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Hope Circuits

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Hope Circuits is a higher-education call-for-action as the sector undergoes an unprecedented paradigm shift. Drawing upon experience in governance, senior administration, and scholarship, the book helps readers develop the conceptual tools that will engender local, embodied, and embedded solutions to some of the academy's most pressing issues.

Hope Circuits invites all higher education stakeholders to expose, name, and reflect upon the complex problems ailing universities in Canada in the following areas: learning, teaching, mentorship, leadership, governance, research, valuing, measuring, and funding. The book does so through provocative stand-alone chapters that bring fresh eyes to longstanding higher-education challenges.

Perhaps more importantly, Hope aims to re-wire mindsets, perspectives, and behaviours, to, in turn, re-wire and renew the systems within which readers learn, live, and work. The book suggests ten conceptual tools to build "hope circuits": the conceptual tools are framed in the introduction and deployed throughout the book to rethink higher-education systems for the better by creatively putting university-design theory into practice.

Hope Circuits was created in conversation—through conversations, focus groups, and summits—and weaves together multiple voices to explore complex issues at human and humane scale through story-telling and reflection. This book asks its readers to sit in learner positions, to join the conversations, and to start new ones: because, at its heart, learning is a power that stretches the limits of our known knowledge and endeavours to peek over the edge into the unknown with wonder, curiosity, and purpose. 

Hope Summits:

Re-wiring systems for human & ecological flourishing

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Purpose of the Hope Summits:

Luminaries – thought leaders, change agents, and innovative thinkers – from across the Canadian post-secondary sector gather for Hope Summits – on campuses, in cities, in rural retreats – to engage in systems-level design thinking to re-wire universities for human flourishing. We gather with the shared belief that we can engage in systems change best when we are collaborating with others, illuminated by the fundamental guiding values of equity, justice, democracy, civic action, and empathy. 


Products and Output:

One of the major aims of this gathering is to equip these luminaries with the tools and resources necessary for them to go back to their own contexts – campuses, academic adjacent organizations, associations – to re-wire systems in real time: this week, this month, this year. By the end of each Hope Summit, participants will have generated “blueprints” (e.g. white papers, to do lists, actionable plans, commitments to action, curriculum maps, open letters to government. Etc.) in their working groups; while the expectations of “product” are purposefully vague, working groups are encouraged to think about one or a set of actionable interventions at a systems level (policies, statutes, strategic management, curriculum, evaluation procedures) that can be implemented at diverse and multiple institutions that will have direct impact on human and ecological flourishing in its various forms. 



Luminaries include university presidents, provosts, student leaders, innovative and award-winning faculty members, student success leads, heads of external think tanks, governance experts, and futurists. Each of the thought leaders are chosen because they embody hope in systems change, and they all model – in both their institutional contexts and in the larger public sphere – how hope lives in both the smallest and grandest of actions; they show us that hope is earned, not given, and that the work ahead must be both messy and meaningful. 


Pre-Summit Preparation:

In advance of the summit, all participants are introduced to a critical framework outlined in a forthcoming book Hope Circuits: Re-wiring Universities for Human Flourishing (McGill-Queen’s University Press, Spring 2024). The conceptual tools outlined in this book inform the work to be done through active mobilization at the Hope Summits. Participants will engage in pre-reading to familiarize themselves with the theoretical understanding of “hope circuits” built through ten conceptual tools. Luminaries meet twice weekly leading up to the in-person event to engage in ‘read and rumble’ sessions via Zoom for each of the chapters. 


The Hope Summit invites higher education stakeholders to expose, name, and reflect upon the complex problems facing universities in Canada in the following areas. The group of luminaries are placed in small working groups with other colleagues who have expertise and lived experience, divided into theme-based groups on relevant topics, which include: 


1. Learning and teaching

2. Curriculum and co-curricular design

3. Leadership and mentorship

4. Governance 

5. Research

6. Funding models and finances

7. Civic action and social change to strengthen democracy

8. The social compact universities have with the broader society

9. Negotiations and Collective Bargaining 

10. Strategic Visioning


Working groups also benefit from student participation; student leaders will help co-design, curate the conversations, and contribute in meaningful ways to the discussion. Students have been invited based on the following criteria: their diverse lived experiences and intersectionality, critical acumen for systems change, capacities for design thinking, experience in event coordination, demonstrated emotional and social intelligence, and knowledge of how universities operate. 



  • Week 1: Send Hope Summit luminaries Hope Circuits (via email and google drive)

  • Week 2: Zoom 1 to review Introduction

  • Week 3-8: Twice weekly scheduled Zoom sessions, 1 per chapter, with a Zoom link for all attendees to participate 

  • Week 9: Hope Summit

  • Week 10 – 12: Follow up with reports, shared action plans



The summits are tailored to the unique constellations of luminaries who gather, and so the program will differ to align with the purpose of the particular summit. 


Planned Summits:

  • On-Campus Hope Summit @ Mount Allison University (September 25 – 29)

  • Luminaries from across Canada Hope Summit @the HYATT REGENCY HOTEL, Toronto, Ontario (November 3 – 4, 2023)

  • Student Hope summit with the theme “Generativity is Hope” @Jouvence in Orford, Quebec (December 1-3, 2023)

  • University Presidents hope summit with BHER @ TBD in Toronto, February 21-22, 2024

  • On Campus hope summits in Winter 2024 on various campuses

  • Want to host a Hope Summit on your campus, with your organization, through your organization?

  • Interested in a virtual book club with Hope Circuits? 

  • Contact Dr. Riddell via email

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