Key Focus of MenConnect Programme

In 2020, the Men’s Development Network initiated a new programme MenConnect with Healthy Ireland Waterford in the West Waterford area. Though its rollout was impacted by COVID-19, it was due to finish in November 2021. We hope to develop this into a regional or national programme over the next couple of years.

Supporting men to strengthen relationships and practice self-care.

The Men’s Development Network aimed to roll out its “MenConnect” programme over an 18-month period, with the programme consisting of:

1. Men’s Development and Support Programme
2. Training and Development
3. Self-care and awareness
4. Capacity building
5. Awareness raising and activism

Operating on a pilot basis, the MenConnect programme intends to develop a template for engaging with men’s groups.

MenConnect is about delivering a development programme targeted at men that will increase their individual confidence and help them to network with other men in their area.

The programme will also signpost men to various health services and social groups to connect them to their community.

Over the course of the programme, various other inputs are included to ensure these men can engage in services and possibly act as advocates for each other.

There is also a capacity-building element in which potential leaders can be identified and further developed to engage other men.

A number of key inputs will be our 7 Key Questions programme, New Conversations with Men, and our ENGAGE Training programme.

7 Key Conversations

Programme co-coordinator Liam Bolger says: “The Men Connect Programme was developed over a number of months by the Men’s Development Network through ongoing conversations with men who are members of Lismore Men’s Shed.

“The Programme was based around 7 Key Conversations in relation to fostering men’s health and well-being. The conversations will explore what creates safety and camaraderie amongst men and how this enables us to live our lives well. It will also focus on celebrating men’s gifts and friendships and how individually and collectively we can contribute to our community in positive ways.

Joint co-ordinator, MDN’s Lorcan Brennan added: “The programme explored and highlight important information towards enhancing our general well-being, while also sign posting services that can be a real support for living and staying well. It also celebrated the living legacy of the men’s commitment to restoring a local community setting”.

Programme supported by

The Programme has been facilitated from MDN’s practice and methodology, which focuses on:

  • Working to create a safe and confidential space for men to deepen friendships and strengthen networks
  • Exploring how messages we pick up as boys and men have influenced us
  • Identifying key issues and resources for living well
  • Breaking isolation, learning to connect, naming and sitting with feelings
  • Learning to conversationalise and appropriately express feeling
  • Acknowledging issues with support and referral if needed (e.g. GP and others)

Virtual outreach

Plans to develop connections with a cluster of men’s groups in the region ― through a programme offering a range of supports, engagements, trainings and signposting to connect men to each other, their communities and service providers ― proved a real challenge due to COVID-19.

Engagements did take place pre-lockdown with two groups, including one in Lismore. Unable to meet face to face or on site, MDN promoted the idea of attempting to reach the men virtually. 

Android pads were purchased for the men. These tablets were secured and pre-populated with appropriate apps focused on Health and Wellbeing.

In the meantime, work continued on developing and delivering the programme to a group of men using virtual connections and outdoor engagements.