I’ve just come in the door from the first weekend session for The Ideas Collective. First thing I did was boil the kettle, took my boots off. Now I’m sitting down to digest the past two days - from 10am to 6pm on Saturday 6 June and Sunday 7 June 2015. I know I’m involved in something special. I don’t know what I had expected; I suppose I thought we'd be educated as to how to get our social project up and running. I thought we’d learn how to go about approaching funders and engaging stakeholders. And yes, we are learning that stuff. But I’m absorbing so much more.
The sessions took place in TCD and were facilitated by three SUAS staff members – Gráinne, Dee (Deirdre) and Jo. They’ve each been so approachable and, since it’s a pilot scheme for SUAS, it's a new experience for everyone involved - so Gráinne, Dee and Jo have been participating alongside the rest of us. It’s created a really collaborative space, where we all feel like we're on a level playing-field. Then there’s the external facilitator, Amanda, an English lady who travels the world giving courses on Leadership. The whole team is excellent and they’ve created an atmosphere that’s warm and energised. It is also very challenging. I don’t mean that in a negative way. I don’t feel intimidated or pressurised, but I do feel anxious. I'll explain below.
On Sunday, we met Anthony Haughey, an artist who works on social and politically-charged issues, such as citizenship and direct provision in Mosney Reception Centre, Co. Dublin. I spoke to him about my studies of Agamben during my Master’s and the concept of bare life. My memory was very hazy, but I was very affected by the conceptions of society I studied during my LLM – and they have indirectly led me to my involvement in The Ideas Collective.
In the afternoon, we met Conall O’Caoimh and learned about his work with Value Added in Africa. After spending the day discussing amongst ourselves ways to get our project off the ground, Conall’s experience took our perspective to another level. The international scope of his work is baffling – and, to be honest, it makes me nervous about my own capacity to enter this field. I'm worried that I will take myself down a path that may do harm to others and may affect my own career negatively. But I keep reminding myself that these fears were (and are) probably shared by Conall and every other social entrepreneur who spends their time and energy devising an innovative approach to address a problem. I suppose I'm still in the confidence-building stage.
And it’s draining. Of course, I’m challenging myself to ensure I step out of my comfort zone and towards a creative place. I’m conscious that I’m using ‘entrepreneurial’ jargon at this point, but I’m also realising how much of the media that I consume is sending me the same messages. Whether it’s videos, articles, blogs or podcasts, much of the thinking I've exposed myself to over the past few years has been telling me to push forward a project like this. I suppose in the internet age, when new technology companies have attained megalithic status within a very short time, it is accepted thinking that this type of “success” is possible. In an environment where (in theory) everyone is equally empowered by the internet, anything is possible. If you have an idea, we're told that we can put it into practice. This is a positive attitude, and a very capitalist approach. So my eyes have been opened a bit wider to the fact that my decision to involve myself in The Ideas Collective is probably the culmination of years of consideration. After hundreds of moments wondering whether I could ever do this, I’ve finally taken the decision to start.
Of course, it doesn’t mean I'll get anywhere with my idea. At the minute, it’s still a very rough outline and I haven’t yet spoken to any stakeholders at length. So that’s my first step. My next port of call is to approach the relevant staff in Dublin Simon Community and Focus Ireland about the RTÉ High Hopes Choir. This was a choir assembled for an RTÉ documentary in winter 2014. I want to know what’s been happening with the participants since the show finished. Are these individuals still singing in the choir? Does the choir still rehearse/perform? Is David Brophy still in charge? Did the Simon Community get any feedback from the participants other than what was aired on the show? Are there any follow-up projects planned?
If anyone reading this has any insights into my project, I need to hear from you! One of the main things I’ve learned from this weekend session is that voicing your ideas is the most productive way to progress. Thinking over material is beneficial, but to move beyond your own thinking, it’s essential to bounce what you already have off someone else. Someone you trust. Because you never know what’s going to come back.