Guest Bloggers Feedback on the Community Conference 2017

Conference delegate giving feedback after the breakout sessions

Conference delegate giving feedback after the breakout sessions

We asked and you answered!

Thank you to our three guest bloggers below for sharing their thoughts and experiences with us. Read on to see what these conference delegates (and one organiser) thought about this year's event.

You can also read more about this year's Annual Community Conference in our summary piece here.

If you'd like to weigh in with your experience on the day or have ideas for next year's event, we'd love to hear from you. Leave us a comment below or email

Leslie Hetherington

Leslie Hetherington

Leslie Hetherington, Brighter Ballymagorry Development Group Strabane

“The event ‘Fit for Future’ was an excellent conference which gave me opportunities to network with other communities members as well as Supporting Communities and Housing Executive Staff.

It empowered and inspired me by providing skills and awareness around the use of social media to make our Development Group aware of how we should use it to get our messages across.

The Ice Breaker Exercise by James Kerr was a fantastic way of getting the tables to introduce themselves to each other and it was fun to be able to discuss each topic.  I also found the presentation about the Government's Digital Strategy by Trevor Steenson to be an informative look what lays ahead in the future.

The workshop I attended, “D4C Connecting Tenants”, was of interest to all. Aiden Kearney and Amanda Ashe provided an excellent presentation of their joint project.

I found the display stands to be of great interest and will be making contact with at least four of the display stands staff in the next few days.

The Hilton Hotel was a good venue, too. It was well signposted, had easy access to the motorway, friendly staff, and the conference centre suite and workshop areas were of good size and warm. The coffee/tea biscuits and lunch were all lovely.”

Alistair Simpson

Alistair Simpson

Alistair Simpson, Community Champion, The Fountain, Derry/L’Derry

(As recorded by Nuala Kildunne, West Area Liaison Officer, Supporting Communities)

"It was a very hi-tech conference. The majority of people there were senior citizens. Where were all the young people?

The venue was quite a distance to travel, it took two hours to get there. I would suggest it be held in Cookstown as it was in previous years. It’s a central point for all.

The timing was better this year having it from 10-2pm. I thought it was very well organised. The networking lunch was a great opportunity to share experiences and learning with other community groups. 

The speakers were interesting, in particular, the Chair of NIHE. Very interesting how he spoke about tenant participation. 

The Ice Breaker was good to get people talking and it was good to compare pre and post-workshop feedback."

Nuala also asked Alistair about his own levels of digital inclusion:

"I would like to learn more. I'm interested in downloading the NIHE app as there wasn’t time to do this at the conference. My grandson got me online with WhatsApp and mobile texting and only recently I've begun emailing too - with your encouragement, Nuala. The other conference delegates were surprised to hear I'm using apps and texts!

Overall, I thought the conference was good, well organised, kept to time well, good food and good speakers."

Patricia McQuillan with James Kerr and the now infamous 'catch box'.

Patricia McQuillan with James Kerr and the now infamous 'catch box'.

Patricia McQuillan, Vice Chair Central Housing Forum

"I had the great honour of being involved in the Annual Community Conference from inception to completion. 

The conference working group had people from the Housing Executive, Supporting Communities and Community Representatives. 

The theme of the conference came from the evaluations from the previous year and we all agreed that we needed a different format and a different venue. 

The #FitForFuture idea was so relevant with all the changes being introduced to Northern Ireland with welfare reform and universal credit rolling out, and the need for all claimants to have an email address and all applications to be completed online with no hard copies. 

On the day before the conference, we had to sort 300 welcome packs with the help of the graduates from the Gem Project and I helped with the transport of these to the Hilton Hotel. 

The morning of the conference was very busy. We had 300 welcome packs to be put on the delegates seats and badges had to be sorted in alphabetical order, colour coded for the different workshops, and handed out! I am the meeter and greeter and love doing this as it's a great chance to network with all the community representatives as they arrive. 

I was then involved in the hosting of the conference, which is quite scary as there are 300 faces looking back at you! There was a real buzz about the place and everyone seemed to enjoy all aspects of their day.  I particularly enjoyed being involved in the interactive session and collecting the views from the audience on their experience of the workshops. 

As one of the organisers of the conference, I feel that it was one of the most successful ones so far, with a more diverse range of delegates attending. 

Our aim was to make everyone aware of the need to be digitally ready for the changes ahead with welfare reform and I think we did this. It was an informative day with a wealth of knowledge and good practice shared."

A packed house at the Hilton Templepatrick - bring on next year!

A packed house at the Hilton Templepatrick - bring on next year!