Big Community was the phrase that stood out to us all - volunteering makes communities bigger and across our society which is looking for a way to share the future, engaging people voluntarily through the various disciplines that make up the fabric of society seems crucial.
"Volunteering's not important - it's essential" said Robin Simpson, Chief Executive of Voluntary Arts. Sentiments echoed by Minister Alex Attwood MLA who talked about volunteering reflecting the best of society.
The contribution by keynote speaker Peter Jenkinson, OBE was provocative - encouraging us all to be "promiscuous" and to "make friends with strange people" - and highlighting the trend towards DIY/Open Source voluntary action that most recently has affected enormous positive change in Egypt.
The event was genuinely stimulating and threw up a number of challenges around how and what we measure as the benefits of volunteering. Rather than falling into the age old argument around how you measure the value of something that has a multitude of intangible benefits, there was a grown up discussion about focussing on outcomes and shifting our measuring mechanisms to accommodate the more intangible.
Another exciting thought was how the four partner organisations, coming from very different places could create a programme together and build on this very unusual connection. Perhaps taking up Peter Jenkinson's challenge of making friends with strange people is a potential starting point for many new innovations. As Einsein said - "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them"- perhaps we also need to shift our thinking by regularly going outside of our normal connections and relationships.
Perhaps also this is what a big community is - not necessarily big in size, but a big space, an accommodating space, a safe space for us to come in and out of, a space to be creative in.
In the best democratic traditions we also voted on a number of questions at the celebration in Stormont - not sure if the results were particularly surprising but the questions did force us to think - never a bad thing. To check out how we voted visit http://bit.ly/hLnn6q.