Next year marks Canada’s 150th Anniversary of confederation and this pivotal moment in Canadian history is sparking many conversations about Canada’s past 150 years. At TakingITGlobal, we believe there has been no better time than now to reflect on what we want Canada to look like in the next 150 years!
As a way to help stimulate these sorts of discussions, TakingITGlobal has been engaging youth through our Explore150 project. As our Executive Director, Jennifer Corriero explains, “The Explore150 project was launched with the aim of involving youth in transformative conversations about Canada’s past, present and future. We are leveraging the power of digital technology as a tool to connect youth to places of natural, cultural and historic importance, while recognizing that young people have the power to transform their communities”.
As many have said before, Canada is an incredible country and has made great social, political, and economic progress in the last 150 years, however, it is not without its shortcomings. As we draw closer to Canada’s 150th, and these discussions become more frequent, I’ve begun to ask myself a few questions relating to my own role in contributing to change in Canada. Questions such as, what does it mean to be Canadian? What shapes our cultural identity? And why is it important that we feel a connection to Canada as a whole?
Being part of projects like Explore150 highlight the importance of supporting youth in taking ownership over the issues that affect us most by fostering a stronger connection to our communities. What happens when we feel a sense of disconnection to the places in which we live, is that we begin to see problems that do not directly affect us as alien-- as disconnected from our own sense of being. We therefore, begin viewing the solutions in a way that is outside of our control or influence. At TakingITGlobal, we believe it is essential for youth to see themselves as directly involved in the cycle of creating change.
— Explore150 (@Explore150) February 24, 2016
So the real question is, how can we inspire youth to see themselves as a driving force for change in overcoming community issues locally, while also feeling connected as Canadians?
Educational learning experience can provide powerful pathways for youth to recognize their potential to take charge in creating change. Marilou McPhedran, a human rights advocate and professor at the University of Winnipeg, says, “Citizens and aspiring citizens of Canada need to appreciate their role in transforming promises on paper into realities as part taking action of their daily lives”. In many ways, we need to encourage students to go beyond the classroom and commit to change not in theory, but in practice.
In February, I had the opportunity to join Professor McPhedran as a guest speaker and facilitator in her human rights course at the University of Winnipeg, delivering an Explore150 workshop on defining and understanding your role in creating change in Canada.
Beginning with a discussion on what makes a leader, and mapping out how the students see change happen in their communities and around the world, many of them expressed viewing change as starting at the individual level-- with one person or a small group of people. I was able to draw upon examples from the World Economic Forum Young Global Leaders Field Guide that is filled with a range of vibrant illustrations and models of change.
Building off that discussion, I then asked the students to envision how they fit into their own theory of change.
I could quickly see that this was a bit more difficult.
What I realized is that it is often very difficult for anyone, but especially youth, to envision themselves as changemakers-- to really take-on and own the title. To wholeheartedly take responsibility for the change they would like to see happen in their own communities.
Of course, I think this needs to change and I believe that having more discussion surrounding deep reflection on Canada’s past, present, and ultimately future, is the best way of beginning this process.
When we start taking more time to discuss where we would like to see Canada in the next 150 years and we have youth taking the lead in these conversations, they can begin to see themselves in this vision of change. Through this dialogue they can determine where they want to go, but more importantly, how they are going to get there.
Change happens when we acknowledge that we are active agents of transformation.
I truly believe that many students walked away from the workshop critically thinking about how they can continue to create change in their own lives-- big or small.
Universities connecting with community organizations provide more opportunities to enhance, and really hone in on the idea of student and youth voice not only within the classroom, but in our broader communities. If we can work together to prove to these students that they are active agents of change, I believe incredible things will happen.