Rural Action has been inspired by Teresa Canavan who tells an interesting story of how she and other many like-minded individuals got involved in local community action with the aim of bettering the rural area where she lives.

Teresa’s story begins…

The Opening Chapter

I’m not really sure how I got to University or why I chose Business Studies as my course of study. I guess it was a matter of not having an alternative plan and somehow just going with the flow.

Similarly, when it came to an end, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. Good luck however would have it that for some reason on a cold October evening in 1995 I went along to a public community meeting in the local preschool nursery.

Teresa Canavan

I remember leaving excited about the possibilities of what we could do however it wasn’t until the next meeting that my true inspiration and motivation came.

Two external people came to that meeting. They were from an organisation, established by government, called the Rural Development Council (RDC).

I listened attentively as they discussed the opportunity and potential for community development, for rural communities, of what can and could be achieved by collective action and how we as community citizens had a role to play in shaping our own community.

I joined the local community group and managed to get a volunteer opportunity with RDC and over time I became the receptionist and after a number of attempts I secured my first full time position as ‘Field Officer’ on the Peace One Programme with RDC in 1998. Fast forward to 2013 and I became the CEO.

I wouldn’t say I was career driven, but rather I had a strong sense of drive and determination, to always want to somehow make a difference and to find ways to work with communities, to help and support them to realise their vision (either that or I wore them down with the constant I have an idea…!).

I will be forever grateful for the opportunities and experiences that RDC provided for me and to the wonderful team of Board and Staff that I had the good fortune to work with during my 20+ years there.

I will not lie the closure of RDC due to a pension deficit was very sad. Although in the end not unexpected, as the pension had cast a dark shadow over the organisation for many years, the thought of closing was, probably in reality, worse than the actual process of closure itself.

I don’t think anyone involved in closing an organisation can ever really shake off that feeling of responsibility whatever the reason for closure may be. But that story has now ended, and that chapter has closed. I won’t dwell too much on the past, important as it is and has been in shaping the future, I am ready (and immensely excited) for a new chapter.

The New Chapter

Rural Action is borne out of a continued desire to make a positive contribution to the everyday lives of rural communities. We want to work with, support and help communities in any way we can.

The initial drive, enthusiasm and motivation that I experienced that cold October evening never really left me. I still firmly believe that rural people are best placed to identify their own solutions to rural need and with the right ‘can do’ help and support, positive things can happen.

I was asked on many occasions about my intentions primarily whether I would establish a consultancy business but for me that was never really an option. My whole career has been built around community action of some form or other, about engaging people and communities to build a better future, so for me there was only ever one option and that was to establish a not for profit social purpose company that has rural people and places at its very heart and important to this a desire to surround myself with likeminded, motivated and driven individuals ‘actioneers’ both in terms of Board and Staff.

What’s in the Name

Our focus is on ‘rural’ and we are about doing, about making things happen and so the word ‘action’ fitted the brief and Rural Action was formed.

Consequently, RDC was borne out of a government backed Rural Action Project carried out in the late 1980s and whilst this had no influence at the time, it somehow gives further impetus to the name.

Rural Action BG

The Meaning Behind the Logo

What I also learned from that cold October evening was that when people rally and unite for a common cause it sparks drive and motivation that is much greater than the sum of each individual person.

Teamwork is vital and so the image selected to represent Rural Action symbolises the importance of teams, of working together and collaborating. It is this sense of working as a team whether at Board, Committee, Community or Work level that continues to inspire me to go beyond what I thought was possible. So, from that initial team of 11 formed on that cold October evening to the wonderful staff team of 11 that closed the door on RDC with me, this is for you, now and in the future.

Teresa Canavan
Founder I CEO
Rural Action