Donegal Hubs – Providing a BASE for diaspora connectivity

Donegal Hubs – Providing a BASE for diaspora connectivity

When Leah Fairman returned to Donegal in 2016 after nearly 20 years in London and Frankfurt she never imagined her experience of living and working abroad would be so important to her new life back home.  Leah says, ‘When I moved back from London, I didn’t have a job lined up. I purposefully gave myself time to settle in at home, before starting to look for the right role.  When the Manager position came up at The BASE I was delighted to take on a project that would give me the chance to work in the heart of the community here in Ballybofey-Stranorlar’.

The BASE is a three floor Enterprise space which supports CoWorking, Start-ups and Micro Enterprises. Over the past four years Leah has worked to build strong partnerships within and outside of Donegal. For example, The BASE is part of the CoWork Plus Donegal network, which is connected to a European wide network of CoWorking spaces.

For Leah, raising the profile of The BASE with the diaspora community has been really important. She says, ‘From my own experience I know the challenges of coming home to Donegal on holiday, and trying to find a space to work with the right facilities. And then moving here, there was also the challenge of finding a community and meeting new friends.  Spaces like The BASE can be really valuable to anyone in that position. You will often meet people in CoWorking spaces and Enterprise Hubs who have been through that exact transition. It can be difficult to get the word out to people who are living away from home that we are here and ready to support them.’

The BASE has experienced a significant increase in enquiries from people living outside of Donegal since March 2020 when the Covid pandemic first took hold, and this has been mirrored in all the Donegal Hubs.  The biggest community to make the transition has been remote workers who would normally be based in Irish cities. In March and April 2020 many chose to move back to Donegal and preferred not to work out of home offices.  The Donegal Hubs all offer high speed broadband, professional work space and other office facilities. For many a key driver for using the Hubs has been creating a good work-life split. Working out of a Hub also creates assurances for the employer that there will be no loss of service due to connectivity issues and that their employee is in a health and safety and Covid compliant environment. This can make the transition significantly easier for many.

The BASE has also seen increasing interest from diaspora in other European countries and has welcomed returners from Geneva, Frankfurt and London, and is supporting many more in developing their plans to move home.  ‘Having been through planning and making the move, I can empathise with the challenges everyone faces and offer support and advice based on my own experience. For those that we’ve helped with the move so far, they know they can come to The BASE when they move back and they will meet friendly, like-minded people who they’ve already got relationships with’, says Leah. 

Working alongside Leah, The BASE also has a Community Builder, Jillian Ruggiere, who helps The BASE Community connect with each other and build networks. Jillian herself moved from New York two years ago and is working on her own start-up, so she has a lot of experience to share with and support the diaspora community.

An unexpected trend that Jillian has noticed is the amount of people moving to the County who are considering starting their own businesses. Jillian says, ‘We anticipated that the Covid 19 pandemic would prompt many people to think about a change in lifestyle and re-evaluate what is important to them. We didn’t expect that the result would be so many people who are prepared to take the chance to strike out on their own.’  The team at The BASE put this trend down to the increasing awareness of the ability to work online and service clients from anywhere given the connectivity available to them in Donegal.  In 2021 The BASE will be launching a new DigiHub with own door offices and coworking desks for up to 17 people. The DigiHub will support Remote Workers and Entrepreneurs working in the ICT and Digital industries, which is possible due to the 1GB broadband connection serving the Hub.

The BASE has a variety of Start-Ups and Remote Workers who are working with global partners. For example, in the last six months their community members have been working with clients in Germany, Georgia, the Netherlands, the US, Hungary, the UK, South Africa, Switzerland, Eswatini (formerly Swaziland), and Armenia.  The BASE community itself is multi-national, with members from France, the UK, Canada in addition to its Irish members, many of whom have lived, worked or studied abroad. 

Leah sums up, ‘One of the things I love most about The BASE is the sense of energy, creativity and community you get working here day-to-day. I firmly believe this is because of the variety of people we have, their experiences and their openness to new ideas and new people.  We get excited when someone new walks through the door, and everyone makes an effort to be welcoming and helpful.  It’s the same across all our Donegal Hubs’. 

If you are interested in speaking to Leah or her team about moving to Donegal and finding out more about the Donegal Hub network, you can contact her on or 087 607 5555