(This article was first published at the Toronto Sustainability Speaker Series Website)
Education can open our eyes to a range of possibilities that were once beyond our reach. – Loujain Kurdi
Certain events in our life can change how we see the world. Education can spark that change and open our eyes to a range of possibilities that once seemed beyond our reach. The Graduate Certificate in Corporate Social Responsibility/Sustainability at UofT is one of those life-changing events. Participants enter this program to pursue their passion, activate their purpose and open their eyes to a new way of seeing or being.
Loujain Kurdi recently had this experience. A Canadian born in Tunisia, she was working as an Account Manager with Memac Ogilvy Public Relations, part of Ogilvy & Mather in Saudi Arabia when she joined the program. Her goal is to apply her communication talents to the development and implementation of authentic CSR/Sustainability Programs.
In her review of the book “Devenir Soi”, by Jacques Attali (a CSR/Sustainability book review is a program assignment), she notes the author calls for a ‘Renaissance’, and asks “Are we up to it?”. Through Loujain’s book review, you’ll see the need for all of us to ask courageous questions.
Devenir Soi; by Jacques Attali
In the book Devenir Soi, Jacques Attali says:
“Have power over your life!…The world we live in is no longer bearable…and it will become more dangerous”.
Why did he choose the word ‘power’? He could have said ‘take control’ over your life, couldn’t he?
In ‘Devenir Soi, prenez le pouvoir sur votre vie!’ (Become Yourself: have power over your own life), Attali postulates that real freedom will not be achieved should the world remain inside our industrial-led, money-making bubble. In five steps, he demonstrates how health, economy and our well-being all rely on, and stem from, every individual’s determination to become responsible.
Attali is a French economist (yes, an economist!) and an accomplished writer who is known to be a true avant-gardiste. He is one of the authors whose thinking (controversial to some) has captured my attention since my teenage years. Finding that his latest book, published in 2014, was entitled ‘Devenir Soi’, I realized that he also has gained knowledge with respect to ‘change agents’, and the concept of sustainability.
We first need to carve out the ‘change agent’ in ourselves.
Then we need to ask ourselves, are we responsible? Are we courageous? Are we willing to put in the hard work? Do we have a strategy? Attali puts these questions forward – the questions that we would usually avoid; out of a lack of courage.
In the thought provoking first chapter, Attali challenges our preconceived ideas when he illustrates ‘the inevitable somalization of the world’. By ‘somalization’, he refers to what Somalia has become: fractured, weakened and impoverished due to external and profit-centred stakeholders’ interests (e.g. Great Britain and Italy). He then goes on to explain the vital need for the global community to understand to appreciate and internalize the triple bottom line.
Statistics show that nearly 4 million people will die every year from air pollution – a total that tripled between 1999-2014. Today there are 32 million climate refugees and 50 million political refugees. By 2030 the number of natural disasters will triple and one new disease will appear every sixteen months as opposed to once every five years as it was in the 1970’s. Add a population that travels constantly and you have the perfect recipe for rampant dissemination of disease.
Can we afford to ignore it?
Crudely, Attali advises us ‘not to expect anything from anyone’ (namely governments) as he compels us to visualize a timeline where one learns how to purposefully orient their thinking. Another highly respected sustainability thinker, Bob Willard, similarly says that the first step in a changemaker’s conversion process is to ‘wake up and decide’. Attali shares this thinking when he defies ‘the silent majority’ to reach out for their Purpose, in order to become socially responsible.
Attali stands against the status quo…..Our modern society is in urgent need of an awakening, with both new sustainable lifestyles and business models.
According to Attali, “We are not born with this thinking, schools and parents will teach us how to reproduce the society as it exists”. The author goes on to list and categorize all the iconic change agents from history, such as Ghandi. You may find it quite unnerving when you discover what category you fall into…or perhaps it’s more concerning when you find that you don’t fall into any category.
Attali refers to a particular category as ‘militants’. According to him, the TED Talks founders are militants! Surprising, isn’t it? As you may know, TED Talks conferences were designed to make it easy to spread ideas and foster self development via free online conferences.
Attali stands against the status quo and calls into question the evolution of technology while reminding us that it was initially created with the goal to improve our lives, not control it. Our modern society is in urgent need of an awakening, with both new sustainable lifestyles and business models.
It is up to each person’s conscience as to whether or not to they wish to play a role and contribute to our society’s well-being. We are all part of a closed loop that is more interconnected than ever before…“for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health”.
Simply put, he calls for a ‘Renaissance’. I ask: “Are we up to it?”
In my case, I have taken a risk – I quit my job. I realized that my potential should not be wasted. I owed it to my health and in a larger sense, to my Purpose. I decided that I could play a more meaningful role in society by putting my skills to work to make the world a better place.
The Graduate Certificate in CSR/Sustainability is currently accepting applications for the 2016/2017 program. The first session starts in October 2016. Only 25 spaces are available. You can find more information on the program here.
About Loujain Kurdi:
I graduated from Universite de Montreal in Communication and Political Science. Both during my time there and afterwards, I was lucky to fulfill a series of internships focused on children education & rights, and community development. All combined I have a little over five years’ experience in public relations. During my tenure, I oversaw the organic development of several brands. On the verge of getting a significant promotion to Sr. Account Manager, I decided it was time to take a different path. That led me to the Certificate in CSR & Sustainability at the University of St. Michael’s College at University of Toronto. You can follow me on twitter @LaFijadora or reach me by email.