On the 11th of March 2016 I presented an Ignite Talk at FIGTNL16 (Families in Global Transition Conference 2016). It was the first time FIGT had held their conference outside of the US and the event was completely sold out.
An Ignite Talk is a special part of the conference. It is constructed of 20 slides which autoforward every 20 seconds. You have 6 minutes and 40 seconds to tell your story to the audience and you cannot skip a beat, because the slides are moving and the next presenter is waiting right behind you.
You can find the slides and transcript of my presentation below:
You may think that you walked into this room as mothers, fathers, lawyers, teachers, relocation experts and linguists.
But I know what you really are.
You are builders and architects. Every single one of you has been hiding your secret talents.
And I’m about to pull your capes off.
You may be asking yourself, what an earth is she talking about?
I have never built a thing in my life, even my child is better with Lego than I am.
When I look out into this room I see that it is filled with builders.
Builders of families, of communities, of hope, builders of a global village.
We’ve all heard that term bandied about over the years. “A Global Village” but what does that really mean?
It was Marshall McLuhan, a Canadian philosopher who popularized the term back in the 1960s.
His interest in the subject was sparked by discussions with his associate, Whyndam Lewis.
Lewis observed that calling America the United States was a misnomer and that far from being a collection of states it was, in fact, just one big state, which should be renamed the American Union as an example to the rest of the world.
Through discourse and observation, McLuhan predicted that through the rise of electronic communication the world would contract into a global village.
He also predicted the invention of the internet 30 years before it happened.
The internet - an invention which, while borderline fantastical in the 60s is now almost single-handedly responsible for the acceleration in the growth of our global village and something most of us cannot imagine living without on a day to day basis.
To a certain extent McLuhan’s predictions have come to pass as he expected them to.
You can walk into practically any city in the world and find a McDonalds, for example. Everyone knows how to order a big mac and fries.
No matter where you are in the world or where you come from, McDonalds will always smell like cheap fried food and home.
It’s not just food that has transcended our cultural borders.
I am not sure that there is a person on the planet, other than my husband, who doesn’t know what a Kardashian is or who hasn’t heard of the Oscars.
Homogenization of our global cultures is happening in real time, right before our very eyes.
But wait, at the start I said that you were builders, and yet what I am describing surely sounds more like a collapse?
A slumping ooze of all our brightly coloured cultures into one messy brown puddle.
Yes, yes I did say that you were builders. And here’s why...
While there are undoubtedly remote village tribes who do have their own Manchester United fan clubs and can recite the scores from the Superbowl verbatim, we are not, as a species, sliding quietly into the sludge of mono-culturalism.
What McLuhan did not envisage, was a world devoid of distinct cultures.
In 2010, I had a baby. I moved from London late in my pregnancy and I didn’t know any other mothers in Amsterdam. I was lonely, I was lost and the city felt alien me. I needed a village, I needed a tribe.
And if there is one thing I have learnt while building my tribe, it is that unless you open your arms to diversity your village cannot thrive and it will ultimately fail.
To survive a village needs a multitude of voices, of cultures and experiences. If a village wants to deepen its connectivity the voices of the villagers must be heard.
Which isn’t always easy to achieve. Especially when you are talking about issues concerning families.
Believe me, I have the scars to prove it.
Have you heard of the “mommy wars”?
I thought they were a figment of the media’s overactive imagination but…
Running a parenting community has taught me that nothing can divide people quicker than a claim to know how best to raise another person’s child.
It’s hard, raising these little beings we call children. We want so much for them.
We have such immense hopes and dreams for their future, that we are operating in near constant fear that something we do as their parents will deprive them of that.
Did we make them eat enough green vegetables? Should we make them watch Dora the Explorer in English or in Dutch?
As parents, if we want our global village to continue to grow and thrive then I’m afraid we have our work cut out for us and convincing the little darlings to eat another spoonful of peas is child’s play by comparison.
Our work will not be denying that there are differences in how people parent, but in recognizing the value of our diverse experiences.
Because it is these diversities, which give our global village its planes and dimensions. Which turns a potential cultural wasteland into our tapestry of experience.
Embracing this diversity has made me a better parent than I can possibly have imagined being without it. It has made me a builder and it has turned me into an architect.
We need to instill a hunger for learning and a passion for preserving our own cultures while continuously exploring and evolving new ones.
Integration into the culture you are living in does not mean renouncing the cultures you have come from.
If we are to continue building a global village, it will take a commonality of purpose; one which enables us to celebrate our distinctive diversity while experiencing all that other cultures have to offer us.
It takes patience it takes understanding and a willingness to learn.
You are all builders and architects.
You are here today because you want to dig deeper to travel further in this global village we are building.
You are here because you want to make sure that what we are building will benefit our children.
It is our gift and our responsibility, as a generation of global village builders to secure a world for our children in which they are able to continue constructing a homogenously diverse global village of their own.
A global village in which they feel safe to embrace both the excitement of exploring and adapting to a new culture.
And we will need to instill this whilst retaining the ability to celebrate and honour their own cultures as they wish to.
Are you with me?
Then let’s keep building.