I had the privilege of speaking with Tony Cook, President of the MacJannet Foundation today, and these were his thoughtful answers to my questions about the conference and civic engagement.
What has been the most inspiring experience at the conference so far?
Awareness of the extent of this kind of volunteer phenomenon, in terms of numbers of participants, rapid growth of the university membership, variety of programs, and the energy that is reflected in this global trend. It truly is a movement and is moving rapidly. The other thing that has struck me, as president of the foundation that supports the Prize, is that I am still gratified and sometimes surprised at the positive impact that receiving the Prize seems to have; the power to energize their own activity, both as a motivator and an example that has been validated. This recognition helps them at home to accomplish the work they are trying to do. Being recognized by an outside body helps their cause with a third party endorsement, which then helps to evolve standard for others to emulate.
What is most meaningful to you?
The foundation supports active citizenship and international understanding and champions the hands-on educational philosophy of our founders, Donald and Charlotte MacJannet. W do so by supporting the programs of the Tufts University European Center in Talloires, France, which is where the Talloire Network was born. It is very personally gratifying to be involved in this cause because we are realizing our vision, which is a community of global citizens, and we are seeing the name of our founders – who were exceptional educators — used to promote our cause literally around the globe. We are very small and the effects have been very large.
This Prize has been going for three years; it’s a partnership between the Talloires Network and the MacJannet Foundation, so we developed the criteria and we worked together on the selection, we pick the winners together. The prize has been a very good way to broadcast the civic engagement movement and also to motivate educational institutions to join the Network. It has been a good way to spread the word.
What does the future of the global civic engagement movement in higher education look like to you, and why?
The future is nothing but bright, because it is becoming more officially recognized and sanctioned by universities, it is becoming more formalized, more standardized, because of technology there are best practices now being shared within countries, within regions across borders and it is very timely because there are so many problems to solve, socially, environmentally, and the disparity between rich and poor. Students feel motivated to solve the problems, and universities are feeling obligated to solve the problems and to address the needs of society. It’s a growing phenomenon.
If you could change one thing in the world today, what would it be and why?
I would love to see an increasing sense of empathy, which is identifying with the needs of others, and to understand the perspective of people who are different, even those you may consider an enemy and to promote that sense of empathy in our social interactions and even in our politics. The world is very divided because people don’t listen to each other. The act of listening and understanding would help the world a lot.
Any last comments?
I am especially enthusiastic and hopeful about using technology to spread the civic engagement virus and to illustrate and inspire imitators to see the need in their own community and learn how adopt what is being done by pioneers in this arena. The social media on-line is perfectly designed for people to share the good work and give each other inspiration and direction.
Thank you Tony, for your commitment and support in strengthening the movement for civic engagement around the world.
For more information about the MacJannet Foundation Prize for Global Citizenship and the 2011 winners please visit: http://www.tufts.edu/talloiresnetwork/?pid=312&c=79
Congratulations to the outstanding winners of 2011!!