MDN designed a series of questions to positively address issues which may impact men’s lives and to map out the steps that need to be taken in order to have a better life for themselves and those around them.

There are 7 key questions which are helpful for a man to ask himself and other men in either personal reflection or in a men’s development group:

1. How are things?
2. What’s going well?
3. What’s not going well?
4. Is there anything you need to do?
5. Are there any supports you need?
6. What’s one step you might take?
7. What difference might it make?

In the last number of years, the economic situation in the world has been very challenging. Europe and Ireland have been both deeply affected by these circumstances. Although signs of economic recovery are being highlighted, the truth remains that many, families and communities are still deeply impacted by the biggest recession in our country’s history. These impacts can have serious implications for our mental and social well being. The Men’s Development Network (MDN) is more than ever aware of the need for us as service providers to promote better mental health and new conversations, in these times that remain challenging for many. One approach that can be a support for our wellbeing is to use the (MDN’s) 7 Key Questions.
There are a number of different groups which are available to men ranging from support groups, addiction groups, unemployed men’s activation groups, background based groups focusing on sexual orientation or ethnicity, activity based groups such as: organic gardening groups, woodwork groups, breakfast clubs, men’s sheds, boat building workshops and so on. These groups can be an effective way into men’s development and there is an opportunity for any of these groups to work out:How the group will assist men to achieve better lives.How it will enhance their lives and the lives of those around them.How to help men develop the skills they need to do this.Consistent with the vision of Healthy Ireland, the Men’s Development Network 7 Key Questions can be used as a reflective resource for supporting ourselves towards better health and wellbeing and living to our full potential. These questions can be used in a number of settings as a resource for personal reflection, one to one conversations and for engaging men. The questions can act as a resource to positively address issues impacting our lives as men and can support us towards mapping next steps to a better healthier life.

A number of things underpin the strengths of these 7 Key Questions:They promote a wellness model of engaging men through beginning by focusing the conversation on what’s going well.They focus on supporting men through reflecting on their personal experience,They help us identify our needs. They support us to identify resources to incremental actions for better health and wellbeing.The questions are strengths based in their approach and direction, clearly focusing on normalising and sharing our lives in both our joys and challenges.It is MDN’s hope that through using these 7 Key Questions we will continue New Conversations with and for men, and be part of promoting greater autonomy and ownership of our wellbeing and health.

The Men’s Leadership Programme

The aim of the MDN Leadership Programme is to provide the opportunity for the men to locate the need for leadership and change within their own personal experience. The focus of the training is to explore our understanding of leadership including its purpose, the qualities that underpin it and the confusion or misinformation we may carry as men in relation to this important role or function. Leadership within the MDN is about empowerment of one’s self and others through mutual respect, and the desire for a more equal and just society.

MDN’s overall aim for the Men’s Leadership Training Programme is: 

  • To facilitate men to engage in a reflective process enabling them to develop and articulate their understanding of leadership including the values, beliefs, intention and focus of their leadership and other models of leadership within a broader conceptual framework.
  • To engage in training in the MDN developmental methodology and process including male gender conditioning, social analysis and steps to undo the negative effects of misinformation and mistreatment.
  • To provide the opportunity to develop and practice skills that enable men and others to connect with their potential to be activists in their lives, their communities and society.
  • To engage in a non-judgemental space allowing for self-discovery enabling men to connect to and take the lead in their lives in an intentional way.

The Parenting Support Programme

The Parenting Support Programme is a course designed for parents to enhance communication and relationships within families.

Family Communications and Self-Esteem
Being a parent is the most important job a person can have. Good communication and healthy self-esteem are key ingredients in enhancing relationships between parents and children. In the long term, good relationships can help prevent problems such as the misuse of drugs and alcohol.

How this course can help parents
This course is designed to:

  • Help parents explore how they communicate with their children and each other.
  • Support parents in the good job they are already doing.
  • Support parents in enhancing their relationship with their children.
  • Provide parents with an opportunity to talk with other parents.

What the course involves
The course runs for 8 weeks (2.5 hours per week) at a time that suits the parent’s mornings or evenings. The topics covered include:

  • Communication and Listening within the family
  • Self-Esteem – childhood messages, the language of self-esteem
  • The Good Enough Parent
  • Setting limits with your child
  • Exploring feelings
  • Resolving conflict and problem solving
  • Assertive parenting

Through group work, participants get the opportunity to share experiences, gain information and practise skills. Each week new information and skills build on those learned in the previous weeks. To get the maximum benefit it is necessary to attend all sessions.

Who is the course for?
The course is primarily aimed at parents of 9-17-year-olds. It is the only parent support programme that concentrates on the challenges of parenting and teenage development. It has been successful in its engagement with parents as it aims to support parents in building good relationships with their children. This is done by focusing on:

  • Listening: the basis of all effective communication
  • Love: building relationships and self-esteem
  • Limits: practical help with limits – for oneself and with one’s children
  • Learning: about relationships, people’s needs and health

Parents have stated:
“I was glad that it was focused on ‘Me’ as a parent as I have been to other parenting courses where all the focus was on the child strategies to deal with children, this was refreshing to have the focus on ‘Me.’

“The course has made me aware that everyone goes through similar struggles, worries, fears and concerns, that having support is key and you can find it on a course like this one.”

“This course had a different form that I expected. I’m glad that it required me to get involved and allowed me to practice expressing my own feelings which I had problems with.”

The Summer School Programme

The Summer School has usually been a 3-day event which works on helping and supporting men by offering training and development.

The goals of the Summer School are to:

1. Create a new conversation with among men so that men can create better lives for themselves and for those around them. This conversation is supportive, developmental, and experiential. At the Annual Men’s Training and Development Summer School men both experience this developmental process in a supportive environment and are trained to use it.
2. Provide information to men on why they are the way they are, explaining male gender conditioning, and the non-governmental organisations and Men’s Development Network and statutory support systems and programmes that are available.
3. Encourage men’s creativity, culture and capacities.
4. Build confidence in men to realise their own intelligence, to address the challenges of life and identify any additional steps they need to take to enhance their life-skills through education, training, community development and leadership.
5. Highlight and address the major issues faced by men at present such as employment and unemployment, family relationships and health.
6. Develop a caring atmosphere and environment among men so that they can safely admit to their vulnerabilities.
7. Have men plan their next steps in order to make progress in their lives.

A New Conversation with Men

Challenges in Recent Years

In the last number of years, the socio-political views of the world have become very challenging, particularly in relation to gender relationships. The #MeToo campaign has been the primary movement reflecting on this particular issue with developments all across the globe.  This is where the Men’s Development Network (MDN) looks to not only support men but challenge them to reflect on their attitudes, behaviours, actions, and worldview. The MDN is aware of the need for them as service providers and men to source opportunities and methodologies that will support other men in these difficult times for both sexes and all genders.  The New Conversation with Men is one method identified by the MDN to help support men and their wellbeing.

MDN New Conversation with Men for Service Providers

There are many types of groups; support groups, issue-based groups, groups addressing addiction, discussion groups, activity-based groups, unemployed men’s activation groups, organic gardening groups, woodwork groups, men’s sheds, breakfast clubs, boat-building workshops, therapy groups, lobby groups, groups based on background, ethnicity, sexual orientation and so on. There is an opportunity in any of these groups to work out:

  • How the group will assist men to get their lives the way that they need them to be;
  • How it will enhance their lives and the lives of those around them;
  • How to help men develop the skills that they need to do this.

These groups can be an effective way into men’s lives, their relationships, their personal and collective goals, their vision and development. The New Conversation with Men can be used as a reflective resource for supporting men towards better health and wellbeing and living to their full potential. This approach helps men to develop a greater understanding of the complexities of life, strengthen their relationships and finds the keys to creating a better life.

A New Conversation with Men Process and Methodologies

At a Men’s New Conversation Group meeting the following roles are defined at the beginning or over time as the group develops:

  • Facilitator: Main listener; asks the questions, responds to the answers and manages the overall time available.
  • Mentor: Supports the facilitator; facilitator can refer to mentor if necessary.
  • Speaker: Each man takes a turn to speak and listen when it’s not his turn, including the facilitator and mentor.
  • Timer: Each man who can tell the time takes a turn at timing the speaker and telling them when their time is up. Time is shared to achieve peer or equal relationships and balance.


There are a number of questions that are helpful to ask in a men’s development group which can help a man to become self-aware. They are:

  1.  Why are you here?
  2.  What do you like/love about men?

2.1.   While it’s important to engage participants in a process of connecting positively with men and themselves, it’s equally important to engage them in a process of exploring the challenges they experience with their relationships with men. So it’s important to follow this question up with: What is it about men that you find challenging, difficult, offensive or even harmful about men?

  1.  Is there anything you need to address or do?
  2.  What support do you need?
  3.  What’s your next step?
  4.  What did you get out of engaging with the new conversation?

These questions are designed to positively address issues that may impact men’s lives and to map out the steps which need to be taken in order to have a better life for themselves and those around them.