I recently attend a national summit for changemakers called Unleashed that took place at the beautiful Sydney Opera House. NIYLA was fortunate enough to support 20 of our young Indigenous leaders to attend to focus on their campaigns and to continue to develop their leadership skills and voices on issue that they care about.
As I sat in the auditorium of the Opera House, surrounded by 300+ young people aged 15 – 29yrs of age, I was surrounded by likeminded and passionate people. We were listening to inspirational speakers, who were sharing stories of the social impact they have achieved through their organisations.
NIYLA’s students are 15 – 18yrs of age and for many the notion of social action, campaigning and changemaking are very new and almost a different language to what they, and many others are accustomed to. I can’t imagine terms like ‘agents for change’ or ‘global citizenship’ being used regularly during lunchtime in schools around Australia. I reflected on my first introduction to these terms, I was slightly older 20 or 21 and very confused by what these terms meant, but slow it became part of my language and now they simply roll off my tongue and into conversations about leadership.
When I worked in the bank, my vocabulary consisted of General Ledgers, liquidity, term deposits, interest rates and later, retention rates, transitions and completion rates. It wasn’t until I left the bank at age 22 that I truly realized that these terms have little relevance outside of the banking world. Sure, interest rates and term deposits are things people deal with and come into contact with on a daily basis but not to the extent I believed when inside the bank.
The question I wrestle with constantly when it comes to leadership and social action is are we building a community or are we creating a bubble when we define ourselves as Changemakers? Below is a definition of community and bubble from dictionary.com
“A social, religious, occupational, or other group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists.”
“Anything that lacks firmness, substance, or permanence; an illusion or delusion.”
Changing the way we refer to ourselves doesn’t change our actions and by trading words in and out of our vocabulary doesn’t change their meaning, but what if their meaning outside of simply being words has no substance?
What does it mean for those who do not use these words when they describe the very same actions we take? Are they cast from the community or do we teach them a new way, our way of speaking…?
And finally does language exclude those from the community or bubble in which we exist?