CongRegation 2019 – community concerns

Definition of community (

1a unified body of individuals: such as
athe people with common interests living in a particular area …
ba group of people with a common characteristic or interest living together …
ca body of persons of common and especially professional interests
da body of persons or nations having a common history or common social, economic, and political interestsea group linked by a common policy
fan interacting population of various kinds of individuals (such as species) in a common location

2 aa social state or condition; bjoint ownership or participation; ccommon character ; dsocial activity; 3society at large

Community was the theme of the CongRegation unconference in Cong, Mayo, Ireland over the weekend of November 23rd. A hundred or so gathered to discuss  “all of the above” and bringing to the table concerns they had for their community, local and global.
The format of this unconference is simple – blog your way to attend, join the four sequential huddles randomly assigned to you over the day, tell your story in turn, and get talking togethers.
(More details on rules of engagement are here, and the 2019 submissions are here).
I have been chairing these huddles now for several years, and the conversations run wide, deep, and rich – here is a snapshot of the day in Danaghers …

Huddle 1 – In the first huddle, discussion ranged across ideas for investing in knowing the community before the bad times, so we are ready for those bad times. Can we gamify community formation? How do we connect people in remote areas, deal with local issues? is there a connection between the life cycle and the deployment of social media? A theme which recurred throughout the day was the importance of the ‘after worship’ chats in a community, the decline of the Mass / after Mass chats at the church gate was mentioned as a variable. The strongest theme point emerging early in the day was that there are very many meaning for the word community (as seen by reading the blog posts submitted by attendees on that topic).
Huddle 2 – this discussion centred on communities working towards a purpose –  ranging from agile use of online communities for education, social justice and activism, journalism, the ‘Overton Window’ concept leading to a discussion of the contrast between being a customer and a citizen. The importance of being clear about purpose was deemed as the most important need for a community, but the one most often missing or skipped over.
Huddle 3 – this discussion ranged from rural Africa to rural Ireland. We listened to the story of the growing of a community of computer science educators across rural Africa, supported initially by philanthropy but increasingly being left in supported local hands; a success story centred on obvious need . This contrasted with the description of the visible decline in many rural Irish towns. Examples of how some communities have countered this were cited  – communities, many helped in their transformation by the energy of some “blow-in” volunteers, who leverage the energy of the school-gate community, communities who carry out an appreciative inquiry as a starter activity upon which to make a plan.
Huddle 4 – this huddle centred at first on the story of the bee colony – we learned a lot about life of the queen, workers, and drones in the community of the hive! We also spoke of the difference between face to face and online communities, and how they differ. Stepping back from the ‘milestone validated’ community was also a topic; and it took us into discussion of the importance of learning to develop self-acceptance and prioritise it above acceptance by others in our community – something which was agreed can take many of us a lifetime.

In summary

The recurring theme of the four talks around community that I experienced can be summed up thus:
community is contextual, it is important that the purpose of each community is clearly defined and declared.
Throwing my chairing notes into a word cloud generator returned this talk bubble … problems and solutions swapped, cares and concerns shared, over a hundred people gone back to their home communities richer in spirit than when they left. It can only be a good thing.

Cong19 - threads of four huddle conversations
Threads of conversation from four huddle conversations in Danaghers Hotel at CongRegation 2019
Aprés-Huddle – the social aspect of CongRegation is a very important part of the value it offers participants – sharing breakfast, lunch, dinner and “afters” together, joining in the maker meeting, the poetry slam, the tin whistle lessons, the daftness walk in the forest, the strange quiet post-pub musical shenanigans – all of these activities which ‘unconference the unconference’, injecting opportunity for unpredictable mayhem and fun into the weekend.
Thanks to Eoin Kennedy for curating and evolving this unique gathering.
See you next November, whatever the topic.
#Cong2019 Goodbye picture at the Cross
#Cong2019 Goodbye picture at the Cross






Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.