Seagate, Failte Ireland and Catalyst all work with Big Motive’s customer experience consultancy, the pace of change in Northern Ireland remains slow, something Damian Cranney, managing partner of Big Motive is keen to address.

He says, “Indigenous Northern Irish businesses have been slower to adopt design at a leadership level despite the fact it can radically help nurture innovation, create business sustainability, and foster opportunities for growth. However, design thinking is showing up in Ivy league schools as a fundamental element of business education and is also a huge aspect of how the world’s leading tech companies are creating more customer-centred products and services. Thankfully this mindset is reaching Northern Ireland through the FDI community as well as pricking the interest of the business and engineering facilities in Queens and Ulster University.

“Every organisation whether public sector, private sector or start-up should realise the importance of design thinking to de-risk innovation and adapt an experimental approach to creating service experience built around their customers. The course we are delivering will provide practical tools to help build this mindset so that participants can implement what they’ve learned, lead change and inspire growth within their companies. The fact that we are partnering with global leaders on the subject is a real coup and something we are proud and very excited about.”

Catalyst Searches for Northern Irish Innovators with Invent Competition

Catalyst Searches for Northern Irish Innovators with Invent Competition

Catalyst launches its annual Invent competition and is hoping to attract more than 100 innovators and entrepreneurs from across Northern Ireland. 

Sponsored by Bank of Ireland UK, Invent, now in its 11th year shows no signs of losing momentum. Created to discover products with strong innovation and global commercial potential, more than 1,200 applicants have already been through the process since its inception in 2009.

Headline partner for the competition, Gavin Kennedy, Head of Business Banking, Northern Ireland at Bank of Ireland UK commented “We are very excited to continue our partnership on Invent 2020, as we embark into a new decade of discovery for the next wave of innovative commercial ideas in Northern Ireland.  For us, this is about contributing to and being an integral part of a community designed to enable growth in knowledge, confidence and opportunities for Northern Ireland’s innovative and entrepreneurial talent. Innovation, creative thinking and agility are fast becoming a necessity for all businesses and each year’s applicants continue to inspire the local business community as we strive for a vibrant sustainable economy in Northern Ireland.”

One Invent success story is CropSafe, an AI- and satellite-based farming solution invented by John McElhone (19) and Micheál McLaughlin (19). Since winning the Agri-Science category in Invent 2019, these two school friends have seen their product go from strength to strength and are launching it internationally later this month. 

CropSafe is a mobile app that utilises artificial intelligence and satellite imagery to photograph crops from over 100 satellites orbiting the earth. The CropSafe app provides farmers with detailed reports on their crop health, giving them tools to accurately detect diseases and predict yields weeks in advance.

Over the next 12 months, the duo will be working extensively with farmers globally to tailor CropSafe as a solution to fit into the average farmers’ everyday lives. Many rural farms are without an internet connection and CropSafe is utilising a special fleet of satellites and cellular networks to bring modern crop surveying to the most remote farms on earth.

Initially believing they were too small and early stage to enter Invent, John and Micheál continued with the application and were delighted with the outcome.

John McElhone said, “No matter how new your idea, business or product, Invent is the competition for you. Throughout the process, Catalyst guided us through workshops and mentor meetings to refine our idea into a real-life working product. The partners that worked with us provided amazing legal and financial advice from Bank of Ireland UK to shortcut some steep learning curves. The key to making Invent work is have a vision for the next 12 months, and then think bigger.”

Micheál McLaughlin added, “Also the moral support from the Catalyst team and the start-ups together provides a buzz that is hard to recreate outside other programmes. You will meet new friends and being so close with them on their start-ups journey makes for an amazing community!”

The Invent competition offers the applicants from a range of sectors including Engineering, Agri-Science, Life & Health, Enterprise software, Electronics and Creative media the opportunity to get support, gain valuable exposure to a network of business experts and influencers and potentially scoop part of the £33,000 prize fund. 

Invent is open to anyone who is a resident of Northern Ireland and offers an opportunity for enthusiastic and passionate innovators and entrepreneurs to be part of a unique competition.

Bank of Ireland Renews Title Sponsorship of Open Farm Weekend

Bank of Ireland Renews Title Sponsorship of Open Farm Weekend

Open Farm Weekend, which takes place on Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 June is delighted to announce that Bank of Ireland is continuing its title sponsorship of the province-wide agri-food initiative.

Led by the Ulster Farmers’ Union, the initiative, now in its 9th year, seeks to reconnect the public with where their local food comes from and offers an opportunity to meet the farmers and processors who produce it.

Edwin Poots, Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs said: ‘It is vital that we as an industry help to educate and make consumers aware of the work of the agri-food industry and share how our high quality, nutritious and award winning food is produced. My Department’s continued support in the delivery of Open farm Weekend helps meet that task.

“I thank the Bank of Ireland for their continued commitment to this important initiative, to the Ulster Farmers’ Union in leading delivery along with all the other supporting partners. To the farms that are participating, I know that it can be daunting opening up your farms to the general public but I commend the hard work and passion that the host farms put into making the weekend so successful.”

To date over 100,000 people, including children via the schools programme, have visited working farms in Northern Ireland to hear the story behind our food and gain an understanding of our world-renowned, quality farming practices. Visitors also gain insights into how the countryside is being shaped and cared for and the current strength of Northern Ireland’s ‘food tourism’ potential.

Richard Primrose, Bank of Ireland UK Agri-Business Manager, said; “Bank of Ireland is committed to supporting all agri-food related businesses through a range of products and services. We understand how vital this industry is to the rural communities within NI. The growth and prosperity of the wider NI economy also relies heavily on a thriving agri-food industry. Now more than ever, consumers are keen to learn about where their local produce originates from and we believe that Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend provides the perfect opportunity to practically illustrate and educate consumers on how our local food is produced. It also provides a fantastic opportunity for farmers who are keen to showcase their business and build relationships with people from their local community.

“Our support demonstrates our commitment to the local agriculture industry. We know the hard work that farmers put into running their businesses and initiatives like Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend help to engage with the public and encourages more support towards local produce, which in turn benefits the farmers.”

Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend chairman and UFU deputy president David Brown added; “We are delighted that Bank of Ireland recognises the importance of this initiative and we are indebted to them for their continued support. To have their backing helps us to plan ahead, build on our brand awareness and attract new audiences to want to visit our participating farms. Their support has allowed this fantastic event to grow and we are thrilled to see new host farms continuing to come on-board for 2020.

Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend was established in 2012 to showcase our farming industry and the wonderful work our farmers do. Its focus is to help the public, particularly those from a non-farming background to better understand how our food is produced and to raise awareness of how supply chains work, through our local food industry.  The passion and enthusiasm, shown by farm participants over the years, not only for farming but also for the whole experience of opening up their farms for Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend has been truly inspirational.” 

Pulse PR Hits the Press

Pulse PR Hits the Press

Pulse PR started 2020 off to a great start with a cover story spread in leading business magazine, Ulster Business.

Celebrating its 10th year in business in 2020, Managing Director, Grainne McGarvey shared her journey since establishing the business, her evolving client portfolio and what the future holds. Over the last decade Pulse PR has worked with some of Ireland’s leading brands including O’Brien’s, Argento, Applegreen and Belleek and has also had success with start-up companies in the digital and tech sectors. The future is bright as Pulse PR continues to provide excellent results for businesses across Northern Ireland and is looking forward to another successful decade in the industry.  

Grainne McGarvey says, “People told me that I was crazy going out on my own in the midst of a financial downturn but ten years on and I’m delighted to say I have weathered the storm. There have been twists and turns along the way but overall the journey has been a positive one. Communications change with every new year but that’s what keeps it interesting. I’m looking forward to seeing what challenges and opportunities the next ten years will bring.”

Check out the full interview here.