Generation T

I was privileged to attend and present at an amazing conference in Ottawa recently. The Millennium Scholarship Foundation, which was established by Prime Minister Jean Chretien and supports hundreds of students at post-secondary institutions in Canada hosts an annual meeting entitled, "Think Again." Approximately, 250 laureates attend. Most are in university or college and often nearing completion of their degrees.

The Program for the meeting has the following quote from Frank Palmer, who is the founder and CEO of DDB advertising agency. "Love experiments, learn to collaborate, ask different questions, try not to criticize, sweat the small stuff, never stop learning/moving, seek better ways, bury your ego, celebrate successes, love your job or leave it and be fearless."

I presented in a workshop entitled, "Your actions, your communities."

Here are some of the questions that I asked:

Communities are defined by boundaries and by similarities and differences among its members.

How are these differences/similarities articulated?

How do symbols work to sustain communities?

Communities are repositories of symbols from memorials to political structures to icons, sports teams and cultural markers.

How do we find out what a community means to its members?

Are the feelings of commonality strong enough to overcome difference and what are the boundaries of commonality?

As boundaries become less viable, symbols become more and more important.

As the definition of community changes, its symbolic elements take on greater meaning.

As the nation-state shifts from a broad-based coalition to a multiplicity of tribes, each tribe looks to icons and images for clarity and meaning.

The world, as Thomas Friedman has suggested may be flat, but the fissures and cracks have created fault lines that have led to more and more difference, real and imaginary.

Between January 2000 and the completion of its mandate in 2009, the foundation will have distributed approximately one million awards to students across Canada