Communities are Born out of Thin Air #13 #cong19


The concept of communities lives in our imagination so they can be anything we want them to be. We can choose to connect to communities, create them, leave them. In this article I consider the role community plays in our lives and what we get out of it.

4 Key Takeaways:

  1. Community is a fictional construct
  2. By introducing more diversity into our local and urban communities, Ireland is a more open-minded, tolerant and accepting society.
  3. We’re getting so exposed to newsfeeds supporting our worldview that we have very little tolerance for those who oppose it.
  4. The more connected we feel to a community, the greater its power and influence.

About Zanya Dahl:

Zanya is founder of Artizan, an award-winning branding and design consultancy, based in Dublin. She’s also invested in her role as a mother which keeps her heart very much on its toes. A former hockey player with a dodgy right knee, she has recently reinvested her passion in painting and comedy improvisation which nurtures her creative spirit.

Contacting Zanya Dahl:

You can connect with Zanya by email, LinkedIn or visit her website.

By Zanya Dahl

I’m kickstarting this article with an interesting observation made by Yuval Noah Harari in his bestselling book “Sapiens”:
“An imagined community is a community that contains millions of strangers […] a community of people who don’t really know each other but imagine they do. Kingdoms, empires and churches functioned for millennia as imagined communities.”
It’s strange to think that long-standing religious institutions, nations and brands can wield such incredible power over us and yet their entire existence is dependent on our imaginative capabilities. Millions of people can successfully unite through a shared belief system. The concept of community fulfils a primal need to belong which in turn encourages us to find commonalities that we can collectively relate to.
Whether we like it or not, we are frequently claimed by multiple communities as one of their own.
Geographical communities, be they urban, suburban or rural, will always embody an eclectic consortium of individuals with varying interests and attitudes. These individuals are not necessarily united by a common belief system. Nor might their engagement with the community be particularly strong. However, when a community member or group is recognised for an achievement by the world outside, it elevates the community and instils a sense of pride. It’s nice to bask in the glow of success regardless of how tenuous the connection is. Look at sport for example. Bray residents took great pride in the Olympic success of Katie Taylor as did the people of Kenmare for the O’Donovan brothers from a small rural community in the southwest corner of Ireland. Ireland came alive when our soccer team (largely made up of UK players) got to the quarter finals in 1994 and more recently when our Women’s hockey team became the first national team in the history of Ireland to get to the finals of a world cup. Note I’ve said “our” – already I am claiming my connection to the team through our country of birth. Sport is a great uniter of community – it bypasses attitudes, personality, age – it sweeps us all up in a collective desire to achieve something bigger than ourselves. Teams and individuals representing a community, county, province and country arouse a deep sense of camaraderie as we will them to victory.
Outside of sport and living in an urban town within a capital city, I don’t experience a strong sense of “local community”. The people I know who come to live in Dublin are happy to get away from it. To temporarily visit a local community is charming but to live there can be claustrophobic. Everyone is known and their comings and goings rarely escape notice. Listening to the news, it is often reported how “the local community” has stayed tight-lipped about a tragedy, were devastated by the unexpected loss of a member or has come together to fight a cause.
Previously in Ireland, communities were tightly controlled by the church – it dominated outlooks and behaviour with a single-minded worldview. Cracked open by scandals, the church lost its grip and communities were no longer under its control. With the rise of freedom and choice, individuals have more access to new experiences and perspectives than ever before. By opening our doors to more diversity, our local and urban communities have greatly benefitted, and we are now a more open-minded, tolerant and accepting society than ever before. Our country has proven to be capable of significant positive change in a very short space of time. Recent amendments to our constitution reflect the power of Ireland’s community voice.
Speaking of community voice, it can be even stronger online. With a click or a tap, we can follow, subscribe and join groups that share our attitudes and interests. It’s nice to feel connected to like-minded people and have our personal views supported, validated and celebrated. This is a problem. We’re getting so exposed to newsfeeds reinforcing our worldview that we have very little tolerance for those who oppose it. It’s leading to polarised thinking and the middle ground is becoming harder to find.
Developing an emotional connection with another person is difficult to replicate through technology. On screen, we read words, not faces or emotions. We post comments with less empathy or consideration than we might if we we’re talking to someone face to face. Anonymity is much easier to achieve online. To choose anonymity in real life requires keeping a low and silent profile. Being anonymous online allows us to be as vocal, nasty and opinionated as we wish.
In conclusion, community is a fictional construct that can represent us however we choose it to. The more connected we feel to a community, the greater its power and influence. If we can harness the feelings of belonging and connectivity that community offers while ensuring it remains as eclectic as possible, we are far more likely to live more enriched and fulfilling lives.

No idea is a bad idea #45 #cong18


A single idea holds an enormity of potential for change and progress. Even a seemingly insignificant one. Great ideas are often built on the back of other people’s ideas. Some ideas don’t ever see the light of day. They can be withheld or they can be shared and judged. This feedback may be helpful or unhelpful, guided or misguided, well-intended or ill-considered, encouraging or discouraging. A multitude of factors that can shape an idea after it’s birthed. It should be given a chance to breed before it’s dismissed. The act of ideating is fundamental for our evolution as a society.

4 Key Takeaways:

  1. A single idea, no matter how small, holds an enormity of potential for change and progress.
  2. The greater the mind’s exposure to experiences and different sources of knowledge, the more opportunity for interesting connections to form and the greater the propensity of ideas.
  3. The life cycle of an idea is very much dependant on how it’s perceived by the originator and by others.
  4. An idea will only gain traction when it’s recognised as valuable by others.

About Zanya Dahl:

Zanya is founder/ director of @artizancreative, a creative digital agency that helps companies with similar values discover new ways to see and be seen. She signs up for pretty much any experience that will expose her to something she hasn’t seen or heard or done before. She loses track of time when she’s painting, eating good food, comedy improvising or cuddling her children.

Contacting Zanya Dahl:

You can follow Zanya on Twitter or contact her by email

By Zanya Dahl

Imagine if we lived in a world without ideas? There would be no imagination. No revelations. No transformation. Just a vacuum of dormant sameness.

A single idea, no matter how small, holds an enormity of potential for change and progress.

Ideas occur when a connection is made between two different thoughts. A little spark of creative energy that ignites a new possibility. Having an “aha moment” reaffirms the active nature of our brains, our ability to make connections and form something new and interesting out of the random collection of thoughts swirling through our minds. Regardless of how short or long lived, the explicit moment of having an idea feels energising and empowering. If the originator really believes in the uniqueness and value of the idea, the birth of that brainchild can feel exhilarating.

The life cycle of an idea is very much dependant on how it’s perceived by the originator and by others. We’re all guilty of judging ideas as “good” or “bad”. But is an idea ever bad? Sure it may seem far-fetched, it may have been done before, it may be selfish or unrealistic or misguided but is it ever really unworthy or regrettable? In its raw state, the value and potential of an idea is difficult to measure. How it will manifest itself is hard to predict – obstacles and setbacks can occur that change the journey of an idea.

I see each idea as a trigger. A stepping stone. A little spark of creative thinking that can grow, merge, adapt or be rejected for something better. A collection of ideas, no matter how small or apparently meaningless can contribute to a new and bigger idea or even spawn a multitude of other ideas. Even if they’re never acted upon, they still fire our imagination and raise our capacity for connected thinking. Having ideas of our own enables us to assimilate and build on others’ ideas more easily.
Many of the great ideas in this world have piggybacked on the shoulders of others whose ideas may not have been executed properly or successfully at the time.
We often mistakenly judge the value of an idea based on whether it’s easy or hard to implement, whether it’s relatable, understandable, beneficial or impactful enough.

An idea might manifest itself as an outfit you choose to wear to a fancy dress party or it might be a solution to a national issue that requires systemic behavioural change. In terms of impact, we might value the latter as a “better idea”. However, the idea for the fancy dress party could be considered “clever, brilliant and inspiring” by the party guests. The “nobler” idea for national change may not actually bring the desired results. Regardless of the ambition or scale of an idea, they reinforce our ability as humans to connect with ourselves and with the world around us. It’s an innate ability we all share but need to nurture more.

The cross-pollination of knowledge has been encouraged and facilitated by the worldwide growth of co-working spaces designed to nurture collaborative ideation. The greater the mind’s exposure to experiences and different sources of knowledge, the more opportunity for interesting connections to form and the greater the propensity of ideas.

Imagine if humankind collectively applied its creative energy to collaboratively ideate for the greater good rather than personal gain. Imagine the possibilities. What can we do as a race to reverse the damage that’s been done to our planet and our way of living over the last 100 years?

Any ideas?