Community At A Crossroads #42 #cong19

Synopsis:

Much of Ireland has suffered in recent years, once bustling regional towns have fallen into decay and communities are struggling to survive. Many attempts have been made to tackle the issues but we’ve witnessed only limited success. It’s time we pushed aside our own self-interest and truly come together to help solve the challenges we face. Our communities are at a crossroads and it’s up to us to decide which route to take.

4 Key Takeaways:

  1. Lend our voices to identifying the challenges that exist in the communities around us
  2. Advise our networks to look for collaboration rather than individual efforts
  3. Seek out existing community forums and strengthen them by our participation
  4. Support community initiatives as they arise
  5. Spend our income in the communities in which we live
  6. Share our learning’s with the world

About Darragh Rea:

Darragh has worked in communications since 2002, helping his clients successfully navigate an ever-changing media ecosystem. Over those 17 years much has changed but the importance of telling impactful and relevant stories based off true insight and amplified across the right channels hasn’t. ​

Darragh has led the huge growth of the Edelman Digital business in Dublin over the last 5 years building a team of paid, creative and strategy experts who work with clients such as KBC, Mars, Unilever, Irish Distillers, Coca-Cola, Pfizer, SSE Airtricity, Deep RiverRock, Xylem, Jacobs and Novartis.​

Darragh is a Council Member of the Marketing Society of Ireland, a judge of the All Ireland Marketing Awards, a speaker at DMX Dublin and a Board Member of Triathlon Ireland. He graduated with an honours BSc. Economics and Finance degree from University College Dublin and has completed numerous additional training courses including the Digital Marketing Executive Programme with the Marketing Institute. ​

Contacting Darragh Rea:

You can contact Daragh by email,  follow him on Twitter, connect on LinkedIn or see his work at Edelman.

By Darragh Rea

I grew up in a thriving market town, it was the type of place you felt safe in and new amenities were added every year. We had a 25m swimming pool when very few other towns our size could get one, a state of the art sports complex was opened in my teenage years and would play host to many a game of indoor soccer, squash or badminton. Our cinema might not have shown the newest films but it did provide an option on a wet day. In latter years there was a vibrant nighttime scene with good restaurants and plenty of pubs to entertain us. But when the sun shone the place really transformed from stunning walks in the glen to cycle rides along quiet country roads, pitch and putt in the hills and hurling and football on the fields.

Many of those facilities remain in the town and we’re still blessed with some of the most breathtaking walks in all of Ireland but on my most recent visit back I was struck just how much the town has struggled. The main street where once we enjoyed street parties is now a collection of rundown buildings and closed pubs, restaurants and shops. Clean, safe streets have been replaced with dirtier, rougher alternatives and even the really good businesses that I grew up with are feeling the strain. Friends who still live in and around the town talk of anti-social behavior, closed businesses and a community under pressure. There is some hope that the recent confirmation of Deis status on the town’s schools will help, but mostly there is a sense of exasperation that it’s fallen so far. You’d be forgiven for thinking that this is the result of some mass exodus to find work further afield but in reality the town’s population has grown substantially over the last few years. We could spend decades asking why and how this has happened but the truth is these are complex questions and finger pointing won’t change the past. We must instead focus our energy on what we can do to change the direction of this and many more regional towns who have suffered similar falls.

I’m heartened by the fact that we have so many of the ingredients required to help turn the town around but the frustration I sense from friends is the lack of co-ordination of collective efforts to arrest the decline. So what can be done?

I’ve been attending Cong for the last 5 years and each year I’m blown away by the experience, the participatory nature of the day, the openness to listen, to debate, to share knowledge and expertise. It feels like a brilliant study in what community should be about – and moreover a template as to how we can start to direct our collective efforts towards the betterment of the communities in which we live and operate.

Unfortunately, all too often, and mostly despite the best intentions of those involved, efforts to support community are too fragmented and instead of fulfilling the mission they strive for, they often become an unwitting part of the challenge.  For many this is down to a desire to have “ownership” over a particular activity, for others it is simply due to a lack of credible focus for their efforts. Take any major community challenge from housing to education and you’ll find examples of multiple stakeholders, all with the same stated end goal, working on separate and not always complimentary programmes.

I believe we need to examine the existing approach to community engagement where we sometimes inadvertently let self-interest get in our way and instead look at ways to collaborate and create an environment where participants unite to solve common challenges. This collaboration calls for stronger roles from our local chambers and councilors and greater participation from the wider public. To do this we need to create a forum whereby we can actively identify the major challenges a community faces and start to look for meaningful solutions from all interested parties. This could be through financial commitment, policy review or by simply directing the energy of volunteers to a common purpose.  We’ve had examples of this type of collaboration in the past and in some parts of the country there are already hugely active Local Development Companies working tirelessly to create meaningful outcomes but effective collaboration shouldn’t be the exception it should be the rule.

I’ve always been hugely impressed by communities like Clonakilty who have a hugely progressive and engaged grouping of businesses, NFPs and committed individuals who are creating tangible positive outcomes. You only have to look at the pioneering work they undertook to become Ireland’s first Autism Friendly town.  They did so by working together to solve what was a real challenge for some in their community and in doing so have inspired others to follow.

If we can foster such collaboration and create functioning forums whereby problems can be identified together, then people within the wider business network can make informed decisions on where we can begin to direct business resources and energy to meaningful community impact.

In the case of the town where I grew up, I can imagine a future where local businesses supported by government and community stakeholders can begin to truly share their views on how to reboot the story. Perhaps it’s a change in how we use our town centres and a return to the market structure of old, maybe it’s a dedicated tourism effort that unlocks the beauty of the surrounding countryside, or maybe its these and more – the fact is unless a credible forum is created where everyone connected with the town can truly partake in its future we’ll end up with more false starts and disappointing closures.

Powerful Online Learning Community – the Ultraversity Project #41 #cong19

Synopsis:

Ultraversity was a new design for undergraduate, work-focussed, inquiry based learning for those students for whom university did not fit. It ran from 2003, petering out after 2007 as the university it was hosted in ejected the foreign organism from its nest! Nevertheless in November 2006, 144 graduates met each other face-to-face for the first time after three years of online learning as a community. Substantial relationships had been established in a powerful online learning community through experienced facilitation and a purposeful, motivated membership.

4 Key Takeaways:

  1. online community is often the only possibility for some learners;
  2. place – university is too far away;
  3. time – university teaching is often at the wrong time and synchronous;
  4. substantial and meaningful relationships can be formed with good facilitation and strong motivation.

About Richard Millwood:

Dr Richard Millwood is director of Core Education UK and a researcher in the School of Computer Science & Statistics, Trinity College Dublin. Current research interests include learning programming and computational thinking and in relation to this, he is currently engaged in the development of a community of practice for computer science teachers in Ireland and also creating workshops for families to develop creative use of computers together. He gained a BSc in Mathematics & Physics at King’s College London in 1976 and first became a secondary school teacher. From 1980 to 1990 he led the software development of educational simulations in the Computers in the Curriculum Project at Chelsea College London. He then worked with Professor Stephen Heppell to create Ultralab, the learning technology research centre at Anglia Polytechnic University, acting as head from 2005 to 2007. He researched innovation in online higher education in the Institute for Educational Cybernetics at the University of Bolton until 2013, gaining a PhD by Practice ‘The Design of Learner-centred, Technology-enhanced Education’. Until September 2017, he was Assistant Professor for four years directing the MSc in Technology & Learning and supervising six PhD students. He is now working for Eedi / Diagonostic Questions as Computing Lead.

Contacting Richard Millwood:

You can follow Richard on Twitter or send him an email

By Richard Millwood

The Ultraversity Project was developed at Ultralab at Anglia Ruskin University. Established in 1990 it conducted many globally- significant action research projects.

Foremost amongst these were the Notschool.net project which provided an online learning community for adolescents for whom school did not fit.

Another major project was Talking Heads, which connected the headteachers of the UK in an informal online learning community.

These projects informed the design and development of the Ultraversity project in 2003. Staff worked online from their homes around the UK. The team had worked closely together in this way for three years on previous projects.

There was a need for higher education for working people, who could not afford to be at university due to financial, family or access issues.

The aim was to create a BA qualification where the students’ driver was the desire to improve their ‘work’ context.

It was intended to enable students to do this whilst full time working and living life.

‘Work’ is defined broadly and includes voluntary and domestic activity. The activity needs to be capable of improvement and research.

Action research was the core discipline in this fully online course. The first time students met was at the graduation ceremony – 120 students did so in November 2006.

The students could not attend normal university because they needed to keep their job or care for family. For many, the Open University route would take too long and they were prepared to put in the spare time to study more rapidly.

Most students were from the school workforce, but a significant minority were in the health service and there were others from a broad range of contexts.

Cohorts were important in order to build communities where students are sharing the same challenges and able to support each other as they work to common timescales.

Left to their own devices, together with a commitment to improve the workplace, students researched the issues that were current and relevant.

The course combined several innovations to create an approach which focusses on the development of a graduate with confidence, sustainable learning skills & habits and competence to use technology independently.

The regionally distributed team who developed this model, maintained a successful online community of practice themselves as they grew in confidence and know-how to offer the degree, and this is one of many departures from typical university practice.

The outcome was a mature practitioner comfortable with innovation, contributing to knowledge in the workplace and beyond, confident to critcially question initiatives and initiate proposals.

Initially students identified where improvement can be made in their workplace. After checking what was known about the potential, they planned action, did it and reviewed, repeating several times.

The degree depended on online community to function – students helped each other and challenged each other as they learnt together. The strength of this community was hypothesised to achieve depth in learning

Students were quick to say how much they had been rewarded by the strong friendships which had developed online.

For assessment, students were encouraged to communicate often, in relatively small pieces, using a range of genre and media.
The key element was the ‘stitching’ of these pieces, reflecting on the learning journey.

Ultraversity developed a process curriculum, which does not define any detailed content, focussing instead on the disciplines of action enquiry, digital creativity and exhibition. These disciplines, when linked to the twin drivers of personal fulfilment and workplace improvement set up the learner for lifelong learning and the employer for considerable assurance of improvement.

Communities in Space and Time #40 #cong19

Synopsis:

Eventually, when we voyage to the stars we will be sending, in effect, small communities. The questions are, what sort of communities will they be?  And how will they be constituted? Also, what kind of belief systems will they have to subscribe to that will bind together a multi-generational mission.

4 Key Takeaways:

  1. Can a community be designed from near enough scratch?
  2. If so, then who gets to do the designing?
  3. Human bonds go beyond present relationships and travel across time.
  4. Human meaning is possible, even in the void.

About Tom Murphy:

Classics and Philosophy student at NUI Galway

Contacting Tom Murphy:

You can follow Tom on Twitter.

By Tom Murphy

The nearest star to us in the galaxy, Proxima Centauri, is thought to have orbiting planets that contain the possibility for human habitation and colonisation. The only problem is that with the current state of space engineering it will take 6,300 years to get there. Therefore, an expedition to Proxima Centauri will have to be a multi-generational project. Mathematically, there exists a possibility that more people will die getting there than will actually arrive. The interesting idea is; how many people do you have at the start? The second interesting idea is; what sort of community they will form?

To answer the first question, Frédéric Marin and Camille Beluffi, both of whom are based in France, crunched some numbers. Allowing for possible disasters that might afflict the crew along the way, they came up with the result that, at the minimum, 98 unrelated breeding partners would be needed to initialise the expedition. This number takes into account the avoidance of the hazards of in-breeding and allows for natural catastrophes such as plagues that may occur.

At the beginning this would make for a quite unnatural community of human beings. There would not be anyone involved in the first part of the endeavour who would be too young to breed nor too old to actively reproduce and care for children. But this would change in just two generations. The first generation would have the young to care for, and the second generation would have the elderly to care for. Forty or fifty years into the project we would have a community that would look like just any human community back on earth that has ever naturally existed.

The children born in space, unlike the initial cohort of adults, will never not know what it is like not to be in space. The spaceship will have to serve as a microcosm of planet Earth.  But with a difference; the community will have to have a framework for its fabrication. This is the opportunity offered to the mission designers whose it is to decide what constitutes a community.

This community will not emerge naturally as the original communities did on the savannah and in the rain forests. They will have to construct from the ground up a community that will operate on what has been known to work best for communities and to avoid factionalisation and other self-destructive behaviours. It is a design issue with manifold implications for whether the mission will arrive at its goal intact and in a coherent form or fail dejectedly in the void of space.

The goal of the mission for most of the participants is for their far flung offspring to reach a, hopefully, inhabitable planet in Proxima Centauri. But will that be enough of a motivating force adhering to the goal or provide a deep enough existential reason for existing?

One could easily reduce these astronaut’s roles to that of reproductive automatons. But you can imagine a young voyager coming to the age of reason and asking themselves in a very human way; is that it? Is this all there is to my life?

So, how would the designers of the community constitute the mission’s values so that the negative consequences of nihilistic thinking could be avoided? How could they make the over-riding purpose of the mission so powerful a motivating force, and so compelling an idea, that legions of the yet unborn will buy into it?

It is to our present communities that the nominal designers of this notional mission will have to look. Albeit, that while we reside on planet Earth we are still travellers through space and time.

The first consideration they ought to make is to observe that we are very much our history. We know from Greek and Roman thinkers that our own present day mind-sets and dispositions are barely different from theirs, if in fact, they differ at all. There is a direct line of communication through time to our forebears. Not only biological information but traditions, rites and folklore too.

So, the designers will have to make sure that materials are present on the ship that will educate little ones across thousands of generations of who they are and where they came from. Hopefully, the knowledge that they are continuing the human race, if in very unique circumstances, will give them a background of understanding that will situate them properly in the context of human history.

Care would be the next idea that I would advocate to the design committee. In a normal human life there is really very little time between being someone who is cared for to being someone who does the caring. One would hope that caring would come naturally to our galactic voyagers. But in the reductionist, atomistic world of a major engineering project one can see how something so elemental could either be taken for granted or over-looked completely.

As humans we all hope for better things for our children than we had ourselves. Progress is contingent on the belief that what we have now is better than what we had before and that things will inevitably get better in the future. But on a mission that is designed to last thousands of years the major resource is the ship itself. There can only be so much progress without self-cannibalisation. That is an argument that sounds familiar when assessing the resources of our own planet.

If the human race is to become a space-faring community it is going to have to think long and hard about what constitutes a valid, healthy association of beings that can live together harmoniously over almost unimaginable periods of times. Those of our descendants that will cast off the bonds of earth and who will depart for distant stars and far off planets will have to be more like us than we are ourselves.

Creating Community Through Language and Stories #39 #cong19

Synopsis:

The glue that holds a community together is our ability to connect with each other on a social level. That social connection depends on our capacity to communicate with each other through language. Language allowed us as a species to form close knit communities, but it’s our imagination and ability to tell stories that grew these small communities to the global communities of millions and even billions that exist today. We can build and strengthen community with the language we choose to use and the stories we choose to tell.

4 Key Takeaways:

  1. We all need to feel we belong
  2. Our ability to form close social ties is the basis for all community building
  3. Language and stories are powerful tools to build (or destroy) community
  4.  Let’s choose to use language and tell stories that create community

About Anne Tannam:

Anne Tannam is the author of two collections of poetry ‘Take This Life’ (Wordonthestreet 2011) and ‘Tides Shifting Across My Sitting Room Floor’, (Salmon Poetry 2017). Her third collection is forthcoming in summer 2020. Also a spoken word poet, she has performed her work at Electric Picnic, Bloom, Lingo, The Craw Festival (Berlin) and the Kosovo International Poetry Festival.

An accredited coach (ACC) with the International Coaching Federation, Anne set up her business ‘Creative Coaching’ in 2017, and works with individuals and organisations to successfully harness the power of creativity across all areas of life.

Keeping it in the family, Anne also works part-time with her brother Gerard Tannam in his business ‘Islandbridge Brand Development’, in her role as brand researcher where she gathers the stories and key insights that sit behind every great brand.

Contacting Anne Tannam:

You can connect follow Anne on Twitter, connect with her on LinkedIn or see her work in Creative Coaching

By Anne Tannam

‘Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind.
‘Pooh’ he whispered.
‘Yes Piglet?’
‘Nothing’ said Piglet, taking Pooh’s paw,’ I just wanted to be sure of you.’

To feel alone in the world is unbearable. We all need to feel we belong. Our survival as a species depends on our ability to form connection within a tribe or community that accepts us and shares, or at least accepts, our values and beliefs. Being exiled from a community may no longer mean death, as it did for our ancient ancestors who could not physically survive outside the warmth of the campfire, but it can feel that way. Remember back to those moments in childhood when we were left out of a game, either by siblings or classmates, and that feeling of being invisible, of being on the outside looking in. Think of poor Romeo who, when forced into exile by the Prince exclaimed Ha, banishment! Be merciful say ‘death’.

The glue that holds a community together is our ability to connect with each other on a social level. That social connection depends on our capacity to communicate with each other through language. According to one theory, homo sapiens, just one of the many branches of the human race, survived as a species because we developed a language so complex and supple we could inform each other in detailed ways about our surrounding environment and where food could be found or what dangers might lie in store for us. Vital information, shared amongst those in a particular tribe, meant the difference between life and death. A second theory is we developed language sophisticated enough to allow us to gossip effectively, thus tracking the ever-changing relationships within our tribe which facilitates social co-operation. You can just imagine us back then, standing around the water hole during our morning break from hunting and gathering, spilling the beans on what was overheard at the back of the cave the night before.

Whichever theory we go with, our survival has always depended on how well we can communicate and how effectively we build those essential social ties that bind us together as a unified group.

Language allowed us as a species to form close knit communities, but it’s our imagination and ability to tell stories that grew those communities from small tribes of up to one hundred and fifty people (the number of people that can co-exisit without a unifying story to bond them together), to the global communities of millions and even billions that exist today.

Hardwired to make sense of the world through story, humans have evolved and sometimes have been destroyed on the basis of the stories they tell. Every civilization began with an origin myth that bound that particular community together; stories of how the universe came into existence, of the pantheon of gods that protect and punish, and the laws handed down that set them apart from other tribes. With the advent of written language stories could pass more accurately from generation to generation. The printing press was a quantum leap in how quickly stories and ideas could spread and the advent of the internet means a community can spring up, or be destroyed, almost overnight. Our methods of storytelling may have become more sophisticated as the millennia or centuries have passed, but the power of story to influence how we live as communities has stayed the same.

In the past few years we’ve seen language and stories used as weapons to break down communities. It’s always been so but the level and speed it’s happening today is mind blowing. Whether it’s fake news, dehumanizing, polarising language spreading across print and online media, or the stories that Cambridge Analytica were paid to spread across Facebook to create a narrative of ‘them’ and ‘us, communities are under attack from all sides.

Fight fire with fire. Share stories of belonging. We might need to look harder for them, but they’re there. ‘Humans of New York’ springs to mind, a project that perfectly illustrates how the telling of individual stories told through the lens of respect and inclusivity, creates community. Closer to home, tell and share stories of what it means to belong to an Ireland that seeks to embrace and celebrate our diverse population. If we don’t tell these stories, those that seek to divide will continue to shout theirs.

Choose language that seeks to engage respectfully with others that do not always share our views. Choose language that points towards what we have in common, not what sets us apart. Choose language that daily builds community, whether that community is sitting around the kitchen table, or in huddles across a West of Ireland village, or scattered across five continents. Choose to belong. Choose to take another’s hand. Choose what story defines us.

Note: “Sapiens’ by Yuval Noah Harari and ‘The Written World’ by Martin Puchner gave me some of the background information for this blog.

Community: Rotten Apples and Hidden Gems #38 #cong19

Synopsis:

Not everyone involved in voluntary organisations are good eggs. In April, Wexford Water Safety closed down our local training ground thus denying 90 athletes (mainly children and youths) access to our sport (Surf Lifesaving) without any notice or rationale. Within 24 hours, they had seized the contents of our container of equipment that we’d fundraised tirelessly for almost five years. Unlike most sports such as golfing and tennis, which are effectively corporate social networks, it is not uncommon to not know the surname or the occupation of your fellow Watersport enthusiasts. Hell hath no fury like a community scorned and within 24 hours, we rallied together a super sub-committee to get their groundless decision reversed. Parents and volunteers emerged with the exact skillsets needed to take on a national body – a barrister, a social worker, an academic and a QS who together poured over the documentation to make our case to Water Safety Ireland. What followed was a three month campaign that caught the attention of the media, politicians and community groups.

4 Key Takeaways:

  1. Not everyone involved in community groups is a good egg. Some go mad with power.
  2. I know it’s a cliché but adversity does bring people together.
  3. ‘Never Give Up’ will never get old.
  4. Tough Love, we can still learn and grow in tough times.

About Joy Redmond:

Joy is a design thinking marketer, content purist, sporadic spin dr, founder @trustwordie @wtfisart Qual/Quants geek @sonru, autism advocate, open water swimmer and mother of 2 sons who are smarter, taller and swim faster than her. Alas, I’m attending a service design workshop at CIT on Nov 23rd so I will not be attending. Enjoy.

Contacting Joy Redmond::

You can connect with Joy on Twitter, via email or follow her thinking on the Joy Redmond and TrustWordie blogs.

By Joy Redmond

Anyone that came across our training sessions on the Courtown burrow over the past four or five years couldn’t but see a community at its best – fun, fitness, and a healthy dose of competition. It’s the closest I’ve got to experiencing that multi-generational outdoor life I’d seen all those summers in Spain – young teenagers assisting the coaching of the primary school aged athletes, parents like me trying to keep up and not be lapped by the youths and grandparents and extended families minding the younger siblings, too young yet to participate but you know are dying for their eighth birthday to be able to join in. What was particularly galling was despite numerous invitations, no officer of WSI-Wexford has ever visited or attended a SLS training session in Courtown nor did they present any justification of their decision to stop training there. We were distraught.

Skills in the woodwork
Within hours of the announcement in April, the Courtown group formed an action plan to get the decision reversed and followed Water Safety Ireland’s complaints protocol by dealing directly with its CEO, John Leech. From the very beginning, John Leech was supportive and requested the Water Safety Ireland-Wexford (WSI-W) committee meet to reconsider their decision. It’s amazing to see in times of trouble, the exact skill sets you need to take on “the system” come forward. Who knew we had a barrister, a QS, an academic and a social worker in our midst who put together an impressive rebuttal file worthy of the high court? My role was to get as much media attention as possible and I’m pleased to say that journalists in both local and national print and broadcast media hounded both the area committee and the national body. The upcoming European election also helped solicit support and letters from local councillors, TDs and three Ministers. Water Safety Ireland was under pressure.

The Fight
For 3 months, we followed protocol and participated and respected the problem solving process being delivered by WSI. What we met was a rollercoaster of no shows at meetings, not being told of county trials, being told the decision was reversed then another U-turn that nearly saw us throw in the towel. I think the turning point was when representatives from Water Safety Ireland mediated a public meeting between the athletes, families and the area committee and could see the visible upset of the youths and children being denied access to a sport by a committee who had never been involved in it. The following day, Courtown was reinstated as a training ground and despite missing several months training, our athletes went on to compete at regional, national and international competitions throughout the year. We picked up some bling too but it really is all about the participation.

Tough Love Lessons
It was horrible to see so many youths and children upset by unjustified decisions made by people they had never known but I hope they came away with the following life lessons:

  1. As these athletes are our future CEOs, team leads or even plain old employees, it’s good to learn early that it is not acceptable to swing in and make life changing decrees without consultation. As a leader to do it or a follower to accept it.
  2. It was a lesson in tenacity, so many times we felt like just rolling over but we couldn’t let irrationality and personal bias succeed. That kept us going and we prevailed.
  3. This is an important one. Children today are under such pressure to be popular, beautiful, cool – everything is orchestrated and curated to perfection. None of us are perfect and we all make mistakes so it’s important for them to see adults admit that and show that admitting you’re wrong or weak is actually a sign of strength.

Thanks, Obama #37 #cong19

Synopsis:

Newspapers are all about community because they reflect our lives by being made up of citizens of those same communities. Journalism also engenders a sense of community among a particular paper’s staff given their shared goal of being as informative as possible to their readership.

4 Key Takeaways:

  1. I’ve been fascinated with communities near and far since I was a kid… hence my interest in journalism.
  2. Being a journalist often conveys privileges such as literally getting a front row seat to history (see photo within article). But it’s the day-to-day coverage of events within communities large and small that really make the profession worthwhile… such as my job at The Salt Lake Tribune.
  3. I can’t tell you how damaging the use of the words “fake news” by authoritarian figures are to my profession… and our wider society.
  4. Thankfully, some authority figures do understand that a free press is one of the key pillars of a functioning democracy.

About Brian Mac Intyre:

Brian has spent three decades working as a storyteller in various forms.

He has been a reporter and sub-editor at a host of Irish national newspapers.

In addition, he lived in the United States for 12 years where he worked for The Associated Press in Little Rock, Arkansas and The Salt Lake Tribune.

He also spent time as a broadcast journalist and radio researcher writing scripts for top RTE presenters… and appearing on air occasionally himself.

He is also a corporate trainer, pitching coach and content marketer with his consultancy firm StoriesforBiz.com.

He has a BA in Economics and Politics (TCD), a Masters in Journalism (DCU) a Professional Diploma in Digital Marketing (Digital Marketing Institute) and an MA in Screenwriting (National Film School at IADT).

Contacting Brian Mac Intyre::

You can reach Brian by email.

By Brian Mac Intyre

Community literally means the world to me.

I’ve always been fascinated with what makes people tick… whether they’re nearby, or living far, far beyond our borders.

My keen interest in the globe’s daily comings and goings… i.e. news… started when I was a schoolboy, and it was fed as soon as I got home from classes.

I would spread The Irish Times on the carpet of our TV room and scan its headlines. I also used to collect Time magazines when historic events occurred, such as a new US president being elected.

I knew I wanted to go into journalism. And I had no idea at the time what a sense of community it would give me.

But I wanted a fallback too, so I decided to study Economics and Politics in college, given they’re what make the world go round… ie they help build functional communities.

I had a big interest in other countries’ politics too, especially Britain and the United States.

I remember watching Ronald Reagan being sworn in as US president in 1980. In part, it was a fascination with whether or not Iran would release US hostages held in Tehran at the time for 444 days.

The Iranians did so… right after Reagan was sworn in so that his predecessor Jimmy Carter couldn’t claim it as a diplomatic victory.

So I was part of a worldwide community of interested citizens watching events from afar.

And I never imagined that nearly 30 years later I’d be sitting in the front row for another Inauguration to witness the first African-American to take the same oath of office. In fact, I took this photo there. And Obama, of course, started out as a community organiser himself.

But that’s one of the privileges of being part of a community that gets to witness events as they unfold, some of them quite historic indeed.

In my nearly three decades in journalism I’ve gotten to cover the Salt Lake Winter Olympic Games and even interview film stars such as Martin Sheen and Cameron Diaz, among others.

And throughout that time I’ve always felt a strong sense of community with fellow journalists, even from rival papers.

We’re all on a mission to inform readers, listeners or viewers of what happened in their world today… because knowing what’s happened in the past will make them better equipped to navigate the future. That’s because stories are all about solving problems, and thereby surviving.

The time I most felt a sense of togetherness and shared struggles was when I worked at The Salt Lake Tribune for nine years (1996-2005).

It was easily the best newspaper job I ever had simply because you felt you were really helping make a difference… in the community.

Our main competition, the Deseret News, was owned by the Mormon Church, while the Trib was owned by an Irish-American Catholic family (for part of my tenure).

And even though it was a majority-Mormon state, the Trib, which styled itself as “Utah’s Independent Voice”, sold twice as many copies as the Deseret News.

Our readers, Mormon and non-Mormon alike, appreciated our independence and, as a result, the paper was largely respected within the wider community.

That’s because, like everyone who works in media, we were part of the community too, with the same wants, needs, gripes, frustrations etc as everyone else.

But this is a fact that’s often forgotten… newspaper people really do care about the communities they live in and want them to perform optimally for as many people as possible.

But one thing that’s deeply damaging to our global media community in recent years is when authoritarian leaders undermine it by calling stories they don’t like “fake news”. It undermines the whole profession and is a deeply disturbing trend.

And Barack Obama, for all his faults, many of which he’d admit to himself, recognised this fact.

Although he brought a host of prosecutions against whistleblowers and leakers, he did make a point of standing up for the media in his last press conference at the White House.

He said: “You’re not supposed to be sycophants — you’re supposed to be skeptics. And having you in this building has helped this place work better.”

According to New York magazine: “The president suggested that the media’s persistent scrutiny of his reaction to crises such as the 2014 Ebola outbreak and the BP oil spoil had made his administration more responsive to the needs of the public.”
The magazine then quoted him saying: “So America needs you, and our democracy needs you.”

So thanks, Obama… for standing up for my community.
And all of our communities as a result.

Bee A Community #36 #cong19

Synopsis:

A bee colony is a great example of a perfectly organised community. From birth till death each individual member performs tasks appropriate to its age and gender and all directed towards the health and wellbeing of the community. Deformities and weaknesses of any kind are not permitted and are dealt with in what we would consider cruelty. The products of the beehive, principally honey and wax, are well suited to local community based enterprises. Research at UCD has shown that Irish heather honey is of better quality (more antioxidants) than Manuka honey. Indeed honey marketed as local, using the locality as the brand name, commands a premium price. Though beekeeping has been practised by mankind for centaury’s, domestication of honey bees as we know it is only about 100 years old.

4 Key Takeaways:

  1.  A bee colony must get all its resources from within a 5km radius and deal with global threat’s.
  2. A bee colony is a society where the individual needs are directed to the common good.
  3. “If the bee disappeared off the face of the Earth, man would only have four years left to live”, A quote attributed to Albert Einstein.
  4. One teaspoon of honey is the life’s work of 12 bees.

About Patsy Cahalan:

Patsy Cahalan is a hobbyist beekeeper and lives in Claregalway, Co. Galway. Claregalway never fails to get a mention in the AA traffic report every morning. I am also a keen gardener, growing a variety of vegetables for our own use and for bartering with the neighbours for whatever they have, like eggs or cakes. I also love to spend weekends walking in the hills of Connemara. Helen is my queen bee and we have 3 adult children now living in Sydney and Dublin. We volunteer in local community groups such as our local drama and agricultural societies.

Contacting Patsy Cahalan:

You can reach Patsy by email or see Tribes Beekeepers.

 

By Patsy Cahalan

Mankind has been fascinated by the workings of honeybees and beehives since earliest times. Engravings of bees as well as honey have been found in the  tombs of the Pharaoh’s in Egypt. Here in Ireland St. Gobnait was held as the patron Saint of honeybees. Place names sometimes have a basis in beekeeping such as Corcog, meaning beehive, the first hill in the Maamturk range in Connemara.

Virgil (70BC to 19BC) saw bees as providing the model for a perfect society, where the bees loyalty and selflessness can be seen as a model of the co-operation on which security and survival depend. He gave wonderful poetic praise to the communal organisation of beehives.

They alone hold children in common: own the roofs

of their city as one: and pass their life under the might of the law.

They alone know a country, and a settled home,

and in summer, remembering the winter to come,

undergo labour, storing their gains for all.

Lets take a quick tour through the lives of bees to see why this high regard is so deserving.

The motto of my own club, Tribes Beekeepers Galway is the Irish seanfhocal  ‘’Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine”, literally “In the shadow of each other, we live.”

This says that in a community we all depend on each other, and the cooperation and help of our neighbours.

We need to help the bees face the challenges of globalisation and climate change and they will reward us in many ways.

Honey was once the only medicine available. It was used to seal wounds as it gave an airtight seal. It was the original sweetener and preservative and used to make the drink mead. It was a valuable commodity and given to newly weds to aid fertility for their first weeks of marriage, their honeymoon!

Beeswax has been used since earliest times for candles, waterproofing and cosmetics. In the days of smallpox, ladies covered their facial spots with beeswax. If it melted and people stared, they would say testily, ‘mind your own beeswax’!

We have a unique strain of bee in Ireland, the black bee, apis mellifera melifera. This bee is ideally suited to our climate in that the black colour attracts the heat and the bee being small is very frugal with its winter stores.

Each hive is a separate independent colony or community, headed by a queen. The members of this community have a unique smell or pheromone, which they get from their queen. This is how the guard bees at the entrance recognise their own and allow entry. The majority of the members of the hive are female, who do all the work. The males bees, the drones don’t do any of the normal hive duties such as collecting nectar or rearing the young. Neither do they possess a sting. Their only purpose is to mate with virgin queens and in pursuit of this they fly out everyday to drone congregation areas to await passing queens and compete to mate, after which they die.

At peak season the hive can have as many as 60,000 bees with the queen laying up to 1,500 eggs per day. The primary purpose of honeybees is to pollinate plants, and in so doing provide an essential service to mankind. For this they are rewarded by the plants with nectar and pollen. It is said that were bees to die out mankind would die within 3 years. Only wind pollinated plants such as wheat would survive.

The bees convert the nectar to honey by a collective process of evaporation and regurgitation.  A forager bee collects nectar and on returning to the hive passes it to a younger house bee before setting off again to gather more. The house bee swallows and regurgitates the nectar approximately 70 times, holding it on its tongue each time to evaporate the water before storing it in the honey comb. The nectar is approximately 80% water in its initial state, and when it is reduced to 17% water it is stored as honey and sealed in the airtight honey comb cell.

Pollen attaches to the hairs on the bees body when she alights on a flower. She scrapes all this on to the knees of her hind legs for transport home, hence we say the ‘bees knees’. The different colours of the pollen reflecting the colours of the flowers are visible on the bees as they enter the hive.

This sight is reassuring for the beekeeper as it indicates the queen is  laying and brood is being reared. The pollen is mixed with honey by the young nurse bees who add enzymes from glands in their heads to this ‘bee bread’ that is fed to the larvae before the being sealed while they pupate.

The worker bee emerges 21 days after egg is laid. Her first task is to clean the cell from which she has just emerged to make it available for the queen to use it again. For the next 3 weeks she will perform a series of age related tasks taking her closer to the hive entrance. She will feed young larvae, clean the hive, be an undertaker, feed and clean the queen, be a construction worker constructing the honey comb, accept nectar from forager bees for conversion and storing as honey.

Final hive job will be as a guard bee, a bouncer who will guard the entrance. Here she will with her sisters do other tasks such as fanning  air into the hive to provide air-conditioning, giving off alarm pheromones to warn her sisters of danger and giving out a special homing signal to help guide her sisters to the hive entrance. No wonder we say a ‘hive of activity!’

At 3 weeks old she will take a series of flights in ever increasing circles around the hive to help her position the hive in her internal GPS. She is now a forager bee and will work to bring in nectar, pollen, water and propolis. Propolis is a resin collected from tree bark and is used to seal the hive. It puts ‘No More Nails’ to shame such is its strength. Her flights could take her up to 5km from the hive and she can navigate her way back home. She will collect one twelfth of a teaspoon of honey during her lifetime before dying away from the hive if at all possible after a lifetime of service.

Bees have a highly developed system of communication through the use of various smells or pheromones. The queen is the only fertile female in the hive and her presence calms the bees. She also emits a pheromone which suppresses the ovaries of the worker bees ensuring the best genetics are past on.

The forager bees communicate information on the best sources of nectar to their sisters though the use of the ‘Waggle Dance’. Here a bee dances in a figure of eight while shaking her abdomen. The angle of the dance tells the bees which angle in relation to the sun to fly on leaving the hive, and the vigour of the waggle the distance to fly. That’s where we get the term ‘to make a bee line’! She also passes out samples of nectar to the watching bees so they know what to look for when they arrive at the destination. There are several waggle dances going on at any time in the hive and the bees decide through tasting etc. which one they will go to.

The summer season is obviously the busiest time in the hive as the bees store supplies for the winter. During this period the workers lifespan is about six weeks from egg till death. In the winter, with no brood rearing and little foraging winter bees live for about six months and rear the new bees in the springtime. When the weather gets cold the bees huddle together in a cluster and flex their flight muscles to generate heat. The cluster protects the queen and it moves slowly across the comb where each bee gets the chance to feed and get warm before going back to the outside of the cluster.

Our modern beehives with removable frames are a huge improvement on the original skeps made from straw and mud. The honey is stored in a separate compartment to the brood nest so may be harvested with less disturbances to the bees. Frames with wax foundation are provided for the bees to construct the honeycomb. Though the frames are rectangular the bees still construct in hexagonal shapes which give the best use of space in an irregularly shaped  space such as a tree hallow.   The use of the hexagonal also give great structural strength. The individual cells are sloped upwards at an angle of 16⁰ to the horizontal to prevent raw nectar spilling out.

But not all modern developments in beekeeping have been positive for the bees. Importation and cross breeding have had negative effects. There are diseases and threats now that didn’t exist in less than 50 years ago. The varroa parasite is the biggest single imported threat. It has come in from Asia where the local bees have evolved a method of grooming to clean the mite from the bees bodies. Our Irish and European bees evolved over millions of years without the presence of this parasite and so are now facing a struggle for survival. To combat varroa we have to use pesticides which are not natural to the bees.

But there is hope and some evidence that the bees are beginning to learn to cope with varroa. We are also beginning to appreciate the value and importance of our pollinators, and that offers great hope.

We associate bees and hives with peace and humming  contentment, with pastoral images of the early monks in the abbeys who understood the value of ‘brother bee’ and its place in creation. My own favourite image is from Yeats and the Lake Isle of Inishfree;

Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,

And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow…

So, can we glean anything from the life of the honeybee to benefit human society? I mentioned Virgil at the beginning. He looked to bees and their values as a model of society at the end of a civil war in Rome, and asked this question.

Could communities cooperate and pool resources to deal with existential threats from larger forces?

Bees are dealing with threats posed by the large chemical corporations, who argue they are aiding food production for an expanding human population.

I hope you’ll join with me in discussing this in Cong.

I’ll sign off by giving the advice of a honey bee for happiness and peace;

Create a buzz, 

Bee yourself.

Sip life’s sweet moments,

Mind your own beeswax,

Work together,

Always find your way home,

And stick close to your honey.

Knitting a Community SCARF for the 4th Industrial Revolution #35 #cong19

Synopsis:

The 4th Industrial Revolution promises to change how we work and live. The very act of transformation can threaten our sense of Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness (SCARF). Being part of a great community can increase our sense of SCARF to help us deal with this changing world.

4 Key Takeaways:

  1.   David Rock’s SCARF model shows how our perceptions of Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness can impede rational thought.
  2. Digital Transformations often fail because of gaps in skills and capabilities and people not ready for change.
  3. Individuals perceiving threats to their SCARF will be less successful in learning and transitioning to new ways of work.
  4. Great communities  can increase our sense of SCARF to help us deal with change.

About Clare Dillon:

Clare is an independent Technical Evangelist helping organisations capitalise on emerging tech and related business trends. She also help organisations spread their ideas.

Contacting Clare Dillon:

You can contact Clare by email or connect with her on LinkedIn.

 

By Clare Dillon

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about communities, and how they can be leveraged to address some of today’s work challenges. Communities popped into my head again when I was recently reminded of David Rock’s SCARF model – which looks at five domains of human social experiences and how they impact collaboration:

  1. Status – our relative importance to others.
  2. Certainty – our ability to predict the future.
  3. Autonomy – our sense of control over events.
  4. Relatedness – how safe we feel with others, are they friend or foe?
  5. Fairness – how fair we perceive the exchanges between people to be.

David Rock’s paper on the topic describes how we, as social beings, respond to threats and rewards in these areas as much as we do to threats and rewards to our physical safety or survival. Threats in these areas trigger our “lizard brain” and “flight, fight or freeze” response and literally make us incapable of rational thought. Looking at how the 4th Industrial Revolution is leading to many changes in how we work and live, it seems particularly relevant at present.

Today, almost every organisation is examining how they are going to digitally transform. Those that don’t risk becoming irrelevant. However, McKinsey says 70% of digital transformations fail, and common pitfalls often list a gap in skills and capabilities as the reason for failure. Gartner reports that “in about 60 percent of occupations, at least one-third of the constituent activities could be automated, implying substantial workplace transformations and changes for all workers”. Most analysts are expecting organisations to invest significant efforts in retraining and/or replacing staff to ready themselves for the future.

Let’s now think now about these trends frame digital transformation projects in organisations. Significant changes to individuals’ roles, activities being automated, previous expertise becoming irrelevant, and potential project failure are now the norm. These trends can easily be perceived as threats to existing status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness and feelings of fairness. Digital transformation seems almost designed to be a SCARF threat trigger for individuals within organisations. Is it any wonder there is a rise in workplace anxiety and stress? We need more tools in our toolbox to deal with these challenges. With this amount of change on the horizon – I believe communities can play a role in increasing our sense of SCARF.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with many great technical community and user groups throughout my life. It’s always amazing to me what groups of passionate volunteers can achieve when they come together with a common cause. Members of these communities are often inspired by the kind of intrinsic motivation corporate leaders dream about after reading Daniel Pink.

The best communities positively influence their members sense of SCARF:

  1. Status – rewarding and celebrating achievements that perhaps only other community members can recognise.
  2. Certainty – helping level set status of technical trends, learn best practices and how to avoid pitfalls.
  3. Autonomy – members can shape conversations and agendas by investing their time, effort and passion.
  4. Relatedness – communities are places where deep friendships are formed that persist through different roles and organisations.
  5. Fairness – the best communities are safe spaces where informal or (more recently) formal codes of conduct ensure every member is treated with fairness and respect.

I have also been extremely lucky to have worked in some amazing teams throughout my life. I used to say the best of them felt like family, in terms of the supportive environment they provided. But the more I think about it, we were probably more like a great little community than a family. After all, we weren’t related by blood and didn’t spend Christmas together – but we did share certain values, attributes, interests and identity as well as a sense of a common place (whether physical or virtual). That sense of community has lasted long after I left those jobs, and I have learned to associate it with some of the best work experiences of my life.

So as we face the challenge of transitioning through the 4th Industrial Revolution, I think we need to start thinking about how communities can help us thrive: treating our teams as little communities of their own, building communities of practice across silos in organisations and joining communities outside our organisations to provide additional support. There is nothing like a big cosy scarf to make me feel warm and happy, safe from the wind and rain – now is the time to start knitting together a community SCARF to help us feel exactly the same way as we are buffeted by the winds of change.

 

Dúchas #34 #cong19

Synopsis:

Who are your people, where are you from?

A journey to find my birth mother.

A journey to find my genealogy
– Gaelic, Norman, Cromwellian.

Irish Ways and Irish laws.
– How power worked in Gaelic Ireland.
– How Community worked in Gaelic Ireland.

Ideas from Gaelic Ireland that we can steal for our 21st Century Communities

4 Key Takeaways:

  1. We don’t conform, we are better off when we refuse orthodoxy and embrace diversity
  2. To be powerful we don’t need to be unitary. We should embrace Subsidiarity a system where decisions are made at the appropriate level and not at the centre.
  3. Blood is thicker than water. If you are lucky enough to have parents, learn from them who your people are, where you come from.
  4. If you are lucky enough to have kids – make sure they know who their people are, make sure they know the stories and myths that anchor them to where they come from.

About Frank Hannigan:

Frank Hannigan is a Dublin born economic migrant in Cork.
A Business Graduate of Trinity College, University of Dublin.
A Founder of StrategyCrowd Business Advisors
Father of two Cork teenage sons and married to one Tipperary wife, Betty.
I am fascinated by how individuals, businesses and countries compete.

Contacting Frank Hannigan:

You can follow Frank on Twitter, connect with him on LinkedIn or check out Strategy Crowd

By Frank Hannigan

In June 2018 I decided it was time to find my birth mother.

I wanted to say
Everything worked out, I had a great childhood and I am well on my way to being a mature adult.
I wanted to say
You did the right thing

I was a bit scared but what could possibly go wrong?

It did not take too long for me to find her – calling Bishops House in Wrexham every day helped, a DNA test with Ancestry.com sealed the deal.

On the glorious 12th of July I met Claire for the first time.

I worried that she might be a victim, damaged and hurt. Not a chance.

Claire is a 77-year-old Spitfire, self aware, curious and full of energy.

The year before she had sailed down the Mekong from Vientiane to Ho Chi Minh City, She had travelled the Garden Route and visited Kruger National Park.

Knowing her, knowing how she thinks about and how she deals with life is magic.

It is a perspective that makes sense of me, how I think and feel, what I think and feel.

So, that’s the first part of my journey.

That journey included a manic learning curve about Genealogy.

Genealogy is addictive.

I researched my adopted and blood lines.

My blood is Gaelic with a healthy dash of Norman Irish.
My adopted family is Gaelic with a healthy dash of Cromwellian Irish.

Of the three strands that make up our people, Gaelic Ireland is a bit of a shocker!

First of all we are not Celts
Our DNA soup settled down 4k years ago – most of us came in waves since 12,500 years ago from Galicia and the Basque Territory.

Second, Gaels were pretty wild and anything but the Victorian constructs of Yeats and Pearse.

Third, Gaelic culture was globally connected and was a advanced culture when it came to Medical Research, Law, Social Rights, Property and Power.

They had and we retain their healthy disrespect for orthodoxy.

Let me introduce you to two characters from the period:

Let me introduce:

Turlough of the Wine O’Donnell

  • He earned his nick name
  • Was a devout Christian
  • Had dozens of children with at least 10 wives.

Grace O’Malley

  • Became the Chieftain of her tribe despite having a brother
  • She had two husbands and a shipwrecked lover
  • 1,000 head of cattle and a clatter of Castles and lands.
  • She parlayed with Elizabeth 1st in Latin and as an equal

Let’s get down to the nuts and bolts of this society:

Immediate familes were a Clan.

Each clan belonged to a kin-group known as a fine.
This was a large group of related people supposedly descended from one ancestor.

Tuath was a kingdom – like Donegal

There was a High King – but typically Irish – He never even dreamed about having 100% support and he was a first among equals.

Power and property in Feudal Europe was simple:
God anointed Kings, Kings anointed Land owners, both pass their property and power to their first born male child.

Gaelic Power and property was not centralized:

  • A Taoiseach was elected by a broad gathering of family members:
  • The ability to make war and manage diplomacy mostly decided who won.
  • There were other pillars of power:
  • Bards and Clerics, Lawyers, Physicians, Scholars, Skilled Craftsmen and Musicians. All were political actors
  • Freemen who owned farms and Cattle and freemen worked on the land of others – all had a say on legislation and policy
  • Until 1200AD at the bottom of the heap were slaves – criminals paying back a debt or prisoners of war.

Side bar

  • Slaves were a small part of Gaelic Ireland – but a big part of Viking Ireland
  • Dublin became wealthy as the biggest slave market in Western Europe.
    • 40% of the founding population of Iceland were Gaelic Slaves
    • In 950 15% of Western Europeans were slaves, many travelling through Dublin and Limerick to their captivity

Back to the Gaels

Gaelic ranks were not set in stone.
It was possible to rise or fall depending on individual effort.

Brehon law had no prisons and almost no capital offences

Most convictions required a payment even murder

  • If the person could not pay for the crime
  • His family becomes responsible for the payment
  • If his family could not pay for the crime
  • The broader Kin Group becomes responsible for the payment

By the 8th Century women’s position in society far outreached their sisters in Europe – “in most respects, quite on a level with men” according to Patrick Weston Joyce.
The Irish were Christian but they kept their own law while to a great extent ignoring Christian mysogeny.
Women and men for example had easy access to Divorce and multiple partners.
Women owned property directly and indirectly.

Monks and Priests up to the 11th Century were also a la carte Christians commonly having wives and extensive families.

This was not an insular society – The Irish traded with most parts of Europe and Northern Africa – The O’Donnells for example, were known as the Fisher Kings, one of the largest exporters of fish to Europe.
New ideas and culture were weaved and warped into Irish life for thousands of years.

So as we skitter without a rudder towards a united Ireland, what can we takeaway from all this to inform community on the island?

Community – Connection, Communication, Future #33 #cong19

Synopsis:

Community is an incredible teacher of social and emotional skills that will become increasingly important in the fast chaining world. A risk to the sustainability of these wonderful facets of the community is losing traditional ways of communicating as a community and reliance on digital platforms that do not champion the local. Technology offers opportunity but needs to be directed in ways best for the community.

4 Key Takeaways:

  1. The emotional and social skills fostered through community are valuable now and more so in the future.
  2. Communication is key for strong communities and at risk with the loss of traditional forms of communication and the pervasiveness of social media.
  3. Metrics of social media are not supportive of physical, intimate communities of depth.
  4. Can we envision a community communication platform that preserved the best of traditional communication and harnessed opportunity from technology?

About Carlene Lyttle:

After living in 7 different cities in 6 different countries Carlene was drawn back in the North West of Ireland looking for community, creativity and connection.
Like many, she returned after starting a family with an appreciation of the values of community and the opportunities for a fulfilling and engaging life living within a community. She wants to be part of a positive movement to make the area vibrant and exciting for her and her son.
Having worked in the high technology space sector she has seen the efficiencies that digital technology can bring. She wants to explore the opportunity to improve life in Inishowen with a specifically designed platform that delivers an integrated communication service. This is currently a project she is developing with the support of Social Entrepreneurs Ireland.

Contacting Carlene Lyttle:

You can follow Carlene on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.

By Carlene Lyttle

Machine learning, artificial intelligence, robotics – with the speed of technology what does the future hold for communities? 65% of children now entering primary school will grow into jobs not even invented yet. As a mother of a four-year-old how do I prepare my son for a very different future from the world I live in?

Creativity, empathy, storytelling. Emotional and social intelligence will be the sought-after skills of the future. Community fosters these skills. I see them in spades in Inishowen where I’m living. For me a physical and intimate community life will be the best preparation for the uncertain future of work. We need to value creativity, empathy, storytelling. With meaningful value – support, attendance, time, money.

Physical communities have depth. They require time, thought, consideration, real connection. As pointed out by Eoin Kennedy in his submission ‘Have we lost the art of chat?’, communication is key to sustaining communities. Physical communities do not thrive on social platforms. The metrics of Instagram, Facebook, Twitter is to get response in the ten and hundred thousand. In a rural community like Inishowen with a population of 40,000 or a market town like Carndonagh with a population of 2,000, how can a rural communities concerns go viral? These platforms are made to go viral not rural. A post for a beach clean after a storm – 5 likes. The action will result in 3 bin bags of plastic taken from the ocean but will be deemed a failure on the social media scene. I agree with Max Hastings submission and the idea that platforms promoting aggressive approval of others and self-obsession, are the enemy of community.

Physical communities are already dealing with diminishing traditional forms of communication – local newspapers, parish bulletins, notice boards; as well as the decline in word of mouth communication as the traditional centres of congregation decline – pubs and mass. If groups within the community are driven towards social media platforms, communication becomes siloed, disconnected, and lost in social media noise. Our communication in communities’ risks being structured in isolated web sites, Facebook pages or Instagram profiles where information isn’t shared – hampering growth, duplicating effort, and resulting in missed opportunities. When local groups use communication platforms designed for a global response, the depth of community work is lost.

In 2017 Facebook made a manifesto on global communities saying it would “strengthen our social fabric and bring the world closer together”. Then they sold our data to Cambridge Analytica. As Yuval Noah Harai points out, in the excellent 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, a community cannot be built on a business model that captures people attention to sell it to advertisers.

Technology does offer opportunity. Its transformative nature can have huge positive impacts as the James Casey and Peter Kearns’ submission attests. The risk from technology is the thoughtless way we are adopting it without considering what impact it is having. Technology could help, as Pamela O’Brien explores in her submission on how can technology facilitate the idea of community rather than erode it. With Pamela O’Brien and Eoin Kennedy I recognise the need to actively preserve the best parts of traditional community and the communication forms that come with it.

To retain the creative, empathetic, storytelling power of my local community how can we replace the traditional forms of community communication, preserving the best and harness the undoubted power of communication technology to make connections which have depth?