Simon Anholt's call for a 'good generation'

Simon Anholt's call for a 'good generation' Helsinki 2019

The 31st Annual EAIE Conference and Exhibition kicked off with an uplifting Opening Plenary. As the Conference shifted into full gear, our Keynote speaker implored us to work together in rethinking our approach to this “age of the long challenge”, and most importantly, to endeavour to translate our shared values into concrete actions.

The 2019 Opening Plenary kicked off the largest Annual EAIE Conference and Exhibition to date, with 6200 voices to be heard in the halls of the conference venue. The audience was reminded not only of what is at stake in our increasingly connected world today, but also of the unique opportunities for international education to tackle big, global challenges – from climate change to racism and xenophobia – by living our values.

One of the most energetic moments of the Opening Plenary was the performance by Signmark, a deaf Finnish rapper and the first person to secure a record deal with a major international company rapping in sign language. His electrifying performance on stage was demonstrative of the many creative ways we can be more inclusive and ‘encompass all voices’. His example of overcoming the obstacles on his own personal path also served as inspiration for how we can collectively work to overcome the global challenges we face.

When Keynote speaker Simon Anholt, founder of the Good Country Index, took the stage, he continued with the theme of rising to the occasion to take action. He began simply by saying, “I’m tired of talking,” launching into a speech about how we can go from simply talking about issues to putting our good intentions into practice. “Something has got to happen soon. Actually, not soon – now.”

Anholt talked about the need to determine what virtues we want to elevate among today’s youth and how we can instil such virtues in younger generations, while also educating them to be change agents. “The young students have the right attitude but they don't have the solutions. We adults have the solutions, but the wrong attitude," Anholt said.

He asserted that it is possible to tackle all of the world’s most pressing problems within a single generation, and that universities are uniquely positioned to lead this change. “The universities of the world are a sort of new diplomatic network which hasn’t really been lit up yet – but it could, and it should.” While Anholt indicated that the simplicity and optimism of this idea may lead some to label it as naïve, he pointed out, “Simple plus hopeful is not naïve – it might be just what we need.”

He concluded with an impassioned call to action for what he calls the “Good Generation” project, indicating that the first step is initiating a global online conversation about the nuts and bolts of such a culture shift, and how universities can lead the change. You can add your voice on social media with the hashtags #EAIE2019 and #GoodGeneration.