I have always believed conversations that lead to relationships lead to actions and, after reading How to make London super! by Western News reporter Adela Talbot (Feb. 9), I recognized there was an opportunity to have a conversation that may lead to a relationship that will, I hope, lead to action. I sense there is a hunger for participation with civic life building in the city and the students reinforced this in the interview.
Incentives to stay, ideas around student involvement with businesses and not-for-profits, breaking stereotypes about who and what students are, further developing our arts sector and, finally, reimagining London as something other than a manufacturing town, all resonated. We, those inside and outside of campus, have common cause.
I agree there is often a view of students as being interested only in coming past the gates to hoist an elbow, but I also know there is so much more to student life than this. The move to experiential learning on campus, service clubs that give back to the wider community year after year and events such as the recent Change Camp, all give lie to this stereotype.
I had a meeting with Jeff Preston, a participant in the article, not long after the piece came out and he was overflowing with insight and ideas about connecting students with the external life of the city. I began to wonder what other conversations I have been missing around Western and how can I be a part of making these conversations happen.
Emerging Leaders, for which I am the executive director, has a mission that states: “Unleashing the talents and potential of Emerging Leaders. Unleashing London.”
Western’s campus is full of emerging leaders in a host of areas from engineering to arts to professional schools to student government. I, for one, would definitely like to see those leaders stay in London. We really need you to be a part of moving the city away from our current economic and social issues, to create a city that is good for all of us.
In order to do this, there needs to be a two-way conversation – a conversion and then a collaborative commitment to working through the ideas outlined in the article to get to a place where we all want to live. This can never, nor should it ever be, a one-sided dialogue for the benefit of a few, it should be about the expression of our collective commitment to a common good in the places we live.
I suggest we create the common space for this conversation to happen, take the ideas outlined in the article together with new ideas developed through meeting and create an action plan that Emerging Leaders can offer the city, businesses and not-for-profits. This plan can act as an introduction to the opportunities that will bridge the gap. From there, we can further develop these ideas and refine them with our collective learning about how effective this engagement can be.
Emerging Leaders will set a time and a place on campus where this can begin to happen and through conversation with service clubs, student government, undergraduate and graduate associations, we will consult in creating an agenda that will help us focus our collective efforts.
Here is my commitment to you on behalf of Emerging Leaders:
I will engage, ask and seek out your guidance about where and how we can move the city forward. I ask you take the time to communicate and then act on where we decide to work together.
I know London is a generous city and the people who live here, you included, care deeply about London. So let’s do that. Let’s have the conversation that will lead to the relationship that will lead to the actions that will create a place for us to share and, by extension, we will set an example of how community can come together to create a space for us all to be engaged.
Sean Quigley is the new executive director of Emerging Leaders London Community Network. He has worked professionally as a theatre artist and developed the Theatre Arts program at Fanshawe College. He has also worked extensively as a mental health advocate and community developer.