Rêver l’impossible : Innovation Through Play

ArticleSocial Impact

The Client Company

Desjardins Group is the largest cooperative-based financial institution in Quebec. This year, it was the instigator of an unprecedented youth summit: Dreaming the Impossible. Over two days, 400 young people reflected on the major social issues affecting their future. La Factry was one of the event’s partners.

The Challenge

The Rêver l’impossible event, the brainchild of Desjardins Group President and CEO Guy Cormier, brought together 400 young people in person at La TOHU and hundreds more online, on June 19 and 20, 2023. Guy Cormier’s idea was to get them thinking and expressing themselves on social issues of concern to them, and to inspire a little hope in these troubled times. This large-scale gathering invited young people aged 18 to 30, from a variety of backgrounds-and who didn’t know each other-to imagine the society of the future.

At the outset, Guy Cormier and his team conducted a wide-ranging consultation with young people in the educational and working worlds of Quebec and Ontario, to identify their needs and concerns. From these meetings and another online consultation emerged a program structured around three key themes of reflection-environment, employment and education, economy and finance-and three paths: Build, Create, Explore. Each theme also included three “islands of reflection”.

The goal was to put young people at the heart of the themes,” says Julie Vallée, Strategic Advisor at Desjardins Group, “while ensuring that they could express themselves, have fun, learn and network. This personalized offer, which takes into account the needs of young people and their particular situation, is similar to what Desjardins does with this specific clientele.” Desjardins was able to count on the involvement of major partners-Bell, Google, Hydro-Québec and KPMG-who interacted with the young audience and fed their thoughts.

On the recommendation of Bob agency, its partner for the event, Desjardins Group asked Factry to organize the activities and creative workshops scheduled for Day 2 of the event.

The Proposal

“The idea of programming with coaches and facilitators was already well advanced, but from our very first discussion, Marie-Ève [Chaumont] at La Factry understood our needs and came up with a turnkey service offer, which really appealed to us. We felt we were speaking a common language.”

For Desjardins, it was imperative that these workshops organized by La Factry made sense in relation to the conferences and master classes that had been scheduled for Day 1. This imperative was well understood and included in the proposal.

La Factry is renowned for helping managers develop an innovative corporate culture, and for using creativity to address business challenges. Its tailor-made service was particularly well suited to organizing the co-creation workshops imagined by Desjardins.

The Factry’s expertise in storytelling, ideation and design thinking made it a natural choice for facilitating the workshops. The client company wanted to add a playful element to the young people’s experience, to encourage them to find innovative solutions to societal issues. And these workshops enabled them to do so in a fun and playful way.

The ultimate objective: to push the exercise towards clear avenues followed by precise actions to be taken.

The Work

During the first day of the event, 57 inspirational and influential speakers, including Jérôme Dupras and Jean-Martin Fortier, took the floor to speak on one of the three themes. By sharing their experiences and the challenges they face on a daily basis, they were able to shed light on their own entrepreneurial reality.

The second day, in the morning, was devoted to co-creation workshops for young people, led by coaches and supervised by a team of 27 skilled facilitators who made the experience fluid and efficient. Each participant had a choice of theme and path.

Between 9 a.m. and noon, design sprint coaches supervised several workshops in sub-groups, particularly for the Build course. The aim was to create a safe space and get as many ideas out as possible in five minutes, get them to converge, and then go through all the stages of a design sprint: ideation, brainstorming, collaboration, prototyping, and so on. It was really interesting to see the young people under the TOHU big top,” explains Julie Vallée. Confronting their ideas, challenging each other. We saw some very concrete solutions emerge from these workshops.”

As for the Create course, it aroused a great deal of emotion among the participants. The day before, Hélène Godin, from La Factry, had organized a conference with a panel of three artists who spoke about creativity as a vector for change; the workshops of the Créer course drew inspiration from this by having the young people work on choreography, in particular, around a specific theme. For the block on the housing crisis, we saw how young people physically expressed fear and all the emotions generated by this issue,” says Julie Vallée. The workshop didn’t appeal to everyone, but it stirred up a lot of emotions in those who took part. People weren’t expecting it; it was a nice surprise.”

In conjunction with the event, six citizen involvement workshops were held in Quebec City, Montreal, Abitibi and Ontario. And many more were held online.

For Desjardins, it was important that the day’s 79 workshops produce concrete solutions to the issues identified. “The Factry coaches and the Day 1 speakers met and challenged each other to ensure that the exchanges echoed each other and were not redundant,” says Julie Vallée.

After the workshops, the young people prepared a pitch between 1 and 2 p.m., then presented the ideas that had emerged from these working sessions to an audience of observers and influencers. The afternoon was then devoted to a “Grand partage”, which provided an opportunity to highlight what had been learned and exchange ideas for solutions with the leaders present. Some very rich ideas came out of the exercise,” says Julie Vallée. This Grand partage was the high point of the summit.”

The Result

Thanks to the tremendous involvement of the young people and the strong commitment of the partners, financial and otherwise, the summit was a resounding success,” sums up Julie Vallée. On social networks, it was impressive to see all the exchanges! Some participants even said they had found their way during the event.”

In his closing remarks, Guy Cormier said he was impressed by the “enlightened and dedicated” young participants who expressed themselves during the gathering. The discussions and exercises generated ideas and perspectives for the future, notably on sustainable consumption, labour shortages and housing.

But for Desjardins, it was important that the Dreaming the Impossible summit should not just be a vast exchange of ideas, but also generate concrete spin-offs for tomorrow’s society. Some solutions already exist, such as the cooperative model, but need to be brought to the fore,” says Guy Cormier. Let’s not try to reinvent the wheel, but put solutions into action.” To do this, an “unfiltered, unconstrained and unpretentious intergenerational dialogue” is essential.

The next step is to produce a summary of everything that was said, then share the highlights of the event with some 400 influential people in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada. As early as this autumn, a number of projects could be launched, notably in partnership with the Ministry of Education. Guy Cormier is personally committed to ensuring that the voice of young people is heard everywhere.

Thanks to its tailor-made offer, Factry was able to grasp Desjardins’ needs, work in collaboration with the Bob agency on logistics, and deliver an enriching and memorable experience to the young people in attendance.

Nathalie Schneider

Nathalie Schneider is a journalist specializing in the outdoors and adventure tourism and has a large number of field reports to her credit. She is an outdoor columnist for Le Devoir and occasionally for Radio-Canada radio. She is also interested in subjects related to society, art and the environment.