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.

Believe in the possibility

Belief is a choice that allows you to properly consider the nuances of the believed entity. In this case, believing in a better future allows you to navigate the path that leads to it. Anyone can hop on a boat, but it takes a proper sense of direction to reach a destination. 

According to Andrew Chunilall, the Chief Executive Officer of CFC, “fixed mindsets” are keeping Canada from becoming a country where everyone belongs. He believes that transformation and fixed mindsets are like “oil and water,” when we focus on the paths already taken we prevent ourselves from discussing the road ahead . Confronting and acknowledging topics of the past will bring groups together to write history.  Chunilall says, “I think we can only declare success when we’ve not left anyone behind”

Chunilall is hopeful for the future when considering society’s social progression.An institution as fundamental as family has undergone significant evolution within mainstream society, with same sex marriage. And yet, “society hasn’t fallen apart. The bedrock of society being family hasn’t been destroyed, it’s only been enhanced. And so, what does that tell you about the idea of holding on to the status quo?” A change of route does not necessarily entail a loss of direction.

Tim Draimin and Michelle Baldwin, both members of the Transformation Team at CFC, both focus on the status quo.

Draimin’s roadblocks to a future that siphons agency back to the individual involves stubborn paradigms. Society has the potential to be as fluid as water, but we continue taking the same paths for fear of drowning. According to him, the rigid legacies on which present institutions run are directly threatened by change, resulting in band-aid solutions such as an increase in lower wage employment that fails to prevent issues such as a shrinking middle class. “We need to be able to challenge a lot of those corrosive economic precepts that have been insinuated into the system and baked in by the people who have been their beneficiaries.”

Governance issues such as municipalities being at the mercy of provinces are also to be considered, along with a narrowly-minded technology and a conceptualization of the term “innovation” bereft of a social mission. “At many many levels, we’re dealing with a system that is way past its best by date, but we haven’t had really strong and dynamic conversations about how we can renovate these systems.”

There is hope for the systems on which society functions, however. Canada specifically amasses enough wealth and abundance to be a pioneer of systematic change, and like Chunilall, he has hope for positive public attitudes to generate an emergent wave of progress.

Baldwin has similar faith in the youth’s ability to steer the train towards a better future. She compares the paradigms that govern societal systems to the neural pathways in a brain: after a period of rapid acquisition and priming, consistent reinforcement crystalizes ways of thought and belief. Older generations have had certain exposure that may limit their ability to imagine alternative routes. Intergenerational justice thus serves as a sensible measure to bring the youth perspective to rewire these literal and metaphorical pathways.

Baldwin is also cautious about the simplification of transformation and its accessibility to the average individual. Much like an expansive network of tree roots where resources are distributed and collectively used, the systems that fit together to create a society are interconnected in obvious and nuanced ways. Tinkering with one may send ripples across the whole pond in ways that cannot entirely be predicted, and therefore transformation can never be as simple as a bucket list of issues to tackle.

There are ways of countering these roadblocks, however. One of the most important ones is purpose and motivation. Luckily for us, finding hope in purpose is as natural as the ocean tides that resemble waves of change in the past. What ways can we tune into new winds and break free from status quo mindsets? Next stop – mobilizing change.