I am writing this on a plane flying back to New Brunswick from Seattle today. I just finished a long tour of pre-release screenings of the latest Hemmings House film called the Millennial Dream. We have had over 20 screenings throughout New Brunswick, Ontario and now Idaho in the Pacific North West. The film was created as a response to the lack of hope so many New Brunswickers have for the future of our province. We don’t want to ignore the challenges we have in the province, and we can’t wait for someone else to fix our economy, we need to act now. We can not continue to wait for an outside miracle project, or a new government, or the next generation to come in to solve our problems.
We have told so many negative, defeatist, hopeless stories to ourselves and each other for so many years that we have created a province where many young people don’t even believe that there could be a future of abundance for them if they stayed. So what can we do to help as citizens who care and love where we live? We need to start telling stories of hope, we need to surround and support those in our community who are on track to success. We need to mentor, share, and uplift. We need to accept the fact that the American Dream world-view is no longer a sustainable dream for so many people today.
There is a set of values that the Millennial generation lives by that are not necessarily the values support the American Dream world-view. The Millennial values are based in community, equality, sustainability, empowerment and creativity. The Millennial values are making positive impacts on how we educate our kids, how our universities teach and inspire, how our businesses act, how we as consumers make purchasing decisions and how we live in our communities.
Our film researched these values, which we are now calling the Millennial Dream. We initially wanted to explore jurisdictions that are attractive to young people, and see if places like New Brunswick could compete with these Millennial Dream places. In the end however, the film studied a shift in a collective worldview and asks the question; “What Values Are Replacing the American Dream?”
If we changed the stories we tell ourselves and the rest of the world, could we empower New Brunswickers to build a foundation that would help retain, bring back and attract young people to create a “New New Brunswick”?. Could a new story position New Brunswick as a welcoming and inclusive province that is hyper connected and caring? A New Brunswick that has a transparent government that is supported by open data and that supports citizen led initiatives of social change? Could our kids learn the tools and languages of the future like coding, music and entrepreneurship?
If New Brunswick could be a Millennial Dream place to be, what would it look like? Our universities would be teaching students to lead and solve interesting problems. Our business community would not only build companies that are the best in the world, but also the best FOR the world. These businesses would measure the triple bottom line; profit, people and planet, making sure that profit is earned in a way that does not exploit people or harm the environment. And speaking of businesses, we would have a thriving local food source where we know the story of our food because most of comes from within our own community. That community would also be a community that brings dignity back to so many who have lost it, and would be a magnet of immigration because of the network of supporters available to welcome and settle newcomers.
The most important part of this screening tour I have been on is the dynamic conversations we have had with the audiences after the end-credits rolled in every town and city that we have screened the film in so far. Every discussion lasted at least 45 minutes, and I was so happy to witness such solutions-based, optimistic ideas come out of the discussions. There is a passion in the hearts of New Brunswickers about this place. When there is an invite to be part of a dialogue that is going create an even better province, people seem to engage.
I would argue that New Brunswick already is a Millennial Dream place to live, it just needs to gain more momentum. All of the ideals I listed above are alive and well in New Brunswick, we just need to throw more fuel on the fire. The university of New Brunswick is ranked Canada’s most entrepreneurial University. The University of Moncton, St. Thomas, NBCC and Mt. Allison are doing some really interesting things that are contributing to a brighter future. Organizations like Brilliant Labs, Chat to the Future and Sistema NB are changing the education system from the ground up. Local grown food and products are becoming more accessible with businesses like Kredyls, Real Food Connections and Cochran's. Triple bottom line companies are getting their B Corporation certifications. Companies like Wicked Ideas, Symplicity, Adams Green, Carleton Law, OMISTA Credit Union, Hemmings House, Conscious Brands and Picaroons are some of the B Corporations in the province who are building their companies and contributing to a healthier and more sustainable province. Our downtown cores are becoming populated again, I think about all of the incredible buildings that are being restored and giving young people a place to live and work. Developers like Historica, Commercial Properties and Riedle Urban Spaces are changing the facade of Saint John’s uptown. And New Brunswick families, religious groups and the YMCA have done a wonderful job so far working with the new Syrian members of our community, welcoming them in and getting them settled. These are only a few of the positive stories that I am talking about that we need to share more often. By sharing stories we empower and inspire people to create positive change in their own way. Sharing these stories also motivates people to get up, stand up, and not give up the fight.
We have what it takes to make New Brunswick a thought leader in the Millennial Dream community space. But to move forward with grace and power, we must stop honouring the negative stories and continue to support the positive ones. You can make a change with a simple decision to start buying local, or encouraging your children to learn to code, or inspire your employer to be even better corporate citizens. Once our full community engages in this challenge, I expect interesting things to happen, one of them being a reversal of Millennial brain drain.
A number of New Brunswickers have told me that The Millennial Dream film has inspired them to act, and that the concepts in the film have given them hope. For me, it’s the conversations, energy and innovative ideas that have been coming out of the discussions that have lit a new fire in my belly. One of my partners in the film David Alston says often that New Brunswick could go from the greatest exporter of young people to the greatest importer if we supported folks who are dreaming the Millennial Dream right now in New Brunswick.
I believe in this place, I suspect you do as well. Start sharing stories of the new dream, lets stop looking backwards.