#inspirefest did *exactly* what it said on the tin

#inspirefest did *exactly* what it said on the tin: it inspired, and it celebrated.

Thank you, Ann O’Dea. And the cracking team you lead.

inspirefest-logoI admit I was a tad apprehensive at the thought of facing into sitting in an auditorium for what looked like, on checking the Inspirefest program, two long day of sequential classes in school – but that feeling evaporated quickly. For a start, the seating was super comfortable (note to self, extra leg room in Row E), the staging (inc. timekeeping) was split-second professional, the Bean a’ Tí (Ann) was genial, modest, to-the-point. Breaks were frequent and coffee was on tap, food was delicious.  And the speakers were superb. One after the other, they challenged us to think, they educated us, they made us laugh and cry and argue and wonder. It was the best set of teachers you could line up for a Thursday and Friday in any school, anywhere.

( I was less-than-fashionably late arriving, and on arrival caught was a distinct buzz of delight from those who’d had a morning of stories already from Brenda Romero, Sinead Burke, Sue Black and others; and the ‘no delay’ when asked to get back to the auditorium was a sign of happy classroom campers if ever there was one.)

And to stretch the school analogy – the extracurricular events were pretty awesome in their own right. Researchfest, curated and compered by Arlene O’Neill, gave us short sharp presentations from 8 PhD researchers in Ireland. If their research turns out as successfully as their communications did, they are all heading for huge success. We in the audience may not have understood too much of their science, but the confidence they projected made us all very happy for the future. The Festival Fringe was terrific, I loved watching Zoe Philpott interacting with the audience while telling the story of Ada Lovelace and the analytical engine. Following Ada on stage was the sublime Lisa Hannigan, making for a beautiful finish to evening despite the rain.

Throughout the two days it was very good to meet so many girlfriends from so many facets of life, introduce them to each other, and in turn meet the girlfriends of my girlfriends, some of whom will in time become my girlfriends. And it was very very good to see the younger women / girls in the tribe getting a chance to meet with and glean the wisdom of the more experienced – and vice versa. From the mouth of babes

There was so much to take in, it will take so long to ferment and process – I’ve enjoyed reading the many blog posts and exit reports this week that echo my own thoughts. Kudos to Lucy Fruggle @lfruggle for catching the best of it here in her “40 ideas” post.

Of the myriad thoughts I heard, three keep rattling about in my head since I got home…

  • It’s far easier to do something about it than complain about it”, from Mary Carty. This is what Mary did when she co-founded Outbox Incubator last summer
  • It’s not what you know or who you know, but who knows what you know, that matters“, from Kelly Hoey. A woman of few words, many pauses, good advice.
  • When was the last time you did something for the first time?”, from Raju Narisetti, a self-confessed ‘token man’ whose contribution proved him to be far from that.  That thought should be written on the desk of every teacher, everywhere.

Cut ‘n paste from the other ‘take aways’ I jotted down, sitting comfortably in Row E:
Judith Williams, Global Head of Diversity, Dropbox – if you’re going to be serious about inclusion, be serious about inclusion. Audit yourself and your inclusivity.

Jeanne M Sullivan, Founder, StarVest Partners – superwoman isn’t less super as she gets older – tap into her capacity.
Robin Chase, Co-founder, Zipcar – talked the talk AND walked the walk
Nilofer Merchant, Author, ‘Onlyness’ – can’t wait to read this book, could have listened to Nilofer all afternoon, please please please have her as Keynote next year
Lorna Ross, Director of Design, Mayo Clinic – LOVED everything about this session, very important message about listening to the needs of the user when designing. What a terrific role model is Lorna.
Charlotte Blease, Centre for Medical Humanities, Leeds University – scary stats about errors in the medical world.
Lisa Helen, PHD Researcher, Tyndall National Institute – Wow, what a mind bender, the needle that knows where it is. Go, Lisa!
Dónal Holland, Developer, Soft Robotics Toolkit – what a teacher he must be. This was mesmerising, I can’t wait to go to a workshop. More and more reasons to support Maker Ed in schools and dojos. This, following the sensor-needles talk from Lisa, makes for very exciting medical advances in the near future.
Claire Calmejane, Director of Innovation, Lloyds – Fintech is way outside my comfort zone, but the talk was terrific and the video was very thought provoking (and hilarious).
Elena Rossini, Film maker – The Lottie Doll story was a lovely moment in the day, and I suspect everyone n the audience will be buying Lottoe of Rinn for thoer small folk soon.
Mary Carty, Co-founder, Outbox Incubator – soooh proud to be in this audience today.
Niamh Scanlon (EU Digital Girl of the Year 2015),  Edel Browne (Co-founder, Free Feet), Vanessa Greene (Founder and Host, Echoing STEM), Elle Loughran (STEM Student and Blogger) – I loved this because it shows the future of the country is secure.
Karla O’Brien – it was like a spark of lightning went through the room. A moment in time.
Jamila Abass, Founder, M-Farm –  a fine example of how tech and connectivity, used cleverly, really can move things onwards in remote and less developed communities of the world
Panel with Sharon Vosmek, Adam Quinton, Claudia Iannazzolm, Kara Swisher – fast and furious discussion on diversity and inclusion, furious literally. Us non-venture-capitalists in Row E had to whisper “what’s GP and LP?” to those in front of us, after that we caught up quickly. Adam Quinton is another serious non-token man, and whoagh – Kara Swisher and Sharon Vosmek take NO prisoners, do they? Up with this sort of thing – we need more rip-roaring disruptive panels like this at Irish conferences.
Liz Jackson, The Inclusive Fashion & Design Collective and Carrie Hammer, Role Models Not Runway Models – both completely made us sit up and think of the world from other perspectives.
Maureen Gaffney, Psychologist and Author of ‘Flourishing’ – great mathematics with which to end the day – how many positives does it take to cancel a negative? Ouch.

And so, back to where I started – thank you, Ann O’Dea and team. I attended as a guest; I left, all the richer, as an admirer and cheerleader.







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