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Competition Makes us Faster. Collaboration Makes us Better

by Tom Ebeyer Co-founder and Project Lead, RECODE Collaborate

Tom Ebeyer is a Global Studies student at Wilfrid Laurier University and has recently joined the team to work on RECODE Collaborate, a national student engagement initiative designed to foster a collaborative approach to complex problem solving.


“Students can be more in-control of
their education than they know.”
Sir Ken Robinson

The primary goal of post-secondary education is to best prepare young people for their future. Specifically, it is to create effective citizens who can propel our civilization forward, while instilling the skills and mindsets that will be required to tackle the complex global challenges the coming generations are set to inherit. Climate change, poverty, food and water security…the list is seemingly endless.

Developing highly functional global citizens is critical to the planet’s sustainability, but are we accomplishing this goal? The assumption that the traditional, standardized, and highly competitive ‘read, write, memorize, test’ approach to education is apt for students of the 21st century is deserving of a critical review.

“We don’t lack really good schools, we lack really good education systems.” Andreas Schliecher, Director of Education and Skills at the OECD

The reality is that our collective human potential is far greater than what has been realized. Our current systems simply will not get us where we need to be, and that realization is the primary motivation to challenge the status quo.
Innovation—especially within the social sector—is not just about being great in your field of specialization, it is more about being able to connect the dots. Connecting the dots between diverse people working in diverse fields; being able to think across disciplines; across varied circumstances and conditions. The engineer alone will not solve the problem of global climate change.
Collaboration is at the core of contemporary problem solving.

On a cold day in January, I traveled to Toronto to represent Laurier at RECODE IGNITE, a gathering of staff and students from each of RECODE’s granted schools, to learn, explore, and build a national network of social innovators at the post-secondary level.
It was here that I connected over Facebook with students from across the country who shared my interest in making an impact. In changing the world.
Following this gathering, a small group of us decided to try and move the network forward. The question was this: how can we leverage the RECODE network to engage students on a national scale, in complex problem solving? More specifically, how do we engage them in changing the system? In moving the whole system towards a better future?
Through many late night meetings, and exponentially more pots of coffee, the team identified that at the very core of our ideology, is the fundamental belief that collaborative skills and mindsets are required for students to generate meaningful solutions to wicked problems. For our purposes, this meant collaboration not only across disciplines, but across provinces as well. We shared our thinking with the RECODE team and soon afterward we were invited to the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation‘s Montreal office (RECODE’s home base) to discuss further.

It was a surreal experience, walking into the McConnell boardroom that Monday morning in late June where thought leaders from across the country had gathered to provide our team with guidance and feedback. It was a challenging two days, but our passion and optimism for the future along with our willingness to adapt demonstrated the potential of RECODE Collaborate to the room, and it was decided that the initiative should move forward!
RECODE Collaborate will focus heavily on learning and dialogue in the first semester and follow with a second semester of action and prototyping. This multi-stage initiative will engage students at RECODE chapters in action-oriented collaborative learning, effective community convening, the identification and prioritization of student concerns, environment mapping, plus a solutions-oriented prototype and implementation challenge—all while connecting to a national network of social innovators.

This is a call for students to participate in the processes of educational change already happening on their campuses.
I very much look forward to witnessing what Canadian students can achieve if connected to networks and given the agency to generate change.
Working on RECODE Collaborate these past 10 months, I’ve learned that when you engage with ideas you’re passionate about, incredible things can happen. Be fearless, for failure presents your greatest learning opportunities.


To take part in the conversation, follow @LetsRECODE and #RECODECollab on Twitter.
Feel free to contact me at tebeyer@re-code.ca and @tomebeyer. I’m happy to answer any questions and welcome any resources to help move this work forward.

Aug 21, 2015 | Tags: , , ,