CongRegation on Tour

I had the great privilage to speak at the Engenuity Midlands Network seminar in Tullamore on Innovation Management alongside Ron Immink (on Innovation: Do or Die), Damien Costello, Decode (on Innovation: Case Study of Innovation Process in Action), Dr Hugh Henry, Bord Na Mona (on Collaborative Innovation Case Study) and Paul Killeen, NSAI (on Systematic Innovation Management: How Standards Can Help You Win in Competitive International Markets).

I presented some of the insights I gathered from the submissions and presentations at CongRegation.  You can browse the slides below.

Ashford Castle Attendees Evening of Innovation Stories

The evening of Innovation Stories in the private cinema in Ashford Castle is offically full but we do have a waiting list so if your name is not on the list and you are interested in attending please contact eoin at

The event will kick off at 8.00 sharp and you are invited to arrive from 7pm.  Dress code is smart casual.  

  1. Pauline Madigan Institute of Technology in Carlow (IT Carlow) Lecturer
  2. Leon Tunney Ware Westport Adventure Park Entrepreneur
  3. Sean Brady CloudAssist Entrepreneur
  4. Karen O'Donnell Karen O'Donnell Communications
  5. Haydn Shaughnessy Innovation Author
  6. David Pollard Rehab Innovation Pioneer
  7. Linda Barron ICBE Project & Network Manager
  8. Martin MurrayConsultant
  9. Sudha Mani Sudha Mani Coach and Mentor
  10. Sabine Mckenna ComputerKidsOnline Educator/Entrepreneur
  11. John Davitt Davitt Learning speaker, broadcaster and digital toolmaker.
  12. Liam O'Morain Akurro Entrepreneur
  13. Barry Kennedy IMR CEO
  14. Billy Kennedy Retired Life Experienced
  15. Joan Mulvihill DCU Centre Director - IC4
  16. Dermot Casey NDRC Venture Investment Leader
  17. Paul O'Mahony Marketing Write Now Entrepreneur
  18. Joe Ritys Hosturi Entrepreneur
  19. Morgan McKeagney Framlabs Entrepreneur
  20. Carol Passemand Carol Passemard Coach and Mentor
  21. Bernard Joyce New Paradigms Entrepreneur
  22. Don Delaney D2 Communications Communications
  23. Alan Dowling INC60 Entrepreneur
  24. Paddy Delaney Informed Decisions Financial Advisor and Podcaster
  25. Sandra Losty
  26. Dermot O'Neill ICBE
  27. Fergal O’Connor Buy Media Entrepreneur
  28. Sinead Hewson, TpEBO
  29. Frank Hannigan, Entrepreneur
  30. Ginger Aaron, Travel Entrepreneur
  31. Barre Fitzpatrick
  32. Cronan McNamara, Entrepreneur


Briefing Note for Attendees at #cong17

In advance of Congregation below are the main details of the running order and structure of the event.  Please take time to read .

Overall Schedule.

Friday 24th Ashford Castle (Booked Out)

19.00-22.00  Innovation Stories.  Reception in Connaught Room followed by 5 Presentations in Private Cinema. Finishes with Art sketch crawl in Danaghers.

Saturday 25th Unconference. Cong Village

9.30 : Registration Children’s workshops in the Crossroads Centre

9.30-10.00 : Registration in Ryan’s Hotel

10.00-10.30 : Opening address and move to venues.

10.30-11.30 : Huddle 1 

12.00-13:00 : Huddle 2 

13.00-14.00 : Lunch

14.00-15.00 : Huddle 3

15.30-16.30 : Huddle 4

16.30 : Photo at Cong Cross

17.00 : Reception in Ryan’s

18.00-20.00 : Dinner in Ryans/Danaghers

20.00–late : Harmonica Workshop in Danagher’s

Sunday 27th. Mountain Walk, Mount Gable.  Assemble outside O’Connor Spar Shop

11.00-13.00: Short walk up Mt Gable (weather permitting) 

Saturday Unconference Running Order

Registration takes place from 9.30-10.00 in Ryans Hotel with huddles beginning at each of the 8 venues at 10.30 sharp.  On arrival you will be given a number along with lanyard.  Your number and the spread sheet tells you what venue you will be in and at what time.  Each venue has a chairperson who guides proceedings and will be completely briefed.  The chairperson will ask 3 people to volunteer to speak at each huddle.  You have 10 minutes to discuss your topic.  You choose how, where and when you wish to present.  This year we have a card/clock system in operation and you will be given notice of 2 minutes left (green) and 30 seconds to wrap up (red).  Each huddle will kick start with a short introduction of who you are and what you do but please limit this to a few short sentences (plenty of time at the breaks to share more about you).  The ice breaker is a ‘life hack’.  This is tip for helping with personal or business life and could range from a handy online tool you use to philosophical perspective.  This is designed to get everyone contributing from the start and is really helpful to all.  The earlier huddles will start with 3 speakers and the later ones may have two but this all depends on the final number on the day.  The spreadsheet on your lanyard is designed to try to ensure you meet new people at each session.  Each session lasts one hour and you have 30 minutes to move to the next venue and chat with the other attendees.  There are 4 sessions through out the day – two in the morning and two in the afternoon.  We finish at 4.30/5pm with a group photo at the Cross in Cong Village.

We will have a number of new venues for this year.

We will all congregate in Ryan’s Hotel for a post unconference reception.  Dinner will be a mix of Ryans/Danagher and Lydons rather than one formal sit down (Pat Cohans is closed this year)  

We have 50 harmonicas and a special fun workshop on how to play the blues in Danaghers starting at 20.00.  This is a great chance to meet some new people, create a piece of music and collaborate. You can borrow one of the harmonicas or buy and take home for 12 euro.

Sunday Archaeology Tour

On Sunday we will be taking a short hike up Mt Gable outside Clonbur so sturdy clothing, boots and rainwear is necessary.  The gathering point is outside O’Connor Spar shop with bus/cars leaving at 11.00 sharp.

Ashford Castle Evening

Themed under Innovation stories in Ashford Castle’s private cinema five speakers will guide us through Non Nonsense Innovation, Innovation and Failure, Innovation Research, Driving Innovation through Listening and Innovating your life.  This event is booked out with those who have indicated they will attend on the site but if you are interested you need to let me know as soon as possible. The full line up is also on the site.  Also please note although we may have a reception beforehand, please grab something to eat before you get there as we won’t be serving food.

After Ashford Castle we will retire to Danagher where you can catch up or participate in an art sketch crawl and learn some new talents.


All venues have wifi but be warned it can be temperamental at best, so treat as a nice to have rather than guaranteed.   Similarly on phone coverage, some sides of the village are better than others.


You will have free tea/coffee in all venues and lunch on Saturday is all covered by the generous support of the sponsors –, Innovation and Lean Sigma Skillnet, Bank of Ireland and MKC Communications and Blacknight.  Outside of the four venues (Togher Photo Studio, Cong Art Gallery, Court House and Quiet Cailin) lunch will be in the last pre lunch venue.


There is NO ATM in Cong but Ryans Hotel and O’Connor Spar shop do cash back but best to bring some cash with you.  The nearest ATM is Clonbur Village about 5km away.


Pat Cohan’s restaurant is closed for the season so rather than one venue we will be spread between Ryans, Danaghers and Lydons for dinner on Saturday night at 19.00.  This really is a great opportunity to connect with each other and explore some of the areas discussed.  There is a nice range of choices available and individual billing is available. 


We are expecting over 30 children for the science and rocket making workshop in the Crossroad Community Centre on the way into Cong Village.  You can check your children in from 9.30 and please collect them after the event before 17.00.  You will be asked to sign your children in and out.  Please let us know of any allergies in advance.  We would like to take some photos/video of the workshop in practice.  Let me know if this presents any difficulty.

If you intend to avail of this I do need to know in advance.  Food, drinks and movie at lunch time are all organised with a garda vetted minder overseeing the day so the children will be in good hands and have a blast.  

Blog Submission

In preparation for #cong17 I really encourage you to read the other submissions and start the process of connecting with each other by either posting them on social media or commenting on the website.  The range of topics is really broad and reading them in advance prepares to discuss and find people you wish to meet.  Personally I have really enjoyed reading them.  For any still to submit please send them to me as soon as you can.  We are now up on 60 submissions and they are very inspiring and bodes well for the day.  For those still to submit drop me a line and let me know how you are getting on.


Please use the large car park at the entrance to the village or behind O’Connor’s Spar Shop/Garage (closes at 7pm) and Ryans Hotel.  Please do not park in front of Ryan’s Butchers and narrow points of the road as large trucks have difficulty passing.

Getting to Cong

Most people are driving to Cong and I will publish a list of those offering and looking for lifts.  If you are happy to take someone with you (great chance to get to know people) please let me know and similarly if looking for a lift please consult and connect with people.  You should allow for at least three hours for the car trip from Dublin.  If you are travelling by car for Friday evening in Ashford Castle my strong recommendation is to avoid Galway City and to detour off the Motorway for Claregalway, Corrundula and then back on to the headford road to Cong Village.  This involves 20 mins of national roads but will save you a lot of time getting through Galway traffic chaos.  On Saturday morning this will not be a problem.

Buses to Galway are available every half hour from Citylink, GoBus and Bus Eireann.  The nearest train station is Claremorris (30 mins) and Galway (45 mins)


Let's assume it will be wet and cold so please bring warm clothing and wet gear especially if planning on walks in the woods or the guided bike tour.


As it’s a tourist venue Cong has a good supply of hotels and B&Bs but most of the immediate rooms are booked out.  If you have yet to book please check out the listings on the site but a quick search will produce more options a short trip away in Clonbur Village.  Taxi services are available to get back to your accommodation if outside the village.  There are also some nice options on AirBnB.  There are still places available in Ryans and Danaghers but these will vanish pretty fast.

At this point we are on target for over 80+ attendees, 8 chairs, 30 children and some observers.  Your attendance is really important to the smooth running of the event and if by any chance you cannot make it please let me as soon as possible as we will need to find replacements.  It is also not too late for new people to attend so if you know of anyone please direct them to me or the website.

In the event of something unforeseen happening could send me your mobile number so I have them all centalised.

Finally you are the heart of Congregation and expect divergent views and opinions.  I just ask you to be respectful but don’t shy from challenge and the richness of discussion this offers.  Please also take the guidance of the chairs who have a difficult task and encourage the quieter amongst us to contribute.

This event would not be possible without the generous support of, Innovation & Lean Sigma Skillnet, Bank or Ireland, MKC Communications and Blacknight and I would like to show my sincerely appreciation for their leap of faith enabling this event to take place.  

I am really looking forward to seeing you in Cong and I really appreciate the great effort you are making in a taking the trip and producing some inspiring submissions.


#cong17 Press Release | Launch

Congregation organiser Eoin Kennedy seeing the light build idea for this years Innovation theme

Inventor of Baileys Keynotes at Congregation as Mayo Tourist Village Turned into Innovation Centre

  • 5th Annual Congregation unconference taking place Nov 24th-26th 2017
  • Final call for speakers as festival reaches 90% capacity
  • Free children’s STEM workshops
  • Adult music and art workshops
  • Post event mountain hikes
  •, Bank of Ireland, MKC and Blacknight to sponsor #cong16

(23.10.16) The quite tourist village of Cong will be turned into a buzzing centre of Innovation as 100 experts converge on the town for a three day unconference.  Taking place from Friday Nov 24th to 26th the event will see all attendees present their views and thinking on Innovation from the Curse of Innovation, untold consequences of innovation to Innovation and Faith.

Congregation kicks off with an evening of personal ‘Innovation Stories’ in Ashford Castle on Friday 24th from the inventor of Bailey, David Gluckman (which has sold over 1.25 billion bottles), Tom Murphy the founder of (community of over 300,000 Irish people), Niamh Bushell CEO TechIreland (and ex start up commissioner), Alessandro Prest, CTO, LogoGrab (augmented visual search) and Gerry Duffy, global speaker who ran 32 marathons in 32 days.  Following the evening of talks the attendees will be treated to an Art Pub Crawl where they will learn to draw in a fun workshop.

The following day 80 speakers will converge on Cong Village where each of them will present their ideas on Innovation in small huddles spread through the village in cafes, galleries, bars and restaurants.  

While the adults will be reenergizing their minds in Cong Village, their children will be experiencing science and rocket making workshops in the Crossroads Community Centre.

The day of ‘unconferencing’ on Saturday will finish off with a Blues Harmonic workshop where over the course of 2 hours, attendees will learn to play basic Chicago Blues harmonica and collaborate to write the lyrics of "Leaving Congregation Blues".

In order to secure a ticket each attendee produces a 600 word article on their topic which is published on the Congregation website (

Commenting organiser Eoin Kennedy said “This year’s Congregation has attracted people from a very diverse range of backgrounds from academics, psychologists, business owners, teachers and nurses to farmers with an equally varied spectrum of perspectives on innovation.  Although many speakers fly in for the event it is designed to be accessible and inclusive day of sharing, discussing, connecting and reenergizing.  Attendees propose a topic, research it and produce a paper and in essence pay with their insights.  Rather than the normal conference format of one speaker presenting to many people, we break the sessions into group of 12 people in multiple venues that randomly rotate and change 4 times during the day.  This format replicates real world roundtable coffee chats where some of the best conversations and ideas are born.”

There is no charge to attend Congregation and submissions will be considered until the end of 20th November.  In particular the organisers are looking for contributions in Innovation in Art, Music and Living with special consideration given to younger participants.

Anyone interested in participating is encouraged to send in a one liner/synopsis on their suggested topic area to or submit a full article via the website

The free eBooks from 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 are available as a download on

The event is proudly sponsored by (, Bank of Ireland, MKC Communications ( and Blacknight


Congregation takes place in Cong, which is a small village in Co Mayo and home to The Quiet Man and Ashford Castle.  Throughout the day coffee shops, bars and restaurants will be alive with people sharing stories and insights into innovation.  Each session will last one hour, with two in the morning and two in the afternoon.  A free ticket is delivered to attendees once they produce their submission paper and teas/coffee/lunch will be provided during the day.

As each attendee is also a speaker so everyone who goes is a stakeholder and central to the event.  Special breaks are built into the day to facilitate social interaction along with special art and music workshops planned for the Friday and Saturday evening.  This the 5th year of the event.


Eoin Kennedy,


+353 86 8339540

#cong16 Submissions Review

The theme for 2015 was ‘The Future’ with over 80 submissions published.  The wide range of submissions is difficult to group together reflecting the diverse background of all who attended #cong16.

However some common grouping do emerge but some cross and cover multiple areas.

Common Themes

  • Business
  • Community
  • Education
  • Environment
  • Farming
  • Politics
  • Society
  • Technology


Simon Cocking #1 The future is working (remotely)

The first submission by Simon Cocking looked at technologies, trends and the social impacts of remote working in ‘The Future is Working (remotely)’. Along a similar vein Adrian Corcoran detailed specific tools and the benefits of remote working and virtual collaboration in ‘Where’s the boss? The future of managing your business…”

Louis Grenier advised marketers to focus on trust and not money and to be yourself in ‘Trust is the Future of Marketing’. Fergal O’Connor warned that as humans become seem as data points and measurability has become the ultimate mantra that creativity is being sacrificed for mass appeal in ‘Creative Armageddon - The race to be average’.

Outside of sharing 10 business life experience tips on maintaining innovation Cronan McNamara also advised taking a longer term perspective in ‘Your Overnight Success will be 10 Years in the Making + 10 Innovation Tips for the Long Term’. Ger Tannan reminded us that great relationships between buyers and sellers continue to underpin all progress despite the rapid pace of technology in ‘All Has Changed (But Not Utterly): How The Future Of Marketing Looks Just Like The Past’. Alan O’Rourke gave a real world example of a new colleagues rise in his company to explain how internal communications and keeping teams informed could be the future of success in ‘The Future of Work is Marketing’. Sean Fay shared some lessons from China on attracting back talent and diaspora back to Ireland in ‘Our near future West, via the far East’. Keith Morrison went back to basics on what matters in PR and the importance of the human dimension in a digital world in ‘Communicating Tomorrow’

Lisa White discussed how the networked, adaptable, collaborative model for organisations is set to reinvent our world in ‘Want to be in Business Forever?: A Spin through our Organisational Future’. Joy Redmond discussed how many of us as “Multipotentialites” don’t have one calling in life but there are big benefits of multiple role experiences in ‘Don’t Mind the Gap: Career Pivots are the Future’. Jane Leonard highlighted the dangers of Irish business not going online in ‘In the future, your customers won’t want to talk to you.’ Sean Brady made the environment and business case for using technology in favour of unneeded face to face meetings in ‘The Future of Meeting is Not Traveling’. Myles McHugh revealed that in a world where the power has shifted to the consumer, we need to utilise technology, act fast and continue to make the experience personal and pleasant in ‘The Future of Service’.

 As technology and new platforms make it easier to reach large numbers and fame lasts for a short period, Gus Ryan points out that to be truly famous with lasting effect you still need to be remarkable or to have done remarkable things in ‘In the Future everyone will be famous for 15 seconds’. Fiona Curran Lonergan looked at some current and emerging trends used to consult and engage with the public on a variety of topics in ‘Role of Technology in’ Inclusive Public Engagement – The Future’. Experienced retailer John Horkan shared research and his own thoughts on how the retail experience needs to evolve to survive in ‘What’s happening to retail?’. Echoing a world in flux Jenny Sharif explored what a future marriage between tech and reading could look like in ‘The Future of Books in a Digital World’. Susan Crowe revealed current and future home automation in ‘A Smarter Home is Here and Now’. John Wright and Mark Leyden both looked at the Future of Finance with John articulating the challenges that disruption, mainly in the form of technology, will be problematic for the regulatory environment and business environment. Mark discussed the arrival of ‘Utility Banks’ and an inevitable delivery of financial services by trusted brands like Facebook and Google, away from traditional banking brands. Maire Garvey shared insights into being authentic, energized, adaptive and connected in public speaking and that despite the rapid evolution of technology, the art of verbal communication remains the same in ‘It Was Always Thus. The Art of Communication Has Come Full Circle Since Aristotle’. Calvin Jones advocated not trying to predict the future but rather focusing on being nimble, embracing change, learning from the past, excelling in the present, and adapting to the future in ‘How to future proof your business’. Greg Fry shared how shared how live video is moving from live to interactive and the emergency of mainstream virtual reality video in “Live and Targeted” - The Future of Digital Video’


John Magee argued for the need to embrace rural living and nurture it as an asset, in addition to laying out a policy driven template in ‘Mayo 2040: Wasteland or an attractive & vibrant place?’. Bernard Joyce also advocated for the survival of local communities from use of technology, keeping resources local to creating new spaces in ‘If Things Don’t Change, They’ll Stay The Way They Are’. Pat Kennedy discussed some of the technologies that could enhance local community development from data, online meetings and task management arguing that local communities had not yet reaped the same transformation in services as the business and government communities in ‘The Future is in “Smart Local Communities”’


Future of Education in a world of white collar automation by Victor del Resol

Victor del Rosal submission ‘The Future of Education in a World of White-Collar Automation’ was a fascinating journey looking at the future workforce while examining how we are equipping our children to be able to adapt to a world where many current jobs will not exist. Ailish Irvine explored where we should put our focus in education and engender creativity and original thinking in ‘That Internet thing will never catch on.’ Janine McGinn questioned the head long rush to designing education solely around the needs of the labour market rather than moulding more rounded individuals in ‘Focus on Labour Market Demands will Hinder Students’ Future Potential’. Hassan Dabbagh pragmatically asked if we should fully utilise what we already have rather than always looking for the next best thing in education in the ‘Past Lessons for Education’. Frank Walsh queried how our formalised system of education can allow for new forms of diverse learning outcomes and their assessment in ‘The Future of Learning and Assessment’. Padraig McKeon looked at the options for learning online and how self directed learning takes a fundamentally different approach to traditional education in ‘Digitally mediated learning - starting with the end, What Does it Mean Over Time’. Mags Amond shared how the different dynamic and flow of TeachMeet events enhances professional development and where its future might lie in ‘If TeachMeet is the answer, what is the question?’ Gar MacCríosta unveiled a new approach to creating a system to get the best of digital and physical worlds in ‘FreeRange Learning and the Digital Hedge Schools’


Barbara Heneghan shared some interesting projects that use technology in helping to protect our world and the increasing ways we rely on scientist to stop plants from disappearing with seed banks and other initiatives in ‘The Future of Technology Helps us to Better Understand our Planet’. Sean Conway showed how the use of social media and the internet can bring about behavioural change and how the use of digital technology also brings us much hope in the area of solution engineering and in measuring the effects of a warming planet in ‘Climate Change, Technology and the Internet’


Declan Molloy looked how big data and Agtech can modernize farming practices and increase output in ‘Cloudy with a chance of data’ while Margaret Griffin explored the fundamentals in ‘What is a Farm?’. Danny Noone challenged convention and introduced holistic new thinking in ‘Next Generation Profitable Dry Stock Farming’ while Tomas Tierney explored what the options are in ‘Farming post EU Structural Funds and Subsidies.


Politics crept into a lot of submission in the guise of Brexit and the US Election and how it will shape a more uncertain future but there were some submissions that focused solely on politics. Jenny O’Reilly gave an inside track on the use of social media by political parties, questioning if it has resulted in informed debate or an echo chamber of like minded views in ‘The Future of Political Engagement in a Social Media Driven World’. Max Hastings gave a research and data driven insights into the use of automated bots that have the potential to skew election results in ‘2016 Elections and Twitter: Rise of the Political bot’


Although not a homogenous group many submissions predictably had a strong sociological focus. Tom Murphy in his piece ‘Dept of Near Future’ highlights the difficulty of thinking about the future and the need to pay attention and look for clues so we can adjust our behaviour. Chris Collins documented how women’s different use and engagement with social media could result in ‘The emergence of the online female entrepreneur.’ Leon Tunney Ware contested that we need to understand what makes us truly human, before plunging into the possibilities that the digital age offers and that Forethought and Foresight are necessary for our digital future in ‘The Human Experience of the Internet’. Theresa Rock outlined what it takes to be a visionary and its importance for a positive future in ‘The Future Needs Visionaries’. Andrew Lovatt questioned how the early promise of the internet has become driven by shareholder value and we need to rethink what the future could be ‘Is the future what we make it?’.

Damien Costello articulated a new construct for society based on social capital in line with evolving generational shifts in ‘Towards a more Sympathetic Future - Thoughts on the Humanisation of Society through Digital Technology’. Rapidly following on the generational focus on the individual Ginger Aarons uses the example of preservation of our heritage that depends on a more communal approach in ‘I Becomes We .... Our future depends on it!’. John Tierney explored how Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and contextual data sets can help in replaying the past but also has a role in finding the truth in ‘The Future of Experiencing the Past’.

Sean McGrath also questioned the truth in a world of algorithims where machines decide what we read and possibly what we think in ‘A Pokemon Ate My Hamster’. Continuing this theme Alan Tyrrell gave guidance on our relationship with information and ensuring it is an enabler rather than enslaver in ‘The Lost Generation: Questions and Rambles on the Way to Discovery.’

Julian Ellison articulated the fundamental basis of religion, why it is valuable to our belief and being in ‘Does God have a future? Or to be more specific, does belief in God have a future?’ Denis O’Hora gave a psychologist view on how we should handle/ deal with thinking about the future as it poses uncertainty, distractions and excessive worry in ‘The Future Deserves Our Consideration.’ Joan Mulvihill continued the theme of uncertainty and posed a series of question about the future in ‘Address Unknown’. Paul O’Mahony through a Periscope session and follow up audio posts gathered together views on the movement to virtual communication and debated the merits and discomfort it poses for some in ‘The Future Is Not Virtual - or is it?’. Andrew O’Brien brings us back to earth in his evolution inspired piece on ‘The Future of Health is Running and the Future of Running is Health’.

Ruairi Kavanagh dug deep into intergeneration traits, aspiration and difference in ‘Generation Y and why we need them more than ever.’ Paul Killoran’s ‘A Faster Horse’ questioned why we accept that transatlantic transport has taken a step back and is more constrained by our imagination than technological capabilities. Belinda Brummer took the evolution of robots and AI and argued that we need to think beyond human rights as machines become more advanced in ‘The Future of the Rights Movement’. Billy Kennedy pointed out the weakness in our reliance on electronic data, suggested some future proofing strategies and also pointed out that techniques, thinking that took millennia to evolve have a role in our future in ‘The Future Depends on Harnessing the Tools of the Past.’ On a similar theme Robert Malseed demonstrated how a very simple game from Roman times can help us improve our thinking and strategy formation (without the reliance on power) in Gaming the Past for the Future. Gavin Duffy argued that we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past if we fail to examine and learn from them, as reflected in past rises/falls of civilization in ‘Examine the Past to Determine the Future’. Sabina Bonnici presented a view of how adults and children will entertain themselves in a technology driven future in the ‘Future of Play’. Syed Ghazi argues that the rising belief that AI and data will solve all our problems is ill conceived in ‘Big Data is not the Answer’. Noreen Henry presented a series of possible technologies that will drive the future in “Tomorrow belongs to those that hear it coming”. Dermot Casey in ‘Airbags for the Algorithmic Age’ paints a cautionary picture of how computational errors can have profound impacts on lives and argues for a charter of algorithmic rights. Barry Adams outlined how machine learning and the Internet of Things is transforming the internet and beyond in ‘The World Wide Web in the Age of the Industrial Internet’. Tom Murphy presented an alternative decentralized social networking architecture that empowers people rather than enriches corporations in ‘Let’s Kill Facebook’. Sabine Mckenna argued the case for basic coding in ‘Digital Natives not Created Equal’ while Kathryn Parkes outlined the need for diverse forces in design technology in ‘The Future of Human-Centred Design in a World of Machine Intelligence’.  Camile Donegan discussed the role of myth and story telling as the future or VR in ‘Virtual Reality - Theatre of the Future’.

Alastair McDermot narrated the past story of website design and articulated how automation, artificial intelligence and the proliferation of devices will change ‘The Future of Web Design’. Darragh Rea used the backdrop of the US election to explore how we access information and what is shaping our experiences in ‘Google and Facebook, Democracy’s Greatest Challenge?’. Will Knott showed how Maker Spaces can transform how we collaborate and how/what we can create and build in ‘Making your inter-network, of things – MakerSpaces and the future of innovation’. Niall McCormack proposed that the secret to the future could lie in past fiction in ‘Science Fiction to Science Fact: How the Past is Predicting the Future’. Bernie Goldbach collated a series of thinking about how we transport ourselves in the ‘Future of Mobility’. In the controversial world of artificial intelligence Ciaran Cannon put the debate into context in ‘Artificial Intelligence - The robots are coming to get us and other such stories’

#cong 16 unconference day report

“The Future”. UnConference. Cong Village

While the childrens workshop was in full swing in the Crossroad Centre,  the series of talks and conversations kicked off at 10.30 until 4.30 in 8 different venues in Cong Village.

Themed around ‘The Future’, each attendee had produced a 600 word article of their vision, thoughts or perspective on what lies ahead for whatever area they wished to focus on. This was the basis of talks on the day and are all available to see in the submissions page.

During the day each of submissions which were presented in coffee shops, book stores, bars, restaurants and craft stores were guided by a chair person who ensured three presentations at each huddle and moderated the following discussion.

Photo 2 Puddleducks

The mixed background of attendees and the range of topic areas reflected the challenge of looking into the future. Far reaching presentations into Artificial Intelligence, rise of automation, future transport were combined with individual thoughts on how we will work and play in the future. Although the depth and quality of information sharing on the day was extremely stimulating the real magic happened in the Q&A and subsequent conversations. 

Photo 4 Pat Cohans

Capped at 10 minutes the presentations acted as a catalyst for conversation and gave people a better understanding of the presenter. As the day evolved and barriers were slowing broken down, perspectives on the future moved from disparate opinions to more personal and universal themes. Although there was plenty of conversation about flying cars to embedded chips the final exercise of distilling thoughts, perspectives and concepts to create a better future proved difficult. The final session revealed peoples fear about the future, the uncertainty about the here and now and thinking started to focus on what type world do we want and what actually matters.

Congregation Quiet Cailin Huddle

One group debated at length about what a better future means and what actually makes people happy, rationalizing that a sense of community was what made people happiest. The truth is that the future not alone fundamentally questions what is possible but also what we want and need as a race. It also has deep psychological repercussions as many of us grasp with dealing with the next step and unable, fear of cannot see the point in looking beyond.

Finishing up at 4.30pm the group were treated to a one for everyone in the audience with a free copy of Chris Brogans book ‘The Freaks Shall Inherit the Earth’ supplied by Eoin Kennedy and Paul O’Mahony.

Following the annual photo at Cong Cross the conversations continued on at a conference dinner in Pat Cohan’s and Ryan’s Hotel. The group finally convened at Danaghers Hotel where one of the attendees, Sean McGrath, guided everyone through a bodhrán workshop. Sean patiently explained the difference between ‘rashers and sausages’ and ‘black and decker’ as 50 people finally started to build rhythm together.

Bodhran workshop

Children’s Congregation

As the 90 attendees gathered in Ryans Hotel for their briefng, a group of 31 children were being treated to workshops in the Crossroads Centre. Ranging from 4-15 years old, they were expertly guided through building lego robots from scratch by Niall McCormack of Colmac Robotics before eventually pitching them against each other in Robot Wars.

Childrens workshop

After lunch Hassan Dabbagh from Castlebar and Pamela O’Brien from LIT in Tipperary introduced the children to a selection of MaKey MaKey workshop activities from code breaking, making simple electrical circuits with diodes and batteries before creating start/stop animation and making electric pianos from fruit.

IMG 9415Childrens workshop 2

The Past Meets the Future at #cong16

“The Past Meets the Future” Ashford Castle Gathering at 7pm in the Billiards Room in Ashford Castle for a Prosecco reception hosted by the Castle, the group of 32 were treated to a flash tour of DNA, Scratch, Mindcraft and Archaeology Storytelling.

Photo 10 Mike mulligan

Mike Mulligan from kicked things off with a narration on the fundamentals of DNA structure before mapping the evolution of man and migration through the globe and finally mapping DNA data onto insights from the early Annals, linking family names and location. The layering of DNA data, although still early days has the capability to plug gaps in recorded histories and also to help answer population enigmas.


Archaeologist John Tierney spoke about using geolocation data to help piece together the truth and also shared a project where he has used data to plot the connection of Walt Disney’s ancestors to Dublin.

Photo 12 Stephen Howell

Stephen Howell, SMARTlab UCD demonstrated how the computer programme Scratch can help students create their own experience of what they learn in school. One programme he wrote and demonstrated showed how you could use Microsoft Kinect to move, control and interact with a simple history character on a computer screen. He suggested that the real value of learning code was akin to learning to read and write. Not everyone will be an award winning writer but the basic literacy skills enables us to communicate at a deeper level. Similarly with coding, the aim should be to enhance learning rather than turn the country in to a nation of programmers.


The final speaker Gar McCriosta from Mindrising unveiled school projects where students created their own virtual versions of historical moments including 1916 on Mindcraft. Schools around the country built virtual GPOs, soldiers in uniforms, created engaging narratives and songs and through the process changed mindsets on how school topics can be taught and deeply learnt. He finished his talk sharing the insights on how he is using these tools to enable students and others to start envisioning the future. At a recent event he gave a group of students the challenge of coming up with solutions to solve the health crisis in 2030. The range of solutions were fascinating and illustrated that with the right guidance, tools and openness that breakthroughs can be achieved.

Next up Congregation for Kids.

Report from #cong16

The full eBook will be available soon but in the meanwhile we will share a series of mini reports on each of the indivdiual apsects of the event from an analysis of the content to narrations on each element.

#cong16 Report Introduction

Cong village was once again invaded for the weekend by a diverse collection of consultants, teachers, academics, politicians, entrepreneurs, business owners, farmers, physiotherapist and psychologists who gathered to discuss the future. In the run up to the events all the participants produced a 600+ word blog submission which they presented and talked through on the day.

In its fourth year the annual Congregation festival has expanded to three days running from Friday 25th, to Sunday 26th with over 90 adults and 31 children attending. The centre piece of the event is the ‘unconference’ that took place on the Saturday in Cong Village but a small group were also treated to a series of fascinating talks in the private cinema in Ashford Castle on Friday night with the #cong16 finishing off with an archaeology tour of local heritage sites.


The thinking behind this years Congregation was to explore perspectives of the future from a myriad of view points and backgrounds. However it was also important to anchor this in the rich heritage and past through three different events.

• “The Past Meets the Future” presentations in Ashford Castle

• “The Future” huddles in Cong Village

• “The Rich Past” archaeology tours of Cong

Next up:  Ashford Castle Report.

Chairing Guidance for #cong16

Alec Taylor has kindly shared his experience and insights into how to chair the sessions for this years Congregation #cong16.  Watch the video below and browse the written guidance to help you prepare for Saturday November 26th in Cong Village.  

We will have four huddles during the day and will kick off regardless at 10.30am (some people have alerted us they will be late and some arriving at lunchtime).   We are planning a final briefing for chairs around 10am in Ryans Hotel.

We are aiming for 3 presentations per huddle and at the last huddle we will catch any remaining presentation and float the following open question.

“What Ideas/Suggestions/Concepts/Wish list do you have for creating a better future?”

Please capture this input for the eBook report.

The full briefing for attendees is here.




As participants arrive, display a pre-prepared flipchart with a 60-minute timetable (see second sheet) and appoint a Timekeeper (ask the first person through the door).


Stand by the door and welcome each participant individually and encourage each person to present.


Recruit three presenters with diverging topics, if possible while welcoming the group at the door.  Ask the presenters to sit apart from each other.


Involve another member of the group by asking them to stand beside the flipchart and write up spontaneously any names, websites, new terminology, buzz-words that are mentioned by the presenters.

THE START (of the 60-minute Timetable)


The Chairperson introduces themself (in 15 seconds) then chooses the next person from the group.  They do the same and this continues until everyone is covered.  Also invite people to share their ‘life hack’ ice breaker.


The Chairperson then introduces the 3 ‘volunteers’ and their topics (again 15 secs each) and asks the first presenter to speak. Pointing out that they have 10 mins for their presentation, then another 5 minutes for discussion. 

Explain that to help them finish on time (for everyone’s sake) they will receive the following ‘silent signals’ from the Timekeeper:

  • a ‘yellow card’ after 5 mins (half-way)
  • again a ‘yellow card’ after 8 mins (2 min to go)
  • a ‘red card’ at 10 mins.  (If they are still talking, they can finish their sentence, but no more.)



After each presentation, thank the presenter and invite the group to offer feedback (comments as well as questions).  Ask your own question (or make your own comment) to help the process along.



In the closing-session, shift the focus to the following questions:

o What interested you most in this Huddle?

o What is your key takeaway? 

Try to get 2-4 people to answer these questions in the short summing-up session.

Finally, motivate the individuals in the group who haven’t yet presented to take the opportunity at their next Huddle….and thank everyone for their active participation in  “What turned out to be a passable, live TV Show!”

© Alec Taylor Learning 2016


“(Chairperson’s full name) welcomes you to HUDDLE 1 in the Quiet Cailin”


  • 0   mins START - GROUP ‘GET-TO-KNOW’
  • 8   mins1st PRESENTATION + Q&A
  • 24 mins2nd PRESENTATION + Q&A
  • 40 mins3rd PRESENTATION + Q&A
  • 55 minsSUMMING-UP 
  • 60 minsFINISH

26th November, 2016

© Alec Taylor Learning 2016

CongRegation © Eoin Kennedy 2017 eoin at congregation dot ie