Pending Conference Has Activists Thinking Globally
by Jacob R., Concordia Applied Journalism
During the past couple weeks, you may have noticed posters by the Global Issues Network (GIN) around campus. In fact, you may have noticed a whole host of GIN activities bursting onto the scene. From water awareness to Dressember to the removal of plastic bags, the Global Issues Network is beginning to effectively and vocally address issues within our community. In terms of long term planning, however, this is just the tip of the iceberg. There is a GIN conference coming in January, and preparations have already begun.
Last year Model United Nations and GIN held conferences in tandem for the first time. The events shared speakers, buildings, and snacks. As a result of this combination, the GIN conference was huge last year. People came in from all across the world. According to Ms. Lavender, the faculty leader of GIN at Concordia, “with last year’s regional conference, the idea was, ‘OK – bring all these people together… How can we use our time together as a trampoline?’” This year’s conference has more grassroots intentionality. The conference is local, focusing on schools almost exclusively from Shanghai. “We want to focus more on – How can we support one another with the work we are doing? How can we utilize our partnerships better at the local level?”
Even with clear goals, there is a lot to do before the conference. “We are in the process now of planning out the specifics of what rooms we are using and the logistics of what we are doing in each room,” says Mrs. Lavender. Even with a greater emphasis on the Shanghai community, the logistics are formidable. After all, the conference has to share space with Model United Nations conference which is happening simultaneously.
Over the past year, GIN at Concordia has grown significantly. As the club grows, so too does its influence. But this recent increase in activity inspires the question: “What is GIN at Concordia?” In a club defined by the issues about which its constituents care, meaningful growth means substantial change. While in years past, GIN was still a fledgling club, now it aspires to use its newfound size to enact significant change in the world. As Karen M., a senior who has been involved in GIN throughout her high school career, puts it, “I feel like GIN is a platform to do so much because it is well known. What we are doing right now with project groups is a really good way for people to find their passions and work towards their goals.”
In its core structure, the most obvious comparable to GIN is Model United Nations. Both are student led organizations, driven by a desire for a better world. Now, GIN, the younger of the two, is growing at an unprecedented rate, and if the Concordia community continues to support both, it would be no surprise if even more significant change in the world starts right here in Jinqiao.
The lesson of GIN is that meaningful change can happen on the local level. In our classrooms, we can work to solve problems that affect everybody. Although it is both unlikely and ineffective for everybody to join GIN, the momentum of the past year demonstrates a real ambition amongst the student body to solve some of the major issues plaguing society.
To that end, non-GIN students must be willing to act. We have seen progress already in both the Walk for Water and the Dressember campaigns. But if we want to solve the kinds of problems we claim to care about, then inaction is unacceptable. Problems like these cannot be solved by a couple dozen GIN students alone. Community involvement matters - a message particularly timely as GIN gets ready for its January conference. Ms. Lavender’s call to action is timely, also: “If we are not doing something,” she says, “we are not embodying the spirit of GIN.”
Jacob R. is part of the Concordia Applied Journalism team.