Place Based Giving:
The Potential for a Sustainability Fund in County Mayo

Project Title

Scoping study for a Sustainability Fund in Co. Mayo


Niamh Moore-Cherry


Dr Alma Clavin


Community Foundation Ireland and the Sunflower Charitable Foundation

In Spring 2023, Community Foundation together with The Sunflower Charitable Foundation commissioned the UCD School of Geography to undertake a scoping study to map out models of community stewardship and just transition in a community setting in County Mayo, to determine the scope and need for a possible Sustainability Fund in the county and to explore the potential role and contribution of private philanthropy in adding value to existing or supporting new initiatives.

Previous work by the authors has identified the local authority as an appropriate and even optimal scale for climate action in Ireland (Clavin, Moore-Cherry and Mills, 2021a; 2021b). Further work in other counties has identified the need for tailored, place-based solutions that are scalable and can operationalise sectoral targets (Moore-Cherry et al., 2022).

This report aimed to scope out the natural and socio-demographic environment broadly defined of the study area, County Mayo in the North West of Ireland. We then examined the concept of place-based giving; the relationship to climate action; and more specifically the potential for place-based giving for climate action in County Mayo.

Screenshot Screenshot

Key Findings/Lessons

Meaningful climate action requires policy, regulation, communication, and taxation commitments, which are primarily the domain of central government. In the absence of radical national commitments, local groups in County Mayo have been activated to deliver sustainability and climate action in their communities. Although a focus on the local level is not without critique, it is a good starting point for creating change and overcoming sectoral challenges.

There is a distinct geography to climate action projects currently underway in County Mayo. Most active projects are located south and east of an imaginary line from Ballina to Westport. There is some correlation with the more affluent, younger, and connected parts of the county. Outside of this area, the most active environmental groups are Tidy Towns. While outside the scope of this study, there may be merit in further investigating this ‘geography’ of inactivity and understanding why Tidy Towns are so effective in what might be considered hard to reach areas. Might there be potential to support and harness local Tidy Town committees, as an organisation with everyday resonance, for climate action?

The stories and actions underway at a local level amongst activated individuals in Mayo are inspiring. Given the strong community development culture in the county, there is huge potential in communities for local educators, artists, ecologists, engineers, maintenance workers, crafts people, carers, businesses and others to come together to work for a more resilient future. There are many groups doing excellent work but their scale of ambition and potential impact, as well as longer term sustainability, is at this moment, not matched by available human or other resources.

Philanthropy has a role to play in supporting climate action at many levels in a place-based giving model, from group activation and capacity building, to visioning and supporting staff to apply for funding within communities. Philanthropy will only benefit communities and achieve long-term impact if there is continuity of funding and a longer term, more strategic view is taken that would support capital and recurrent expenditure to create robust and resilient structures.

The funding required to scale up the most ambitious projects is large-scale and will require collaboration between philanthropists, foundations, local authority, private sector and local organisations. Finding the appropriate governance mechanisms that bring together new actor constellations in partnership frameworks with clearly defined responsibilities and ways of working is critical. A first step might be to establish a citizens assembly to deliberate the most appropriate governance form for climate action at county level.

Collaborating around climate in Mayo has deep roots in Meitheal and this is the essence of how a county such as Mayo culturally resonates so that people work together towards a collective goal – future resilience.

Place-based opportunities

Place Based Giving: The Potential for a Sustainability Fund in County Mayo

Place Based Giving: The Potential for a Sustainability Fund in County Mayo

Clavin, A. and Moore-Cherry, N.