Atlantic Canadian Under 40 Leaders Summit

2015 21inc group photoI recently had the privilege of being in Charlottetown for the Atlantic Canada 50 Under 40 Summit. I was excited by the prospect, but had no idea what I was in for. I thought I was headed to a conference, but the week was much more than that. The Summit brings together 50 young leaders in all sectors of society, public servants, scientists, activists, entrepreneurs, healthcare, elected representatives, non-profit and business. The experience is carefully designed to collide participants at high velocity over the course of a week to break down barriers, share ideas and create solutions.

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We spent the week workshopping the profound challenges facing Atlantic Canada. Aging and declining populations, crumbling infrastructure, poverty and inclusion, matching education and workforces with opportunity, resource based economies, sustainability, energy and of course, innovation.

I’m sharing my personal takeaways in the hopes that they will motivate others, and also to spread the word about the organization behind the event.

Responsibility to Attend: During the first morning Tim Coates spoke of the responsibility to attend. He used the simple example of a ticket to a stage play. In a large urban centre, say New York, if you don’t buy a ticket to a show, someone else will. But in smaller centres, which is pretty much all of Atlantic Canada, if you don’t buy it, there’s a good chance no one will. So if we want places like theatres, festivals and small business to exist, we have to attend. And in the broader context, if you want to see change in your community, you have a duty to participate in the process to create that change, or even to lead it.

Waiting for Action: We need to stop waiting for others to create solutions. Some problems are simply too big, or too politically sensitive for government to take on. Nor should government be relied upon as the only agent of change, or source of capital. In fact grassroots and broad-based community action is what government needs to have the “permission” to tackle the big issues. And by breaking down the barriers between the private, public and not-for-profit worlds, quick and tangible solutions can be created.

No Silver Bullet: Especially in Newfoundland and Labrador we seem to be always searching for that silver bullet. Some panacea that will make everything alright. But no mega project is going to change the structure of our economy, our low literacy rates, poor health, or unsustainable expenditures associated with a small population spread over a massive geographic area. If we want our children to have a life in the places we love, big changes are going to be necessary. It won’t be easy, or pleasant, and it will pit our hearts against our heads. But substantial changes are essential to the survival of our way of life.

We’re Small, So Big Change is Possible: In other regions of the world, the voice of one person is seldom heard, but for rare exceptions. Our region and the individual provinces are so small, that one person can be heard, start a movement and create tangible change. In fact, individual actors are the only thing that can change Atlantic Canada. Public engagement frameworks and policy can’t do it. It’s up to individuals to stop waiting for permission and just act. People with passion, intelligence and reason can create powerful coalitions and affect social, economic, political, environmental change.

Personal Purpose: When we talk about lofty things like mission statements or vision, we often talk about “what” or “how”, but often forget the “why”. The power of why has become a popular business topic, but that’s not reason to discount it. There is power in defining the true purpose for your actions. And that’s true for an individual just as much as a business. Ian Cavanagh and Claude Francoeur from Ernest & Young talked about Purpose Lead Transformation. Taking a step back and defining the “why” behind my actions has brought clarity of purpose and unified my professional, volunteer and personal life.

No More Humility: We’re taught to be humble and not to stand out. Not to lead, or to be too brash. I’ve always conducted myself with a quiet confidence. But I’ve realized if you have the ability to lead, you have a responsibility to do so. Now leading doesn’t mean tyrannizing, but it does mean creating a vision, drawing others to it, and supporting and motivating others.

So after an intense week I was left with a lot to think about. Most of all I’m hopeful. Throughout my community and all over the region people are doing transformative work. Creating organizations. Starting businesses. Advocating for those whose voice isn’t heard. Atlantic Canada is full of passionate people doing awesome things. And I couldn’t be more excited to join them and lead some change of my own.


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The 2015 Leaders: NB NL NS PEI

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About 21 Inc.

The origins of 21Inc stem from 2004 and an initiative started by then UNB President, John McLaughlin and Lisa Hrabluk. Next NB saw 21 young leaders tour the province, and come together to create change. In 2007 the founding leaders, along with John and Lisa created 21Inc as it is know today. A pan-Atlantic network of leaders, now over 250 strong, 21 Inc hosts the Under 40 Leaders Summit, 21Leaders and the Ideas Festival. The organization creates connections, enables regional collaboration and provides intensive leadership training.

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