There are just four weeks to go to Congregation, the unique ideas event held in the village of Cong, Co Mayo. Blacknight is a sponsor, so we invited the organiser, Eoin Kennedy, to join us on today’s podcast.
Click on the player below to play the podcast, or download it here: 22:06; 13MB; MP3.
Congregation, Eoin explains, arose out his experience of attending conferences, which sparked a desire to do things differently, and to do them better. He had two thoughts. First, could the knowledge transfer at such events be done in a better way? Secondly: is there a better way for people to network and to connect with each other?
The result was Congregation, and its success can be measured by the fact that it’s now in its fifth year.
It’s a modest success of course, as befits its unassuming location in a quiet village. Like a lot of villagers, Congregation’s character is a product of place. Eoin wondered if a village could fulfill the function of, say a convention centre. Congregation is hosted by a community not a corporation, and the cheek-by-jowl proximity of venues in a small tourist village is perfect for the breakout sessions or ‘huddles’, where speakers share their expertise with each other.
Which leads us to the primary unique feature of Congregation: there are no passive participants. Everyone is a contributor. In fact, you can’t buy a ticket for Congregation; you have to “blog your way in”.
“We ask people to pay in a more valuable way: with their insights”, Eoin explains. The result is an event which attracts people from a wide diversity of backgrounds: academics, business owners, homemakers, farmers. “What you get is a diversity of topics and a diversity of backgrounds”, he says. “A real diversity of topics that people want to cover and a diversity of people presenting on those topics”.
The effect can be potent, he reveals, because you start to see some common themes and some common issues begin to pop up. There is a benefit in considering common problems from a number of unique perspectives.
Recent years have seen a concession to the traditional conference format, where a select group of ‘keynote’ speakers are invited to share their insights on the chosen theme, on the Friday evening in the comfortable setting of the small private cinema at nearby Ashford Castle. This year’s theme is ‘Innovation’, and the speakers include David Gluckman, the inventor of Bailey’s Irish Cream liqueur, Niamh Bushnell, former Dublin Commisioner for Startups, now the founder and CEO of TechIreland; personal development coach Gerry Duffy, and Alessandro Prest, co-founder and CTO of LogoGrab, an Artificial Intelligence platform that tracks the presence of brands on billions of online pictures; and Tom Murphy co-founder of boards.ie.
The following day 80 speakers will converge on Cong Village where each of them will present their ideas on Innovation in small huddles spread through the village in cafes, galleries, bars and restaurants.
While the adults will be reenergizing their minds in the village, their children will be experiencing science and rocket making workshops in the Crossroads Community Centre.
The day of ‘unconferencing’ on Saturday will finish off with a blues harmonica workshop where, over the course of 2 hours, attendees will learn to play basic Chicago blues harmonica and collaborate to write the lyrics of “Leaving Congregation Blues”.
Interested? Visit congregation.ie to find out more.