WHEN Barbara Nugent agreed to the role of Network Cork president in 2019, the pandemic wasn’t even on our radar.
“And what I came into was a year where everyone was fed up with the pandemic - it was supposed to be over by now!” she said, admitting the year was at times, a “tricky one”.
“2020, with President Marguerite O’Sullivan, was full of action and pivoting and all hands on deck.
"By 2021 everyone thought the pandemic should be over, and so it was important to try and bring our members through the next phase of what we were calling the ‘new normal’.
“My choice of theme #bounceforward was driven by the idea of recovery, not being to bounce back-ward but to move forward with hope and determination through 2021 and rebuild our ability to be resilient.
“We ran workshops to equip members in areas such as sales process, social media marketing, branding, sustainability, health and wellness, with a number of inspirational speakers and some new projects like our podcast and bootcamp series.
“And, as President, it was a genuinely humbling experience as I watched our committee and our members upskill, re-skill and reach out to each other to collaborate on projects,” said Barbara, who runs her own leadership consultancy business.
However, Barbara said that as President “the energy comes from meeting the members, getting to know them and their businesses, attending our monthly event and being boosted by the collective energy in the room.
“I missed that and often felt a bit disconnected from the members. It just took longer to make those connections and attending many more events than I would have done pre-pandemic.”
But she also stresses that she was boosted by the great power of positivity and support from the local branch: “How we lift each other up when we most need it. The year helped me to remember to ask for help from others, not to try to carry it all on my own.”
A high point of the year was meeting Olympic rowing champion Sanita Puspure.
“I’ve long been a fan of hers as a female athlete, but also as someone who really kept on striving towards her goal of an Olympic medal. Her resilience and determination really inspires me. I row myself (badly) and my son rows competitively in the UK and so I know what work goes in to making it at elite level,” she said.
A low was when fatigue set in during the summer.
“We took August off for the first time ever just to de-compress and take a break from planning and organising, and regrouped for the last quarter of the year.
“The committee were so adaptable, and we really ramped up support for the members in 2020. What I didn’t realise is that this level of activity wasn’t sustainable and thus, by August of 2021, we were all pretty tired.”
But Barbara said she’s ‘incredibly proud’ of Network Cork: “I have been a part of it since 2014. I’ve served as Treasurer, Vice President, President and Treasurer for the National Executive of Network Ireland.
“To lead it for a year has been the source of great joy, some sleepless nights, some frustrations and some great fun. I am grateful to have had the committee at my back, which gave me the courage to step up and lead.”
Network Ireland Cork is a not-for-profit Cork organisation that is the largest branch of Network Ireland in the country.
For more information see www.networkireland.ie/cork.