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Dublin: 12°C Sunday 24 October 2021

Meet the creative entrepreneurs who fought the slump - together

The Fumbally Exchange is due to spread to 13 new locations this year – and two-thirds of its member businesses plan to expand this year.

michaelddinosaur Fumbally Exchange founder George Boyle and President Michael D Higgins at the Exchange's new HQ on Dame Lane today. Source: Jason Clarke Photography

A COLLABORATIVE OF creative businesses who set up shop together in recession-hit Ireland is showing the nation how to “courageously fight back” in challenging times.

So President Michael D Higgins today praised the Fumbally Exchange community for using their “creative capital” to “make a response in difficult times”. The Fumbally Exchange today officially launched a flagship HQ on Dublin city centre’s Dame Lane.

It began life under the guidance of architect and social entrepreneur George Boyle on Fumbally Square in Dublin 8; a group of artists and creative businesses coming together to pool office space, overheads, ideas and support. Speaking at today’s launch, Boyle said that no member had ever drawn down a salary from the Fumbally Exchange – it is a not-for-profit organisation – but that it now had 158 members with a combined turnover of more than €6m.

Boyle said that it supported entrepreneurs who wanted to “imagine, dream and believe for a better future”, citing the Irish proverbs “Ní neart go cur le chéile” (No strength without unity), and “Is fear beagán den ghaol ná morán den charthanas” (A little co-operation is better than charity). She won a social entrepreneurship bursary and award for her work with the Exchange in 2012.

“I refer to us as Fambally,” she joked of the highly collaborative atmosphere in which the Exchange has grown.

Today’s launch also heard that the Exchange – which has already established sister communities in Waterford, Balbriggan and Italy – is planning to open 13 further Fumbally Exchanges in the UK and Ireland.

(Seen below is Fumbally director Ciaran Ferrie with Boyle and President Higgins).

Fumbally Exchange Source: Jason Clarke Photography

The first of these will be housed in a former bank in the centre of Inchicore, providing 15 low-cost  desks specifically for social entrepreneurs. There is also a plan for a “soft opening” of the FEx Academy at the Dame Lane HQ, which will offer training and education in niche modules from a range of Exchange members and outside experts.

President Higgins said he was delighted to see a creative community gathered together. “Sabina, my wife, and I have always enjoyed spending time in communities like this,” he commented. He added:

Our future in Ireland is neither derivative nor speculative, but rather there are great possibilities for us in drawing on innovation and creativity. Fumbally Exchange symbolises and exemplifies so much of the spirit and vision and yearning which lies at its heart.
The varied businesses here would inspire confidence in anyone in our nation’s outgoing economic renewal. Into everything economic is poured the lives of people. Every life is important and, even more so, every imagination is important. Fumbally Exchange gives an example and a microcosm of where Ireland can go.

Founder Boyle said that the Exchange – described by the Wall Street Journal as the “workhorse of Europe” – is making change “all for one, and one for all”.

Is the Fumbally Exchange co-operative an idea you could see working in your community or area? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.

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