There has been an abundance of enthusiasm for a new School for Civil Society. It’s clear that many people have opinions about what this school can be.
20 years from now, as you sit back and reflect… what will the School for Civil Society need to have accomplished in order to have been successful (from your organizational/association perspective?
A school for civil society has much potential to create globally aware and engaged community members who vote, participate in community activities and pressure the government to support local and international initiatives to end poverty and inequality.
Creating global awareness and engagement should involve teaching the next generation about diversity and inclusion from a skill-based perspective. Diversity is more than just ethnicity, but includes difference based on gender, learning styles, physical capacity, approaches to life, etc. In my mind, it isn’t enough to teach students about the theory of diversity, multiculturalism and so forth, we need to engage the next generation with practical skills (e.g., open concepts, change and adaptation, conflict resolution) and opportunities to practice these skills (cooperative or practica experiences). Only then can we hope to have a substantive impact on the students and the parts of society that they will come in contact.
Links between academic institutions and civil society potentially numerous beneficial outcomes. Specifically, it can help build the capacity of community and international organizations. That said, civil society can be defined incredibly broadly (there are still numerous academic debates regarding the definition itself).
As a young person, at the start of my career, may major concern is for the future of my generation. While Canada has faired “relatively” well in the recession (e.g. unemployment under 8 percent), the same cannot be said for the younger generation. Youth unemployment/underemployment is a potential catastrophe. People born after 1982/1983 have the potential of becoming a lost generation.
I fear at times that post secondary education, including undergraduate and post-graduate programs, is partially related to masking the crisis. So many people are told to go to University, and, once they get a bachelors and can’t find a job, are told to continue with a Masters, etc.
Degrees do help in the labour market, but only if a person has additional skills and networks.
Therefore, I feel that the major focus of any initiatives should be building skills and connections for students. This should obviously not be the only focus (the initiative should do other good works), but if students are not coming out of this with skill-sets that can lead to employment, than I would question the initiative.
I did a Masters at the University of Victoria. Several of our courses required us to prepare documents for various government agencies/NGO type organizations. Through these, we learnt how to prepare professional and relevant documents, and how to do professional research. I was able to use these on my resume to acquire subsequent jobs. This is one example of how this project could be incorporated into School courses.
I am happy to provide more such ideas if you’d like.
I think the School should work to re-imagine the role of business in society and invent a new variant of Capitalism that rewards good behavior in business versus rewarding bad behavior!
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