Community – Are We Losing Out? #67 #cong19

Synopsis:

Coming soon

Key Takeaways:

Coming soon

About Aileen Howell:

Aileen describes herself as a mum of 4, a dedicated Geek girl, a Breastfeeding Advocate, an Aspie & ADHD mum, and a Maker of Things.

Aileen was the founder and managing director of bumpbasics.com, Ireland’s first exclusively online maternity wear start-up. Before her start-up days, she was a software engineer working in the finance sector. These days she is a director with a uniform (school & industry) supplier and a full time La Leche League Leader – a voluntary position in the area of mother-to-mother breastfeeding support.

Contacting Aileen Howell:

You can follow Aileen on Twitter or send her an email.

By Aileen Howell

As the world changes, the definition of community is changing. It used to be a physical location but now it is becoming more nebulous and abstract. Far more people will now seek to find their “community” online with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc all providing the means. However, does this shift online mean we are missing out on the benefits of community in a tangible, physical sense.

Community in the traditional sense was very much location based. Ask someone to tell you about their local community and they will probably quickly paint a picture of the area they lived in and the people who lived there. They will quite possibly mention the local GAA team which, in rural Ireland, was and still is generally the beating heart of most communities. The word community creates an immediate feeling of well-being, there’s a warmth to the idea of community that wraps you up in it. If you grew up in the same community as someone else you probably went to the same school, played on the same roads, prayed at the same church. Being part of a community was a shared sense of belonging – of knowing where you stood in the world based on those around you. Community was a shared outlook, a sense of being secure and knowing that those around you probably shared similar life experiences, backgrounds, views.

In the past people lived their whole lives in their local community – work, social, sports etc. As the world grows smaller that same structure and predictability can seem stifling and restrictive. We no longer meet at Mass on a Sunday or head to the local for a pint on Saturday night. We push against those boundaries looking for more and seeking out those who we feel more connected with, not based on geography but based on life views.

With the birth of the internet, and specifically chat rooms/bulletin boards/social media, community has come to mean so much more and at the same time often so much less. Now you will hear people talking about “finding their tribe”, online communities and it’s not unusual to have friends – even close ones – that you’ve never actually physically met. As people spend more time commuting to work and less time in their homes, the online community has come to supersede the physical one and people are more likely to reach out to these communities for social interaction.

While it’s fantastic that people are able to find support, friendship and build relationships online, has the growth in the online world been at a cost to the physical one? While online connections are fantastic and an important outlet for many – can they replace the traditional community? Is there any need to preserve the traditional community?

I used to feel that the traditional community had passed it’s sell by date. That in the modern age we were free to choose our own communities based on shared values and ideal. That we could just seek out those who felt as we do and forge our friendships there.  However – while these online communities can and do serve an important function these lack in some very fundamental ways.

The smallest of things can be the most important – a handshake outside the local shop, a chat at the post office or a spontaneous cuppa when you run into a friend in the street. These small human interactions have so much to offer both parties and we need to be careful not to forget that. I’ve also come to realise that a single shared passion/experience or belief is not enough ground to build a strong community. The wonderful diversity which opens us up to so many ideas can also be overwhelming and alien. There is something comforting about having a conversation with someone from your physical community – there’s a shared culture and experience that allows the ebb and flow of a conversation to happen with the need for clarifications or the misunderstandings which will happen so frequently online due to the vastly different world experiences of those you  are chatting to.  Lets not throw the baby out with the bath water, lets hold on to the best of both and continue forging new communities online while holding fast to the living, breathing community right outside our doors.

 

Where do ideas come from and where do they go? #78 #cong18

Synopsis:

Coming soon.

4 Key Takeaways:

  1. Coming soon

About Aileen Howell:

Aileen describes herself as a mum of 4, a dedicated Geek girl, a Breastfeeding Advocate, an Aspie & ADHD mum, and a Maker of Things.

Aileen was the founder and managing director of bumpbasics.com, Ireland’s first exclusively online maternity wear start-up. Before her start-up days, she was a software engineer working in the finance sector. These days she is a director with a uniform (school & industry) supplier and a full time La Leche League Leader – a voluntary position in the area of mother-to-mother breastfeeding support.

Contacting Aileen Howell:

You can follow Aileen on Twitter or send her an email.

By Aileen Howell

How does one go from having an idea to growing that idea? Having great ideas is no use if you lack the skills/drive/confidence or experience to develop it or to find someone else with the skills to do it for you. How many brilliant ideas are stillborn? Caught in the birth canal of someone incapable (in reality or in belief) of pushing it forward and into life? Is this a teachable skill or is it simply down to personality type?

How often have you heard someone say “I had a great idea” but then go on to tell you how they kept that idea hidden – afraid to share it in case someone “stole” it but unable or unwilling to develop it themselves. Many of those ideas (and to be fair probably most of them) are best kept hidden but how many gems are out there, secreted away for some unknown future time?

How many of us have seen a simple product in the shops or online and thought to ourselves – I wish I’d thought of that? How many more have seen the same and thought “I DID think of that – years ago but I was waiting for some magical future time when I would do something with the idea”. Having ideas is great, growing ideas is better.

Is the growth of maker spaces and community workshops like men’s sheds going to help create an environment where people can explore ideas for products without the outlay and commitment previously needed? How can we foster this willingness to delve into ideas in future generations?

I have had the privilege over the last number of years to be invited by our local secondary school to participate in a “Dragon’s Den” event they run for their Transition Year students. This is the launch of their mini-businesses. They work alone or in groups to come up with a business idea and then pitch it to the Dragons who then bid a small amount of money for a small stake in the company. Often the ideas are re-hashes of previous years businesses (and to be fair we do all look forward to the mini-company who are going to bake because they ALWAYS have few samples to pass around) but sometimes you see a spark of something that could be truly great. A few weeks later we are all invited back to their Christmas fair where the businesses are on display and products and services are ready to go. Frequently I’ll see a business that seemed so full of ideas and promise selling bags of sweets or something similar and equally uninspired. When you go and chat to them you find that they just couldn’t figure out how to go from having the idea to developing it.  If you ask them “Why didn’t you approach someone in the field to ask for guidance?” You’ll get told “We didn’t want them to steal our idea” and just like that you realise that, yet another idea has gone to that great idea boneyard.

How do we get to a place where people put those ideas out there – to grow and thrive or to die in the dust as their merit warrants. Is there a litmus test for ideas – how does one know if an idea is good? Can we get create an environment where people are willing to share their ideas and let them be taken on by those with the drive and ambition to see them through? An ideas repository if you will – like a sperm bank of projects – patiently waiting for the right egg to come along.