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@linguabrand.com 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

Your Business is a Community #71 #cong19


Your business is a community and to be successful you need to focus on growing your members by listening to them. Allow them to become part of how you run your business. Develop your culture around respect, transparency and mutual benefits. Do this by talking to your customer, your staff and trade partners. Make it a weekly habit, gain insight into what is important and relevant to them. Your members are your greatest asset so treat them with the value and respect they deserve.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Treat your customer, staff and suppliers as your greatest assets and make them feel members of your community
  2. Don’t lose sight of what is important, look after your customers and give them a great product and service and they will be part of your community.
  3. Communicate to your members in a way which is of value to them, don’t be irrelevant.
  4. People Buy People so enlist your members to become advocates for your business.

About John Horkan:

Co-owner and CEO of Horkan’s Group. John has over 30 years’ experience in business. His main responsibility is the strategic direction of Horkans Group and leading the eCommerce development across the businesses. He is pass Chairman of Retail Excellence Ireland’s e-Commerce Committee and he has participated in the Google Incubation Program for Irish Retailers. John is a founder member of DMiMayo Digital Marketing in Mayo network group. He represented Ireland at the Global E-commerce Summit in Barcelona in 2013.

Horkan’s Group is a family business that operates 4 Horkan’s Garden & Lifestyle Centre’s and 8 Petworld stores in locations across Ireland along with two eCommerce sites Horkans.ie and Petworlddirect.ie

Contacting John Horkan:

You can follow John on Twitter, connect with him on LinkedIn or email him.

By John Horkan

It makes perfect sense that every business is its own community, one which is thriving and growing or one which is declining and going out of business. It is made up of your customers, staff and suppliers. To be the one which is thriving you need to continually grow your customer base. If people feel they are part of a community they are more likely to return. Customer retention is one of the most important success factors in any business, Researchers at Brain have found that increasing retention by 5% can increase profits by as much as 25% to 95%.

The experts tell us about the need to change all the time, the pressure to keep up with the latest trends, new technology, chasing the market as it changes and evolves. Our businesses are under constant pressure to implement the latest new thing in marketing and customer service but a lot of time we lose sight of what is important, what are the things which keep our business healthy and relevant.

Recently I received a copy of an advert my great grandfather P.A.Horkan placed in the Connaught Telegraph on 15th Dec 1910. He had listed 5 testimonials from a few of his customers highlighting the excellent service they had received. P.A. was a plumber and was the first in the area to install sanitary systems to the large houses and businesses in the area. It struck me as ironic that we think business has evolved so much over the last 109 years but the basics are still the same. In our business we use Trust Pilot to get customer feedback and enable them to rate our service is a very public way. We also use the Net Promoter Score to get feedback and measure our customer satisfaction. We are in a time where the power has moved to the consumer and they are very quick to point out when our service is not up to scratch. Google reviews, Trip Advisor and many more review sites are bringing transparency to the whole customer experience. Things have changed but things are very much the same. If you look after your customers and give them a great product and service they will be part of your community, if you don’t they will leave and become part of someone else’s community.

Nowadays we have big data, Crm systems, online 24/7 always on devices, so communication has never been easier and transparency is a lot stronger. Fake news has had its day and is been outed by the collective masses who understand when they are being manipulated. As Abraham Lincoln said “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” When we communicate to our members we need to do this in a way which is of value to them. If we bombard them with irrelevant information, too many email on our next great promotion or show up to many a time when they are on line we just turn them off.

Look at your business as a community which needs to be listened to, nurtured and engaged. Allow them to become part of how you run your business. Develop your culture around respect, transparency and mutual benefits. Aim for success over the long term by being an active member of your community. Do this by talking to your customer, your staff and trade partners. Make it a weekly habit, gain insight into what is important and relevant. In this way you can make a better decision on how to support your community. Your business grows when you are close and know the needs and wants of your members, you can respond in a timely manner. Make your decisions around what is right for your community, not short term goals or targets.

Your community members are every business’s greatest assets, they don’t appear on a balance sheet but are more valuable than all the assets listed there. The most successful businesses around today understand this and have managed to enlist their members to become advocates for their business. People Buy People and treating everyone as a member of your community, who you value and respect, will allow the right culture to develop. Do this and success will follow.

Community – The Sense of Belonging #70 #cong19


Communities come in a variety of forms but each one has one thing in common – a sense of belonging.

Whether it’s a community of interest, geography, circumstance or profession, each community all over the world has people who come together and support each other, in both good and bad times.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Community can mean something different to everyone
  2. You can become part of a community overtime without even realising it
  3. In the current age, digital communities are growing increasingly popular
  4. People can be part of different types of communities that can at times overlap.

About Aine Mc Manamon:

A digital marketing enthusiast with a love for networking, Áine has worked in various digital marketing and e-commerce roles over the past five years. She is passionate about email marketing, having a consistent brand across all channels and designing suitable social media imagery for campaigns.

One of the Co-Founders and the Current Chair of Digital Marketing Mayo, Áine will also become the JCI Mayo President for 2020, where she plans to focus on community and business events as well as personal development training for the members.

Contacting Aine Mc Manamon:

You can follow Aine on Twitter, see her on Instagram, connect with her on LinkedIn or send her an email.

By Aine Mc Manamon

If you’d asked me 10 plus years ago what the word community meant to me, it would have created some bitterness and ill feeling. To me at that time, a community was symbolic of neighbors overstepping their mark and that small town vibe of everyone knowing your business, and asking a million and one questions, whether you wanted them to or not.

But now I have a drastically different outlook on what that word means and it fills me with warmth to be part of numerous communities. Perhaps I’ve grown wiser over the years. Or maybe from my travels I see things from a different perspective. Whatever it may be, this is my simple take on community.

Community first reminds me of home and familiarity – family, neighbours and friends that I’ve had since I was born. I now admire the way a community comes together in times of sorrow, in times of need and in times of joy. In rural Ireland, all it takes is just one phone call and then everyone rallies around in whatever the circumstances. While this may have irritated me in the past, where I couldn’t understand why people had to get involved in everything, I can now see that it’s people looking after each other and I’ve grown to love this caring environment.

Community provides the feeling that you belong. After moving to the U.S. I noticed that I was instantly attracted to anything Irish, and that was very easy to find over there. There was a wide Irish community as a whole who were all very welcoming and helpful in the transition. The longer I spent in this community, the more I noticed that there were also breakout communities – Irish in business, Irish involved in fashion, those who went along to music and dancing sessions, GAA clubs etc. From being apart of these groups, it was like having a home away from home.

While I was very fortunate to be involved in this large community and feeling a connection to home, I also wanted to experience different cultures and adventures. Having the opportunity to get to know different people in the area I lived in, from shop owners to taxi drives, I found that without realizing it, I became embedded in the community where I lived, getting to know people on a one to one basis and in time on a wider scale. When experiencing circumstances outside of our control, such as hurricanes or blizzards for example, I was surrounded by people of all different nationalities who all came together and helped each other out to make sure everyone was looked after.

My work life opened more doors to become part of a different community so before I knew it, I was immersed in a number of groups, all very different, but all offering that sense of belonging, even though I was a long way from home.

So from my experience, community can be broken into different areas, and possibly overlap in some cases such as the following:

Communities can be from a geographical area which can be broken into urban, suburban, and rural.
Communities can be brought together by external circumstances which could result in forming an action
Communities can form from people with similar interests.
In a professional sense, people working in the same are can form their own community.

Community by definition is “a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.”

But in the Digital World we live in today ‘people living in the same place’ part is not always relevant. There are various online communities, from online gaming, to book clubs, information forums and even the likes of Congregation itself.

Overtime, I have had the opportunity to join different online communities, such as the Women’s Inspire Network. This group is a supportive network where relationships are built online and it’s hugs instead of handshakes when meeting in life. It’s a rapidly growing network, and everyone gets the same welcome and same chances to promote themselves and their businesses as everyone else. You get out of it what you put into it. While developing business relationships, and getting advice and support, it’s also being a part of something bigger and realising you are not alone, it’s being part of an active online community .

When I think of the amount of communities I’m now apart of, and then look back on the narrow view I had on the word alone only a decade ago, it fills me with hope that the best is yet to come. Why you may ask? Well being active in these networks has helped me grow as a person, allowed me to learn, while also having the opportunity to give back.

All over the world there are countless communities and with the online opportunities this will only continue to grow. While it begins at home with the one we are born into, as our lives develop and change so too do the communities we become apart of.

But each community has something in common – the sense of belonging and being apart of something bigger!

“Outside In” – How the Outsider can Disrupt Mature Communities and Effect Positive Change #69 #cong19


Mature communities have an established culture that may not serve them, and this requires change.
Outsiders can see the need for change more clearly and may bring fresh ideas.
The outsider has less to lose but more to gain from change. It’s more natural for an outsider to drive change.
Outsiders don’t have to ask the community for permission.
Communities usually have some members who are receptive to change, who influence others.
The outsider will gain more influence when the benefits to the community start to flow.
Sometimes outsiders become insiders. Eventually new outsiders are needed to restart the cycle.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Outsiders are more likely than insiders to drive change.
  2. Outsiders don’t need to ask for permission.
  3. Outsiders gain influence by bringing clear benefits to the community.
  4. When outsiders become insiders, new outsiders are required.

About Eamonn Toland:

I have some experience of the role of an outsider.

I’m the founder of a secondary school maths support system who has never been a classroom teacher. I’m a technologist who can’t program. I’m a minis rugby coach who has never played rugby. I’m a Donegal man living in Mayo.

My appetite for disruption has been commented upon since around the age of 3.

Contacting Eamonn Toland:

You can follow Richard on Twitter, connect with him on Facebook or see his work in the Maths Tutor

By Eamonn Toland

Every mature community, whether it be a rugby club, a resident’s association, an education system, or even a business has its own unique culture. This culture encompasses values and beliefs, knowledge, behaviour, rules, norms and customs. The culture can also extend to tools and techniques used by the group.

This established culture evolved to serve the community, but sometimes elements of the culture can outlive their usefulness. They gradually (or suddenly) need to be updated, supplemented or replaced by new elements that are more aligned with and beneficial to the aims of the community.

This is particularly true in the 21st century, considering the fast pace of change in technology, environment, economics, politics and society.

The insiders belonging to the community may be unaware of the need for change. Alternatively they may be conscious of the need, but feel powerless or unaware of how to effect the change, or they may be actively opposed to change. A conservative attitude should not be assumed to exist, but it is usually present among some members in mature communities, and some may actively benefit from retaining the status quo.

Often it is the outsider, who doesn’t belong to the community, who can see the need for change most clearly. The outsider does not adhere to the culture of the group and is less likely to accept its underlying assumptions. “We’ve always done it this way” may act as a sedative for the insider, but it can be a stimulant for the outsider, provoking them to look for opportunities to effect positive change.

The outsider has no stake or a low stake in the community, and so has less to lose but more to gain from change. The opposite is true for the insider. Therefore, it is more natural for an outsider to drive change.

Outsiders don’t have to ask the community for permission, because initially no-one knows or cares about their ideas. This gives them the freedom to pursue their ideas, to experiment, to fail and to refine their vision for change.

Mature communities usually have some members who are receptive to positive change, who can be enlisted as influencers on the wider community.

The outsider will gain acceptance and more influence when the benefits to the community start to flow. Bring the community some quick wins and build on that.

Sometimes outsiders become insiders. Eventually new outsiders will be needed to start the cycle again. The new insiders may fulfil the role of influencer for this phase!

Gamified Community Building #68 #cong19


How can we most effectively build stronger – more inclusive – communities in the age of Netflix

Key Takeaways:

One route may be analogue games – devising a crafty plan to immerse communities in a gamified reality – thus bringing them together. Another would be to use the walkey-talkey-nature of Whatsapp, to create an intriguing game world around them.

About Richard McCurry and Virginia Mateo

Virginia, a consolidated translator, is presently dabbling in motherhood with a blend of canine psychology. Richard – who has apparently made Chinese more fun to learn than skiing through his startup Newby Chinese – enjoys the odd nappy change, while also revelling in the fact that his ginger-gene has triumphed over Spanish blood.

Contacting Richard McCurry:

You can reach Richard by email

By Richard McCurry and Virginia Mateo

See Richard and Virginia’s video submission below

Community – Are We Losing Out? #67 #cong19


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.


What really is Community #66 #cong19


Coming soon

Key Takeaways:

Coming soon

About Sinead Tiernan:

I am obsessed with creating WOW experiences for people in life and in business. I coach my clients to remove frustrations and pain points that ultimately leads to the delivery of a customer experience that nurtures and grows raving fans. Happy employees deliver even happier customers and therefore I also work with business leaders to create outstanding employee engagement and wellness programs.
I have over 20 years experience in the corporate sector in the UK and Ireland. Driven by continuous growth I invest a lot of time and money in my own personal development in the areas of behavioural psychology, coaching and meditation.

Contacting Sinead Tiernan:

You can connect with Sinead on LinkedIn

By Sinead Tiernan

When I first heard about Congregation and the central theme being community my reticular activating system went into overdrive seeking out lots of examples of how online communities have helped me grow personally over the last 6 years.  My immediate top of mind association with the word community was online!   Some examples of where online communities have worked extremely well for me in recent times:

  • Personal Development – since attending programs run by the likes of Dr Joe Dispenza and Tony Robbins I have received huge value from their inner circle communities who keep the spirit of an offline high energy event alive in an online environment long after the event has taken place. We take part in masterminds together, we meditate together, we challenge each other daily to be our best selves, we celebrate our achievements together and we work together on business ideas and we do all this from the comfort of our own homes scattered near and far all over the world.One of my favourite sayings is ‘your vibe attracts your tribe’ and that undoubtedly applies to these communities where I have grown intellectually and spiritually.  I have found excellent mentors in online communities that would have been near impossible to connect with offline.
  • Health and Wellbeing – I haven’t drank alcohol in three years – what started out as a fun 30 day challenge in the run up to Christmas in 2016 in a close knit community online has become a way of living for me, further strengthened by Robin Sharma in his community where I have taken to the 5am club with gusto making my morning routine a habit that I rave about with clients.Hell, I even jump into my nearby lake all year round – because Wim Hoff and his community inspired me so much online!!!
  • Learning and career development – I have studied courses and gained qualifications within online communities where the support amongst attendees has been phenomenal.Again, from the comfort of our own home we share knowledge and new ideas all with one goal in mind – to better educate ourselves for the future.

So, you can see why my old RAS went into overdrive on seeking out online examples when the theme of COMMUNITY was announced as lately I have been hanging out on their a lot!

When I go deep inside and I question what community really means to me – it comes down to connection – connection with people who have a common purpose and values that align.   A great definition of community is that it is a group of people that care about each other and feel they belong together.

I was interested to hear what my friends said about community, so I asked for their input and below is their feedback on the subject:

         Words like ‘Belonging’, ‘A lifeline’, ‘Collectiveness’, ‘togetherness’ were used to describe what community means by a majority.

         Another said that he ‘felt community referred to any group of people who are connected either physically or digitally by a shared bond or interest.   It helps us all to feel we are part of something, I feel it’s also a window, a temperature gauge for the health of a society.’

         One friend who had a baby in the last year said that she only really felt that sense of community when she discovered the local parent and toddler group – again coming back to that shared interest binding them together.

         I was told that community is a safe place to be yourself.  A place where like-minded folks who are also empowered to challenge/disagree with each other with one mission – to grow.

         Community is a reassurance in particular when you live in a rural area you never feel alone, and you always have someone you can call on. Equally that person can return the favour when they are in need. It’s unspoken!’

         Community is a way that human beings care for each other without expectation of reciprocity. Communities thrive on respect and acceptance of a common goal…to help each member achieve safety.  Community is positive, inclusive, there for you, resourceful.  It’s the GAA, the community Cafe run by volunteers, it’s what neighbours do when you are grieving, it’s pulling together to improve our quality of life, it’s accepting each other regardless, it’s supporting each other, it’s keeping an eye out for each other and for the elderly living around us, it’s digging each other out when there’s snow, it’s the colours we wear when we’re proud to support our local teams. It’s the magic that gives our lives extra meaning.

         One friend reminisced about the community feel when there were Irish nights on a Tuesday in the local hall and the stations at a neighbour’s house every few years when they went on a painting and cleaning frenzy to impress their guests.

         Interestingly one felt that engagement in their community fluctuates depending on their or the needs of others.

         Sometimes community is just the simple things, a polite hello to a neighbour, a catchup with an old friend. A feeling of not being alone.

         Community is to another all about a sense of belonging and a sense of personal individual recognition and worth in a group setting. It can be online or offline although for most of an age above 30 real community is offline. Online community has been fantastic in terms of helping those for who the natural predisposition to judge based on a person’s appearance and circumstances sometimes alienates them. These obstacles are removed online for many.

I think that gives a lot of insight into the meaning of community to different people and I feel the majority of my friends unlike me would have been focused on offline rather than online when they were considering community.

One thing I know for sure is that communities take work – they must be nurtured like any relationship if they are to thrive.  They require an energy to keep the conversation going and engagement high.

Another extremely important element of community is consistency – consistency matters, because it affects how members assess the future of the group.  A consistent rhythm creates trust in people that this group will still be around in three, five, maybe ten years from now. And if I believe that this group will still be around in five years from now, it’s worth investing myself fully into it now. We all are investing our most valuable resources — time and trust — when we engage deeply with a community and we want to make sure the investment will pay off. Most communities have little collective value in the short-term, but as the value of relationships and trust compounds, the community becomes valuable. So, it makes sense for members to assess the chances of the group surviving more than just an initial excitement.

There are six human needs that drive all behaviour along with our values and beliefs.  Community ticks the box on all six needs and in particular the core needs of Love/Connection and Significance.   When I reflect on the higher needs of Growth and Spirituality, I feel that is why I go online to very specific groups to satiate those needs.  Communities also deliver in their own way on the remaining two needs – variety and certainty.

Funnily enough only recently I have given input to a committee working on an initiative in my local town called ‘Believe in Ballinrobe’.  BIB is basically a differentiating strategy developed to resurrect the community feel in the town by fostering a spirit of awareness, togetherness, acknowledgement and celebration.  This strategy gives the feeling that we are on the cusp of something exciting in a town that has been on its knees since the recession.   Only two weeks ago there was an awards ceremony ran by BIB to acknowledge the efforts of members of the community, clubs and societies and voluntary organisations like the Order of Malta for their hard work and dedication.   We have had community days lead by the BIB team where we got the town out to help in a clean-up giving a fresh face to run down buildings and streets.  Even though the rain lashed down everyone had a smile on their face and there was a buzz about the place – because they felt that magic that lives at the heart of a community.  The people who turned out felt like they were making a difference and that they belonged to something greater.

And I feel this beautiful story sent to me by a friend is a fitting example to close this little ramble on as it captures the heartbeat of a community wonderfully:

‘I heard a great example of community the other day when friends who were over for dinner described their local village in Waterford- there was a couple in their 50’s who decided to get married. They really had no money for a wedding – so people came together to create their special day – my friend sang at the wedding, another person made the wedding cake, another organised beer and prosecco in the local pub, the chef in the pub cooked some food with another person providing two gazebos. There was a total of thirty-five guests at the wedding and the couple had the best day of their lives.  In return the couple cut their friends hedges to say thanks. All supporting each other, no exchange of money, no sense of judgement as to who is what and who has what!’

We need a global community but can we get it? #65 #cong19


We all have experience of different communities at different stages of our lives, those we are born to and those we choose to belong to. Communities bring people together was groups but they also shut people out. Unless we can change that, we will never have a global community that can represent us all.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Community is all about identity
  2. Community is about what we are but also what we aren’t
  3. Technology isn’t making community any easier
  4. We need a global community for a global threat

About Billy MacInnes:

I am a freelance journalist, editor and trainer who has spent many many years covering IT and business. I’m also very interested in music, politics, literature and film.

Contacting Billy MacInnes:

You can contact Billy by email

By Billy MacInnes

First of all, a confession. Writing about community is proving to be far more difficult than I expected it to be. Why is that? I think because we all have settled views of what community is and what it means. After all, we’ve all grown up in a community of some sort, we’ve been a part of different communities at different stages of our lives.

And there are so many of them, whether it be a village community, the GAA community, a fishing community or a gaming community, we’ve all engaged with a number of “communities” or identified with them as we journey through life. Which is fine, even if those communities diverge widely in just how deeply we are identified or engaged with them.

Now, with technology helping us to become more interconnected with an ever wider circle of people, organisations and institutions, it brings the potential for us to engage with even more communities and identify ourselves with them. Our membership of physical communities jostles with the virtual communities that technology enables us to become a participant in.

Does it matter whether virtual communities become more valuable to people than the physical ones? I’m not sure. Are the communities we belong to through birth or geography similar to the ones we choose ourselves because of our enthusiasm for a subject or a past-time or sport? Are the communities we are born into, move into or are placed into, the same as the ones we decide to join through our own volition? You’d think not but, on a very basic level, they are. Communities are all about belonging and identifying, they may be something you are born into or choose yourself, they could be all around you or spread across the globe, but they answer the same need.

In many ways, technology has helped to dramatically expand the number of communities we can connect to and given us the ability to reach like-minded individuals many miles away. But for all the reach that technology brings in terms of our ability to engage with so many people in so many more places and countries, has it helped to create bigger communities?

Think about it. Say you live in a small village and you’ve become part of that community. It’s quite likely you would also identify with your county and your country, but would you call those identities communities? Maybe if you were living abroad you might talk about being part of the Irish community but you wouldn’t bother with it here. Why? Because in Ireland, being Irish isn’t something that makes you distinct. It’s not a community because it’s not being presented as a difference from something else. And that’s the thing about community, it’s not about identifying and coming together as a group, it’s also about creating boundaries with those outside the group.

You would think that technology would dismantle those boundaries and create much wider communities but it hasn’t. Not really. Yes, there are celebrities and Youtubers with millions of followers but those are not communities. Those are fan clubs and we’ve always had those.

If we are as interconnected as our technology is supposed to have made us, why do we live in such a fractious age? Surely, we would be expanding our horizons and engaging as participants in the global community, for example, using that to inform our thinking and actions. Instead, we live in an increasingly polarised world where populism seeks to distort the differences between us and narrow the potential of community open to us.

Which makes me wonder if there is a a restriction to just how big communities can become because they can only exist if there is something else that they are defined against or separate from. In which case, can we ever be a global community. I hope so, especially at a time when the climate emergency is threatening the planet and we really need to act like a global community if we want humans, animals and plants to survive.

Maybe the climate emergency will be the threat that gives humanity something to set ourselves against so that we can form a global community. Maybe.

A Community May Be Asleep or Had a Heart Attack but it’s NOT DEAD. #64 #cong19


If there is life, there can be a community. Often I hear sure rural is dead, pubs are dead, the community is dead. If this is true it’s because the people are dead! I’m pretty sure I didn’t miss any big news bulletin about a community being completely wiped out?

So a community may be sleeping, it may even have had a heart attack but thankfully many have woken from their sleep and many have survived a heart attack. This means a community can also regain consciousness but like many medical emergencies it requires a team effort.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Connect and help awaken a sleeping community.
  2. What do you do when a heart attack occurs?
  3.  There is no rule book.
  4.  Be brave and be bold.

About Aoife Keady:

My name is Aoife Keady and I’m the founder of What’s Where. After 4 years studying Irish and Translation studies in NUIG I leased my first pub in my final year and a common phrase I kept hearing was ‘I would’ve gone if I’d known it was on’. I couldn’t understand why people didn’t know but communication was changing and not everyone was adapting.

After it kept me awake night after night in 2017 I began interviewing 3,000 people and 99% said the famous words. I began to investigate further and from that unmet need What’s Where was born, your central source of Ireland’s best events at the touch of a button. We’re launching in 2020 and currently looking to build teams so I’d love to speak to you if your interested.

Contacting Aoife Keady:

You can follow Aoife on Twitter and Instagram, connect with her on LinkedIn and Facebook or send her an email.

By Aoife Keady

Firstly I apologise for making a reference to a heart attack but gladly I know many more people who have survived one than that have died from one. So your community, my community, have we enough to fill Croke Park? The answer doesn’t really make a difference because I don’t think there’s a community in Ireland who attempts to get that many people together on a regular basis. I checked out the 2016 Census and it turns out Malin in Donegal has the smallest population on record at 92 people. Please let me know if your aware of smaller populations. Anyway 45 of them are female and 47 are male. I don’t think I know anyone living in Malin but I’d love to know how their community is doing? This is the age variation living there.
0-17 years – (6 people)
18-64 years – (56 people)
65 years + (30 people)
I dug a little deeper and found an article about their Community Centre celebrating 100 years back in 2012 and they’d gotten some funding to renovate it. It states there was a turnout of 150 so maybe a few gatecrashers but no harm in that. 🙂

Also in the article it says: Community Association chairman, Robert Farren said: “In essence, it’s about building something sustainable by bringing people, both young and old, together from across the community to work toward a shared future. The centre is ideally placed as a driver for economic and social inclusion, building inter-cultural bridges and showcasing the immense local talent – not only in music but in crafts and art.

“To that end we’ll be hosting cultural events throughout the year and setting up a crafters’ co-op which will see some of the older generation sharing and teaching their talents in weaving and spinning, knitwear and lace-making so that some of these traditional arts don’t die out.

ref Inishowen News

They sound like they’re on track to keep their community alive regardless of their size. After reading and learning more about Malin I’d like to go and visit and see for myself what kind of community they have because they’re sounding like a nice bunch.

What’s the point to all this? This place has the smallest population on the census record and it sounds like they’ve a tight knit community that’s trying it’s best to stay connected. What’s your community like? Is it thriving? Is it asleep? Has it had a heart attack? Don’t tell me it’s dead, as my synopsis states I’m pretty sure I didn’t miss a news bulletin about a community being completely wiped out and thankfully so. Therefore I strongly believe all is not lost. So this is Wikipedia’s description of a heart attack.

‘A heart attack occurs when blood flow decreases or stops to a part of the heart.’

This is exactly what is happening in some areas across Ireland and like many medical emergencies a team effort has better results whether it’s to call an ambulance, find medication, begin CPR or use a defibrillator. We want and need connected communities so put on your big girl knickers or big boy pants and help awaken any sleeping communities or start that CPR. Loneliness is the silent killer here but there’s a cure and each and every one of us have it at our disposal.

There is no rule book, the future is still unwritten, we can and we will make a difference in our communities. They need us now more than ever. I’m making it my mission, feel free to join me.

Be brave and be bold. Believe in your ability. Never give up. Time will tell.