Computer Clubhouse burns bright in the heart of the Liberties

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News has been nothing short of depressing in recent times; surely it’s not all bad.  Communities are in need of some cheerful, inspirational stories.  ‘The Computer Clubhouse’ is one such story with lots to offer local kids in The Liberties.

Although it has been around since 2003, there hasn’t been enough said about this Clubhouse.  It is based in Rainsford Street, in the heart of The Liberties.  It is a community-run state of the art multimedia technology centre for young people aged from 8-18 years old, from the under-served south west inner city.   It came about through Media Lab Europe, part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  A European branch next door at the Digital Hub led on to a partnership between Media Lab and the South West Inner City Network (SWICN.)  They connected with the local community and Computer Clubhouse was born.

The ideology behind the Clubhouse is a constructivist approach to learning.  The young people come in and design, create and invent projects including music production, web design and electronics.  The ‘mentors’ teach the kids and look for that special quality and develop it into a skill whether it is artistic, inventive or management.

Janice Feighery is the Manager of the Clubhouse in The Liberties “We do all the traditional youth work as in the personal development of young people but layered on top of that is training.  All the leading international companies in industry and academia have come together and created a framework and a vision of education for the future, 21st century learning, a digital fluency.   That’s what we are offering the young people here.”

“It’s a place of creativity and exploration through a range of projects and to encourage that sense of play that kids have since kindergarten.  There are always pockets of activity going on and not just producing one project, they have individual projects.  There are only 105 of these centres globally but we all collaborate online.  There is a biennial event, a teen summit held in Boston where 300 teens come to collaborate on ideas; three people from this centre went as teen ambassadors in July this year. “

Programmes such as ‘One World Week’, ‘Adobe Youth Voices’,  ‘FIRST LEGO League’, ‘Clubhouse to College and Career’ are going on throughout the year with many opportunities such as scholarships to continue their education.   Events planned such as the recent “Dublin 8 is Great” have been a huge success with an impromptu meet up with Mary Mc Aleese on the day.

This event was set up by a team including Abdul Hassan, 19, with a donation from Starbucks of €2000 to come up with an idea to change their community.  They set up a six week campaign on Facebook which now has over 500 fans.  It was a youth led project with the youths learning firsthand project management skills and the chance to become social entrepreneurs.

Liam O’Dwyer of the Irish Youth Foundation supported the project and said “The passion and enthusiasm of the group for the project, which they identified and lead, was really extraordinary: they mentored some …of the younger children and engaged different adults in the enterprise. In the Irish Youth Foundation we believe in young people and the power of change: give them the resources and they will flourish, lead, excite and succeed”.

Also, local youth, Rebecca Nolan, 16, had a letter published in a book, “With Love, From Me…To Me”, in aid of the Irish Youth Foundation.  The launch of the book took place on November 3rd with a host of leading personalities including Miriam O Callaghan, Brian Keenan, Damien Dempsey and Bill Cullen attending.

The Computer Clubhouse has been a challenging development as it offers a lot more than just a youth centre.  With technology rapidly advancing, innovating youth centres like this one are needed in every community.

‘The Computer Clubhouse’

Media Lab Europe, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

digital hub


Irish Youth Foundation

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