On Becoming an Innovator at Camp

Tom Rosenberg, President/CEO
July 2019

As the late behavioral psychologist Carl Jung once wrote, “The greater the contrast, the greater the potential. Great energy only comes from a correspondingly great tension of opposites.” Some of the most memorable moments at camp occur when we are awakened by self-realizations of who we uniquely are and how we might work with others to collectively innovate the world.

Happily, in the second phase of ACA’s Youth Impact Study, the investigators found that camp contributes especially well to a young person’s “appreciation for individual differences.” More specifically, this describes participants’ reflections on camp as a place that helps them develop an awareness and valuing of people who are different than themselves — people who come from different neighborhoods, states, or even countries; people who have different values or beliefs; people who are outside of their normal social group.

How might camp leaders work together to implement programming that inspires everyone at camp to listen to each other more and value diverseness?

In working to understand each other and appreciate individual differences, camp experiences become opportunities for practicing powerful collaboration and fostering innovation. At camp, when campers and staff practice debate, constructive conflict, and respect for multiple perspectives, they learn to think distinctly and more creatively. These skills provide a critical foundation for success in future careers and life.

I’ve previously shared with you a perspective of the arriving Fourth Industrial Revolution, its technologies, ubiquitous automation, and the resulting human skills-centered economy. If we are successful as camp professionals, parents, and educators, our post-millennial children will learn 21st-century skills and become a generation of collaborative inventors, designers, and innovators. Camp can provide a young person with advantageous dispositions for collaboration and problem-solving within diverse teams. According to Forbes Insights, “a diverse and inclusive workforce is necessary to drive innovation, foster creativity, and guide business strategies. Multiple voices lead to new ideas, new services, and new products and encourage out-of-the-box thinking. Today, companies no longer view diversity and inclusion efforts as separate from their other business practices and recognize that a diverse workforce can differentiate them from their competitors by attracting top talent and capturing new clients” (Forbes Insights, N.D.).

To successfully navigate the challenges and opportunities of the ensuing dynamic cycles of innovation in their future, young people must be inspired to hear and appreciate diverse points of view. Physically and emotionally safe, immersive camp communities provide the inclusive learning environment in which campers and staff can feel that their contributions and perspectives are equally valued and respected. In these camps, a diversity of imaginative ideas is heard and discussed. Camp is where we learn to work collaboratively, synthesize ideas, and think innovatively.

Camp experiences should be filled with opportunities for campers and staff to learn to communicate, collaborate, and create imaginatively in a group setting. In these immersive, natural, undistracted outdoor settings, children learn to lead with empathy, invest in meaningful relationships, and respect one another’s unique qualities.

Camp is a wonderful place to experience diversity in many forms and become more culturally and socially agile. With leadership, we learn to value each other’s individual contributions, promote equity in our community groups, and value the diverse voices working together on collective projects. Over time, with trust and experience, we learn that the best ideas come from many different voices after robust debate. This produces both healthy kids and a healthier world.

Reference

Forbes Insights. (N.D.). Global diversity and inclusion: Fostering innovation through a diverse workforce. Retrieved from i.forbesimg.com/forbesinsights/StudyPDFs/Innovation_Through_Diversity.pdf