You Can’t Pay People to Care; It Takes a Movement and a Moment


Movements © Courtesy of Student Commission of Canada

There are no heroes at the Students Commission of Canada (SCC) and the Centre of Excellence for Youth Engagement; there are movements and moments that generate legacies.

“We are learning to be obnoxious, but in a good way,” said a young person at an SCC conference in 1994, speaking for herself and many other SCC alumnae still today creating and implementing major social change policies, projects, and organizations across Canada.

Today, the conferences operate under the banner: The Canada We Want Movement and have influenced Canada’s National Youth Policy, federal substance use policy, and major organizations such as Kids Help Phone, UNICEF, and YMCA, as well as fostered influential youth leadership and their start-ups such as Taking IT Global and Apathy is Boring.

In our view, movements start with moments: meeting and granting respect to someone very different from you. By listening carefully, you discover what you share and value in common. Then comes an emotional personal connection to an issue that you suddenly understand differently, and together you build a bond to take action, improve the world and leave a legacy. These four pillars are SCC’s values and processes: Respect, Listen, Understand, Communicate.™ Caring communication becomes the first action, and youth and adults, generation after generation, leave SCC programs and events applying these four pillars in their personal, volunteer and professional lives.

student commission of canada
© Courtesy of Student Commission of Canada

Movements arise when moments of being unheard, invisible or targeted are transformed into moments of connection, empathy, of feeling safe to be seen and heard.

As Co-Directors of SCC’s Centre of Excellence for Youth Engagement, Dr. Heather Lawford of Bishop’s University and Dr. Heather Ramey of Brock University are building a body of evidence that explores the moments and sustained mechanisms by which children and youth identify problems and solutions, advocate for themselves and others, create and implement positive actions that shape the world around them for right now and for the future.

In the 1950s and 60s, renowned psychologist Erik Erikson introduced the concept of generativity, defined as concern for future generations as a legacy of the self which he, and researchers who followed, identified as occurring in the later phases of life.

Dr. Lawford and Dr. Ramey are challenging that notion, finding evidence that the seeds of generativity begin much earlier and failure to nurture youth’s capacity or motivation to contribute to something larger is a mistake. “Our team has seen firsthand the generativity of youth at the Students Commission of Canada. Our research shows that young people between the ages of 14 and 29 show levels of generative motivation that are as high or even higher than adults. Early generativity is also associated with caring friendships, community involvement and healthy identity development in adolescence and young adulthood. So not only are young people interested and capable of caring for future generations but doing so is likely good for them.”

Our mission is to help young people put their ideas into action and improve their lives and those of their peers. All children strive to be heroes, and with granted respect, our first pillar, we see the heroic component emerge from every child, adult, and organization who helps them. We meet and nurture the generativity of thousands of children and youth and youth-serving organizations every year, supporting those who strive to improve our world and leave a legacy. We know that working in a networked way with others lives and breathes the concept of generativity.

We hope you’re listening to the moments, often unheard, when the children and youth in your lives express their concern for the future of their world. We hope you respect and nurture their efforts to generate change and leave a legacy.

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About the Student Commission of Canada

The SCC is a charitable organization that purposefully works with others to ensure that young people are valued, heard and their ideas for improving themselves, the lives of their peers and communities are put into action.


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