Snap Shot of #cong19 and Details of #cong20

Now that the dust has settled on CongRegation its time to reflect on the number and diversity of events that took place as part of the 3 day event.  I also wanted to announce the theme and dates for #cong20 (Spoiler‘Society 3.0’ Nov 20-22nd details at the bottom).

The theme for the 7th CongRegation Nov 22-24th was ‘Community’ and we expanded the number of events and increased the number of attendees.

In summary:

  • 3 Days Nov 22-24th
  • 9 Separate events
  • 38 Attendees at Ashford Castle Evening with 5 guest speakers
  • 90 Attendees at Unconference
  • 32 Huddles
  • 27 Children at 3 workshops
  • 25 people on the Mindfulness Walk in Cong Woods
  • 72 Submissions uploaded to the website

Profile of Attendee

The profile and backgrounds of CongRegation attendees reflects the diversity of people attracted ranging from youngest 16 to oldest at 83 tears old.  60% were male and 40% female.  Two speakers flew in London.  Background were equally varied from Gardai, Academia, Business (multinationals to SMEs), Public and Private Sector, Social Entrepreneurship, Coaching to Retired.  This year we had one attendee virtually attend the huddles through zoom.

Social Media

Across Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook there was in excess of 450 uses of the #cong19.  In addition there were over 30 online videos and podcasts and over 300 photos of the event posted across multiple platforms.  This is a manual calculation so the real number is probably a good bit higher.  Mental note to set the alert/recording earlier.


The event was publicised through Think Business, Irish Tech News, local media and at various events in the run up.  This was supported by five large road signs and 30 A4 posters.


In order to increase the interaction between attendees and children a series of workshops and extra events were organised including:

  • Maker Meeting Friday Evening
  • Children’s Workshops – Maker Meet/STEM, Drama and Clay Modelling
  • Poetry Open Mike
  • Tin Whistle
  • Music Demo by Hyphurm
  • Mindfulness Cong Woods
  • Exploration of sound by Curly Organ
  • Online creative problem solving muse Thypia

Food and Drink

Breakfast, tea/coffee during the day, lunch and post event canapés were supplied as part of the free ticket entry with a special tapas evening also organised.

Economic Impact

Accounting for the money spent on accommodation, food and drink and related services is in excess of €20,000.


In addition to event photography attendees were also offered the opportunity to get free portrait photos taken in a professional mobile photo studio which were supplied digitally following the event.

Submissions and Impact

All the submissions were uploaded to the CongRegation website supported by designed imagery.  In addition attendees submitted a post event reflection which was analysed by a semantic robot to measure the impact of the event on the attendee perception of the theme ‘Community’.  The results are fascinating and are available here.  Event feedback forms were also filled out.

The longest submission this year was 3,700 words long.  There were 20,848 reads of the submissions.  Average number of reads was 300.  Top was Joy Redmonds at 1,274. 481 likes on Facebook of the submissions with top liked was Aisling Irvine’s with 87 Facebook likes.

The top ten reads were

  1. Joy Redmond- Community Rotten Apples and Hidden Gems: 1274 reads
  2. Bob Kennedy – Communities of Excellence: 810 reads
  3. Ailish Irvine – You are not the boss of my community: 774 reads
  4. Mick Hogan- Nature & Community: 570 reads
  5. Sean McGrath- Community – a Disability Perspective: 553 reads
  6. Sabine Mckenna- Scratch – An Online Community Experience: 542 reads
  7. Derval Dunford- Community Soup: 486 reads
  8. Samantha Kelly- How to Build an Engaged Community Online: 455 reads
  9. Aine McManamon- Community – The Sense of Belonging: 445 reads


All the photography and video has now been added to the website so previous talks and photos from each of the 7 years can now be viewed.

Plans for 2020

The selected theme for 2020 is ‘Society 3.0’ with full details of theme available on the website. This is a wide reaching and challenging topic and we are planning a similar number of events with some tweaks on the final session to gather the insights in one session.

We are now calling for outline topics, challenging each attendee to take their own insights, opinions, experience, research, aspiration and translate them in to a title and quick synopsis.  Full submissions due in summer.

Get your pencils sharpened, read the briefing and come back with your topic title and summary to me as soon as you can.

Photos from #cong13 CongRegation 2013 Social Media

#cong13 CongRegation 2013 Social Media

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Photos from #cong14 CongRegation 2014 Digital Media

#cong14 CongRegation 2014 Digital Media

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Photos from #cong15 CongRegation 2015 Technology Impact on Work and Personal Lives

#cong15 CongRegation 2015 Technology Impact On Work & Personal Lives

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Photos from #cong16 The Future

#cong16 CongRegation 2016 The Future

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Photos from #cong17

#cong17 CongRegation 2017 ‘Innovation’

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Photos from #cong18

#cong18 CongRegation 2018 ‘Ideas’

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Photos from #cong19

#cong19 CongRegation 2019 ‘Community’

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Did CongRegation Change Our Thinking on Community

 Congregation 2019 on “Community” 

Did it change our thinking? 

(The answer is yes. Read more to find out how…) 


Hello I’m Alastair from Linguabrand. 

During Congregation 2019 Eoin and I came up with the idea of testing whether people gathering to talk makes any difference to our collective thinking. That was brave of Eoin don’t you think? Imagine if he’s had people turning up each year and everyone goes back thinking the same as when they arrived… 

At Linguabrand we specialise in deep listening. We’re interested in what language says about the way people are thinking and feeling more than just the things they’re talking about. The problem is that people aren’t very good listeners at the best of times. And even trained discourse analysts, working very slowly, miss most of the deeper psychological content. That’s why we invented Bob. 

Bob is our own deep-listening robot. He reads 120x faster than humans and he surfaces key psychological indicators. He’s totally consistent and he benchmarks it all, too. So, you know his metrics are statistically significant. But, of course, his work only makes sense when it’s interpreted by humans. He does things we can’t; leaving us to focus on what we do best – using our imaginations and creativity. 


Eoin asked people to write their thoughts on community after the event. We’ve combined those responses into a single dataset. Then we took the pre-event blogs of the same people, and put them into a single dataset. 

So, we have a BEFORE blog-based measure of 21,241 words (that’s the same as The Merchant of Venice). And an AFTER response-based measure of 8,197 words (that’s an hour-long documentary). 

Let’s listen to what Bob discovered… 

We changed what we were talking about 

There were only three ideas that remained at the forefront of our thinking. ‘Needs’ (including what needs to happen), sharing and groups. ‘Sharing’ rose in importance.

‘People’ and ‘ideas’. ‘Differences’ and ‘place’… these became more important than ‘technology’, ‘time’ and ‘work’. I’m taking a stab that Congregation got us more human-focused. What’s your take on these two lists? 

Interestingly, although we started to talk more about ‘others’ our focus remained very largely egotistical. Both sets of writing are centred around ourselves – ‘me’, ‘my’, ‘I’ and ‘mine’ is nearly 3x higher than we’d expect to hear both BEFORE and AFTER. And empathy – reference to others like ‘her’, ‘him’, ‘they’ or ‘their’– are both 30% lower than we’d expect to hear. But in both cases we were asked to provide our opinions, and many wrote of their own experiences, so perhaps it’s not surprising. 

Our levels of confidence and humility didn’t change significantly. So, it’s unlikely we experienced big redefining moments, as a group at least. 

We became 77% more emotionally engaged 

Sensory language levels are a really good proxy for emotional engagement. The more sensory-based language we use the more emotionally engaged we are. Bob picks this up in social media and company culture analysis all the time. 

The primary sense used in these two sets of writing is auditory. We wrote about ‘talking’ and ‘listening’ and ‘saying’ and so on. 

BEFORE Congregation our sensory level was only 96% the level we’d expect to hear. 

But AFTER the event it zipped up to 170%. That’s a leap of 77%. 

We did a lot of thinking. Most of it trying to be logical and rational. 

Bob measures three thinking styles: reasoning, quant and action. We were mostly offering knowledge, pointing out discrepancies and drawing conclusions. These are the elements of logical reasoning. Logic was 2.5x the benchmark BEFORE and 2.7x AFTER. 

But we also did some good quant thinking (‘more’, ‘less’ etc). And AFTER we also became more action-orientated – by 18.4%, to be precise 

Our approach to time remained focused on the present 

Although many people shared stories of the past, use of the past tense was underweight. And maybe we should have been focusing on the future? But we weren’t. The future was not significantly weighted and actually fell away slightly AFTER the event. 

The present tense was upweighted by 69% BEFORE and 70% AFTER. So, our approach towards time was absolutely consistently on the here and now. 

What does that mean? I’m not sure. Do you have any thoughts on this? 

Our attitudes towards change became less radical 

Now here’s an interesting thing. We didn’t leave filled with a revolutionary fervour for radical change. 

Bear in mind that Evolutionary change (that’s where things get better incrementally) is the preferred form of change for everyone, including us writing about community. 

But BEFORE, our attitudes were about average on Tradition and +80% on Revolution. Revolutionary change is advocating the radical, the reinvention or transformation. Our blogs had a significant element of advocating radical change. 

AFTER there was a shift. We became +31% on Tradition. That’s things like heritage, history and roots. And Revolution fell to just +17% over the benchmark. 

Talking together made our opinions more traditional and less radical than as individuals before the event. 

That doesn’t mean we’re not advocating change. But the nature of that change? Well, it changed. 

Our deeper framing of communities is consistent…with some important twists 

Our deeper framing is revealed by the picture language we use. For the linguistically minded, these are metaphorical persuasion frames. The human mind developed beyond other animals by its ability to describe one thing in terms of another. 

Here’s our deeper psychological approach to communities: 

1. Communities are containers. With an inside, boundary and outside. 

2. Communities are connections. Connected as a collective or with direct links or lacking links (separation – the inverse of connection). 

3. Communities are structures. They have foundations, offer support and need building. 

4. Communities are a valuable resource. 

Communities as a valuable resource levels stayed exactly the same. (Interestingly, ‘lacking resource’ didn’t really enter our deeper thinking). 

But we made a significant mind-shift away from outside the community container to inside. BEFORE outside was +215% and inside was -20%. But AFTER outside fell to +141% and inside shot up to +140%. 

In other words, our psychological framing shifted towards inside over outside. It’s possible that this reflects the fact that prior to Congregation we were actually outside. We were writing as individuals from multiple places. Then we came together in a very small village with water defining unusually tight boundaries. 

We also rewired our brains more towards connection (+29%). We also upped our thinking around ‘building’ and communities as ‘structures’ by +20%. 


Some things were constant. 

We still talked about groups of people. And our focus was consistently on present day needs. We kept our levels of confidence and humility either side of the event. And we remained pretty ego-centric. Logical reasoning remained our predominant form of thinking. 

But there’s no doubt that Congregation changed us in many ways. 

Our agenda on ideas around community altered significantly. ‘People’, ‘ideas’, ‘others’, ‘differences’, ‘place’…all became more important. 

The event really got us emotionally engaged. It also made us, as a group, measurably less radical in our attitudes towards change. But our action thinking notched up. 

Building connections became more important to our deeper thinking. And there was a shift in our framing towards ‘insideness’, or belonging. 

On a personal note, I’d like to thank everyone who responded to Eoin’s call for post-event thoughts. Without you this analysis wouldn’t have been possible. I’d love to hear your thoughts, comments or questions. Or just saying hello. 

Warm regards 

Alastair Mobile: 00447980222914 

Having Belief in Your Town is Just the Beginning #72 #cong19


This is an article about a civic pride and community engagement campaign set up in May 2019 in the town of Ballinrobe Co. Mayo.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Use what we have
  2. Don’t be a Martyr
  3. We need Advocates, not just Volunteers.
  4. Work Smarter, not harder

About Pat Donnellan:

I’m a resident of Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo and involved in various community groups mainly Ballinrobe Festival and the Community Development Council, I am a founding member of the Believe in Ballinrobe campaign.

I work full-time as a Software Engineer for a multinational company in Galway city, focusing mainly in web technologies.

Contacting Pat Donnellan:

You can connect with Pat on LinkedIn or send him an email

By Pat Donnellan

Having belief in your town is just the beginning

Like so many towns in Ireland, Ballinrobe in Co. Mayo is one of enormous potential and lately it is beginning to exploit it’s most valuable asset – it’s people, those who are living in the town or connected to it in any way.

#BelieveInBallinrobe – Use what we have
In May 2019 we launched the “Believe in Ballinrobe” campaign and began using the #BelieveinBallinrobe tag for all things positive about the town ever since.

When a group of us from the town decided to work on this concept we used our own experience and skills in business, design, technology, journalism and community involvement to understand the problem we are trying to solve, decide what the campaign would look to do, and what it wouldn’t do.

We looked at the key stakeholders in the town be it volunteers, community groups, sports clubs, businesses, youth and diaspora. We listed some key motivations and frustrations they are facing and looked at their collective goals and aspirations.

We learned that so much great work is being done by these stakeholders all year round and much of it is not known about by the average person living in the town – it is just taken for granted. These stakeholders told us they need more help and volunteers, but we felt there was also a responsibility on them to be more open, to remove any barriers that might prevent or discourage new people form joining them or committing more time.

#BelieveInBallinrobe – Don’t be a Martyr
Certain groups and individuals not just in Ballinrobe but in other towns can develop a “Martyr Mentality” which leads them to believe they must carry the burden alone and do all the work themselves, taking on all that pressure that comes with it.

This is obviously not a sustainable approach, leads to burnout and ultimately does more harm than good. Individuals and groups must be encouraged to ask for help, be open to new people and fresh ideas, and to give more ownership to these new people. This is exactly the campaign hopes to achieve.

#BelieveInBallinrobe – We need Advocates, not just Volunteers
We needed a call to action, and the “Believe in Ballinrobe” message is just that, we have challenged people to become advocates for their town – being and advocate means you talk up the town publicly, you have it’s back and let others know that you are behind it. You actively support all the initiatives, events, local businesses, clubs and groups that are striving to make the town a better place to live and visit.

We need to understand that “volunteering” is not always a positive word for people who are afraid of getting dragged into odd jobs or standing around with a Hi-Viz vest, and for those who genuinely don’t have the free time or maybe just don’t have the confidence to put their hands up – we need to give opportunities for people to help out in other ways.

Whether it’s sharing content on social media, or writing comments and reviews to publicize what’s happening in the town, maybe it’s simply answering a phone call and passing on a key contact for a club or group in need of some expertise for an upcoming event. ]

The more advocates we have, the more problems get solved, the more success these stakeholders will have – and success breeds success.

#BelieveInBallinrobe – Work Smarter, not harder
A critical success factor is to use events and projects to bring new people in – then hold onto them. We are not trying to duplicate the efforts of existing groups, instead we are providing them with the platform to gain new members and new opportunities, and a chance to work with other groups to share their ideas and resources – working smarter, not harder, and far away from that martyr mentality..

Since the campaign launched in May 2019 we have hosted and organised events alongside the usual stakeholders in those areas, providing them with a chance to relaunch their group or organisation and with our campaign behind it, attract new people and advocates to attend, support and help out.

• Tidy Towns clean-up day – over 70 volunteers joined up with Tidy Towns to do a full town clean-up and this is already in the calendar again for next year.
• GlebeFest street festival – music, heritage, art and family fun organised by the businesses on Glebe Street for an opportunity to open their doors to new customers from the town, a huge success and again now an annual event.
• Pride of place competition – our campaign was highlighted by Mayo County Council and put forward for a national civic pride award, we showcased all the groups and clubs in the town during a judging day supported by 100’s of people from the town.
• Summer Festival – this year was the festival doubled in size with 6 days of concerts and family activities bringing thousands of people through it’s doors and around the town.
• Spirit of Ballinrobe awards night – another which will be become an annual event, recognizing individuals and groups for their community spirit, and a night of celebration and networking with all groups and clubs together under the one roof.

The list above represents only some of the highlights from the first 6 months of a campaign which is here to stay. The response and support that we have gotten proves to us that the town’s most valuable asset is its people.

Using the experience, skills and passions that are unique to our town – the more we keep that mindset, the more we can all Believe in Ballinrobe’s future, and why not?

You. can see the progress of the campaign on Facebook or visit the #BelieveInBallinrobe