I enter the flat to the overwhelming smell of buttery popcorn. The scent brings such strong associations that my mind relaxes into the expectation of passive movie night viewing. While we, the Meanwhile @ The Corrib planning group, are gathering together to view something, it will be a much more active viewing process than the popcorn suggests. We are at our ‘vision’ workshop, facilitated by local ideas development coach Emma Rae. The plan is to extract the individual Meanwhile @ The Corrib ‘screen plays’ from within our heads and use them to create a cohesive and enduring image.

Before we get started my mind wanders into the realm of semantics. What is a ‘vision’? Is it something that encapsulates our values, ethos and aims? A clear definition of who and what we are? Is it what we imagine success to look like? An ideal. A dream. A collective wish?

Emma guides us through a visualisation. Projecting forward 6 months, our time at the Corrib has come to an end. We’re locking the doors for the final time and reflecting back on our occupation of the Meanwhile space. We ask ourselves, what did we achieve? What meaning did the Corrib gain within the local community? It has been a success...so what was the essence of that success? Emma asks us to answer the above questions through a few key points on our note pads.

Blank yellow sticky-note-pad panic ensues. It can be so hard to put ideas into words. With resolve my pen begins to glide across the yellow surface. All around the table heads are bent, hands translating the intangible into concrete written form. Taking turns to verbalise our scribbled notes we see that, thankfully, many of our ideas for the project are aligned. Recurrent themes include: building strength, connections and friendships within the local community, the sharing of skills and experiences, being an incubator or platform for new projects and ideas, becoming a model for other community projects. These thoughts and more are collated onto a large sheet of butcher’s paper for all to see.

Then we pan for gold. Through collaborative and staggered sifting we reduce the phrases and then the words to the essential. Clarity is our goal. Soon we get caught in the nitty gritty of subtle gradations in word meanings: Friendly or approachable? Innovative or experimental? A thesaurus is on hand, a resource that we initially scoffed at, but that ends up being invaluable as the workshop becomes increasingly about getting the words ‘just right’.

Finally our golden nuggets are all that remain. Creative. Grass roots. Experimental. Diverse. Welcoming. Nourishing.

A revised mission statement will now be forged from these crucial words. There is a noticeable sense of achievement in the room- as though reaching such a clarified vision for the project took on marathon proportions. So now we just need to pick the popcorn out of our teeth and act upon the collective dream vision. Make the ideal become real. 

 

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