Communities of Millennials Driving Change

Rituals. Reciprocity. Gratitude. Diversity. Inclusion. Respect. Teams. Time. CommUNITY! 

I have just completed week one of orientation at the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto, where I will be spending the next two years completing their full-time MBA program. I am already blown away by the amount I have learned, the abundance of resources available to support this process, and the inspiring classmates that will all be experiencing this roller coaster together. While the MBA pre-program earlier in the month focused mainly on preparing us for the technical side of the MBA program, including statistics, Excel mastery, and introductory finance, the orientation week is dedicated to the development of our “hot” skills, how best to manage ourselves and collaborate with one another, and fundamentals for career exploration. This is only the tip of the iceberg (I find there have been a lot of water metaphors used this week to describe the processes of lasting change, enormity of content, and so on) and I cannot wait to dive into the self-development and technical content in this program.

Before I start this new journey, I am compelled to capture and reflect on a few snapshots from the past year. So without further ado and in no particular order, here are some projects I’ve been involved with recently.

Millennials are ready. 

In late 2015 and early 2016, I was invited to participate in a documentary-style film project put together by two of my friends, Madison and Ashley, who work at McLuhan & Davies Communications. Their project aimed to showcase misconceptions about millennials, highlighting successful millennials in the workplace and sharing their experiences, with a specific focus on the value of effective communication in all aspects of the workplace. In order to prepare for my feature, I was asked to consider why I became successful, a difficult question to answer when you haven’t taken the time to step back and internalize yourself as such.

Photo credit: McLuhan & Davies

Upon reflection, I do consider myself successful based on my own definition of success. For me, this means my career or volunteer commitments include the following characteristics: the ability to try new things, consistent learning and growth opportunities, the possibility for collaboration with passionate people, and purposeful action. I have embodied a willingness to take risks and move beyond my comfort zone, always look to learn from those around me and extract lessons from my failures. Skills such as time management and continual goal setting have made it easier to say yes to opportunities that arise and I would encourage anyone to find an organizational system that works for them in order to try new things and challenge themselves. Here is a link to the series if you’re interested in checking it out.

For my involvement in this project, I was gifted an amazing Think on Your Feet workshop where I learned about and practiced various presentation and communication techniques that I have continued to implement. The most valuable takeaway was not to fear pausing when asked to respond to unexpected and/or challenging questions in order to allow yourself time to frame the best response. There are other workshops like this offered that I hope to try out moving forward. Thank you so much for including me in this process!

Change through purposeful dialogue.

In June, I was part of another inspiring group of friends, Nicole, Sylvie, Logan, and Corey, who followed through on their wish to host a Pro-Action Cafe in Waterloo. Drawing on the facilitation skills we developed through Waterlution’s Transformative Leaders of the Future program, this event brought together members of the community interested in turning their environment-themed ideas into action! Conversations and planning revolved around diverse topics, including urban irrigation, low-impact development, and river restoration, that were brought forward by attendees. These conversations were framed by the facilitation team using the Pro-Action Cafe format in order to foster innovative action plans under tight

Pro-Action Cafe - 1 of 29 - Sylvie Spraakman
Photo credit: Sylvie Spraakman

timelines. Rather than reiterate at length the goings on of the event, I urge you to read an article written by Nicole for the Alternatives Journal, Kitchener-Waterloo Blue Drinks: Conversation in Action! For me, this process was exhilarating. While I have hosted and facilitated similar events in the past, it was under the umbrella of a specific role or organization. This time, it was a group of friends inspired to bring people together to create a sense of community and effect change. I will no longer feel the need to wait for the right role or imposed structure in order to make something happen; all it takes is an idea and a group of supportive friends willing to go along for the ride.

Capacity building in the developing world. 

I was fortunate to volunteer with Hands Across the Nations for the last year, a volunteer-run charity focused on addressing health, education, and water challenges in Mali and Bolivia. This organization works with communities to form strong relationships and create solutions that will be complete and long-lasting. As Board Administrator, I learned a great deal about the complexity and intertwined nature of health, water, and education and gained a deeper appreciation for small-scale non-profits. There is currently a team of volunteers in Bolivia who have partnered with a local non-profit, Fundacion Kumi, that helps children from low-income families gain access to after-school programming and special needs assistance. While there, the team will be helping to repair infrastructure, lead educational workshops focused on nutrition, and establish the foundation for a long-term healthcare access. To read more about this or any other projects, check out the Hands Across the Nations projects page. One more thing — this October, there is a group of us running in the Toronto Waterfront half marathon to fundraise for Hands Across the Nations. In the event that you are able to chip in, here is the link to do so (and thank you so much!).

Water outreach inspiration. 

At the end of April, I ran a water education class with a group of Grade 1s in Orangeville. It was such a blast to be back in a classroom with a bunch of energetic and curious 6 year olds. I was able to utilize older water activities that I used back when I did outreach for SWIGS and impose new facilitation techniques I’ve picked up in the last few years to better engage my excitable audience. Developing content in line with the teacher’s request and curriculum, I demonstrated  to the students the myth of abundance (the difference between Canada’s existing and renewable freshwater resources) with some help from blue food colouring and led a water sounds activity where students had to guess what water-related activity it was they heard, to name a few. I also decided to talk about groundwater with their class, as Orangeville is a groundwater-reliant community and, having grown up in the area, I remember not really understanding that out-of-sight (read: abstract) concept at that age. The engagement from the students was beyond impressive, where they asked questions about how wells are drilled, what water towers do, and how drinking water is treated, even touching on the complex relationship between combined sewer systems and climate change ramifications. I left that day reminded how wonderful it is to work with kids, feeling wholly inspired by the class’s enthusiasm and eagerness to learn. A few weeks later, I was interviewed by TEACH Magazine and gushed at length about my experience. While the article isn’t perfect, it mentions some cool initiatives in the area of water education; you can read it here.

Run, jump, play – every day. 

For the first half of 2016, healthykids_logoI was invited to be part of the Region of Waterloo’s Healthy Kids Community Challenge working group. The Challenge is an initiative put in place by the Ontario’s Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care to support the development of communities focused on healthy eating, physical activity, and healthy behaviours for children. This year’s theme, Water does Wonders, focuses on encouraging the consumption of tap water in place of sugary beverages, promoting tap water as a safe, accessible and inexpensive alternative while ensuring children receive adequate and healthy hydration. Our working group brainstormed different options, from volunteer-intensive outreach programming to infrastructure upgrade suggestions, in order to meet the specific needs of the communities in Waterloo Region. It was a valuable learning opportunity to be on a team that brought together local educators, children’s programming experts, health and nutrition professionals, and water specialists and more, and I look forward to hearing about the roll-out of the plan we developed over the next year. Here are links to Waterloo-specific programming and the province-wide initiative.

Enjoy the rest of the summer everyone! 




2 thoughts on “Communities of Millennials Driving Change

  1. Cailin you are truly amazing and it’s a privilege to know you and to have worked with you at CWN.

    Gail Meyer

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