By Ayusha Mahajan

Ayusha served as the Transformation Storytelling Fellow for Community Foundations of Canada for a six-month experience with a portfolio exploring societal transition. A story would never achieve its potential without the means to make it heard. This story is made possible through the support of Canada Life, the RBC Foundation, and Social Innovation Academy.

Consider the possibility

The future is going to happen. And with it, change is going to unfold. Like a sailboat slowly being anchored to the present dock, it will arrive, fuelled by time, ready to transport its passengers to the future. The passengers might be unequally equipped with their medium of transport: a boat, a yacht, perhaps even a raft, and stormy waters and misty areas will test their ability to reach the future.

To reach a destination, people must believe in it and see a route forward. Together, through collective imagination, we can begin to chart a course. 

In 2017, Geoff Mulgan explored the potential of collective intelligence and its application to global challenges. According to him, the pooling of knowledge allows for more informed and, therefore, wiser decision-making. In July 2022, Cassie Robinson expanded this idea to include the possibilities enabled by what she called “collective imagination.” According to her, the limitation keeping us from associating utopia with realism is our own data-governed inability to imagine and believe. When we use our imagination to create and build, our vision becomes part of our reality.  And imagination begins with questions such as “What is a future you hope for?”

Andrew Chunilall, the Chief Executive Officer at Community Foundations of Canada, and Tim Draimin and Michelle Baldwin, members of the Transformation team at CFC, have visions for the future they hope for. 

Chunilall hopes for a future in which belonging is an integrated orchestra, where all differences complement each other within the work of art they contribute to make whole. “When we think about belonging, we conflate it with fitting in,” he says. “More and more is becoming less and less familiar to people, and that tugs at the heartstrings of belonging.” With the advent of globalization, diversity is the new constant, and a culturally diverse country as Canada possesses the power to harness the sheer variety of thought, practice, and belief it houses. 

Draimin imagines a future where social capital, our connections and relationships with each other, can be harnessed to tackle the environmental agenda and create a society that shifts the paradigm while maintaining quality of life. He envisions a society that is organized in ways that “takes advantage of, produces, and reinforces social capital” to achieve a mindset of what we can do for each other, rather than what the institution can do for the individual. 

“…social capital ends up becoming like the mortar between the pieces of the socioeconomic system that we’re trying to build,” he says,  “and the better and stronger the mortar, the better the construction of the society that people are going to depend on to be able to rise above the kinds of challenges that every individual and family faces over the course of a lifetime.”

Baldwin imagines a future of regenerative opportunities, one where the restoration of people and planet is inclusive of all experientially fuelled imaginations and is inspired through a reconnection with nature. She believes we have a lot to learn from nature and its objectively evolutionary characteristics. “I’ve been looking at this transformation work through the lens of equity, economy and climate…but I think there needs to be a deeper connection to humanity and nature.” No amount of complex terminology and meticulous organization separates us from the dirt beneath our feet.

Could these futures we imagine emerge?  

Next stop, belief. Our journey will take us through the roadblocks and areas of promise that materialize now that we’ve boarded the sailboat of imagination. 

All aboard.