Midlands Science

The Midlands Science project works to progress socio-economic development in the midlands of Ireland (counties Laois, Offaly, Longford and Westmeath), through the promotion of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) education. Midlands Science aims to create greater interest in STEM education among young people, enabling and preparing them for future careers in the area, thereby furthering the development of the region. Activities and events are provided for all age groups, with the aim of inspiring children to receive STEM education from an early age, granting them broader horizons and possibilities throughout their lives.

Interview with Jackie Gorman, CEO

What motivated you to set up your organisation?
The midlands had a history of educational and associated socio-economic disadvantage. In particular, it had a low level of engagement with STEM at third level. This affects economic development in the region and many other issues as well. At Midlands Science we see education as the ‘silver bullet’ which can help overcome disadvantage. Our work is informed by Science Capital and the Equity Compass, science engagement tools developed by King’s College, London and University College London. These help us to understand how social class affects people’s aspirations and involvement in science and also provides us with the methods to design and deliver more inclusive programmes. It’s not just about increasing the number of people progressing to STEM but being aware of the diversity in those numbers who progress.

What impact has Rethink Ireland had on your organisation?
Rethink Ireland provided us not just with project funding and great capacity-building supports but also a vital and ambitious perspective on our work. This perspective provided us with the networks, resources and confidence to grow our reach and impact and to refine our work to meet the needs of the various communities we work with. The benefits of working with Rethink Ireland led to us being awarded a number of international peer reviewed awards for science outreach, developing new funding sources and new partnerships, which has allowed us to scale and deepen our impact in science outreach. All of these developments will ultimately benefit
the communities we work with. The range of supports provided to Rethink Ireland Awardees is unique, comprehensive, responsive and very focussed on working with each Awardee to get the best possible result.

What are your plans for the future of your organisation?
We are currently developing our new strategic plan with a vision for the next three, five and ten years. We have just completed a rebranding process and our tagline is ‘Stay Curious’, because that’s what we believe it’s all about, staying curious. Our plans are to continue to deepen the impact of our work, focussing as much as possible on those who think science isn’t for them or those that think it might be difficult to engage with. We want to continue to be responsive to the needs of those who want to engage with science in our region.

What advice would you give to budding social innovators?
Those famous last lines from Seamus Heaney come to mind “Noli timere – don’t be afraid” – and I’d add in “don’t take no for an answer”! It can be very difficult to want to change things or change how people talk about something, but if you’re clear about the problem you want to solve or issue you want to engage with, that’s a real strength.
Don’t underestimate the power of networking and working with others who you think might be outside of your area. The most powerful partnerships may come from convergence of different organisations.

After participating in the workshops my son feels like a real scientist. He made sure to have his lab white coat and goggles ready! It has made a huge difference and put that shiny sparkle in his eyes – Parent of programme participant