At the biannual gathering, business people, policy-makers, and artists joined forces to tackle the big issues.
Ideas were on tap and networks blossomed last week in St. Andrews-by-the-Sea, N.B., where more than 200 people participated in the biannual Ideas Festival, tackling some of Canada’s most complex issues with energy, passion, and enthusiasm.
The Ideas Festival is predicated on the belief that an intergenerational approach to planning and decision making is central to creatively addressing challenges that we face as a society. Produced by Fredericton-based 21inc, a network of new and emerging leaders, and the Ottawa-based Public Policy Forum, the event brought some of Canada’s most established leaders into direct dialogue with some of our brightest young minds, many drawn from 21inc’s “Emerging Leaders” program.
The festival didn’t shy away from tackling big issues – there was obvious consensus that we live in turbulent times. We are slowly recovering from the most globally synchronized economic downturn since the Great Depression. Our population is aging, the competition for talent between companies and regions continues to intensify, it seems like a minority government is here to stay, and our demand for energy continues to rise. In addition, actors outside government – those with social, academic, and private interests – are increasingly driving change.
Over the last decade, dialogue among decision-makers in government, business, academic, and social sectors has given way to new approaches to tackling some of our societal challenges. As we try to move out of these troubling times, the decisions we make today have an impact not only across sectors but also across generations. Canada’s emerging leaders are major stakeholders in society and have an important role to play in steering our country’s future.
To involve these – and all – stakeholders in society, to strengthen our organizations, policies, and communities, and to move Canada forward, a new approach to planning and decision making is critical. Every session at the Ideas Festival strongly enforced the belief that to solve our complex problems, we need to collaborate, we need to innovate, and we need strong leaders. Whether the discussion was about the economic future of Canada, new business models for health care, or the state of the news media, the message was loud and clear: we need to work together.
The importance of strong, active leaders was highlighted by former clerk of the Privy Council Alex Himelfarb, who said: “You have to earn leadership every day through your character and actions.” He went on to talk about how experience can sometimes get in the way of good decision-making, acknowledging that “baby boomers don’t know when to get out of the way. I’m part of the problem and I’m here to stay. I’m never going to die.” Himelfarb proclaimed that falling back on the same old broken systems will not fix our societal problems, but he commended the current shift in the nature of leadership from a hierarchal style to one that is more of a flat network.
As Public Policy Forum president David Mitchell said in his closing remarks, the Ideas Festival was multi-sectoral, multi-regional, and multi-generational; perhaps this should be the model for the future of all dialogues. The idea would be to turn important discussions into something that demographically resembles a family dinner table, rather than just gatherings of the “grey-hairs or no-hairs,” as they were jokingly referred to throughout the two-and-a-half days.
While most municipalities have youth councils and some provinces have youth secretariats, decision-makers and young people rarely intersect. Canada is one of the only countries in the G8 without a formal structure for youth engagement at the federal level. So how can we begin to engage young people in building and managing our communities?
We need to support and foster spaces that offer opportunities for genuine intergenerational dialogue and collaboration. The Ideas Festival was just one example of the kind of powerful impact that occurs when established leaders connect with emerging leaders in a meaningful way.
A quick scan through the FedCan Ideas Festival live blog and the #ideas2010 Twitter stream reveals a clear picture: our country is home to a wide range of inspiring, engaged, amped-up young people who are ready to take action and help lead Canada into the future.
Click here to read some of the best tweets from the 2010 Ideas Festival.