Today we walked along the “peace wall” in the Shankill Road area of Northern Ireland. This experience provided a strong illustration of just how divided the communities in Northern Ireland still are. There is such an emphasis on the need for change within society and among community organizations dealing with ‘at risk’ youth, yet the people hold strong opposing views on the creation of a truly integrated community. As long as the people of Northern Ireland are resistant to changing the way they think and hold onto the history of the troubles and political battles, the possibility of a greater change in community interest organizations is nonexistent.
In meeting with members of community serving organizations, the lack of communication and collaboration with other agencies was identified as a hindrance in the larger societal goal of creating change to impact youth. It was stated that the upcoming budget cuts will force such collaboration and consolidation of resources, which was viewed as a “good thing”. The fact that the people of Northern Ireland are merely “waiting” for a drastic economic downfall to unite them is beyond unfortunate.
This experience has opened my eyes to how the field of IO can contribute to the larger societal aim of Northern Ireland: uniting the people to serve the community. Organizations can be restructured to enhance inter-agency communication and promote collaboration on mutually exclusive goals. In essence, it is not about the money or self service. I want to use my skills to help other communities and cultures in need of systemic, formalized models in order to make sense of their highly uncertain and unstructured environments. This experience made me realize this personal goal and has driven me to bring allow others to “see the light” as well, and I will be forever grateful for that.