The Trek Episode 9 on Surviving and Shifting Broken Systems: Civics Unplugged discuss how we can change and thrive in broken systems – in collaboration with Humanity 2.0

Contributed by: Show Editorial Team

Gary Sheng, Madison Adams, Noor Myran, Julia Terpak, Ashley Lin, Maryam Tourk, Dariel Cruz Rodriguez and Chabu Kapumba, discuss surviving and shifting broken systems on this week’s episode of The Trek


  • Civics Unplugged hosts Trek Session with Gen Z community on surviving and shifting broken systems
  • Prominent Gen Z figures discuss everyday systems and how change doesn’t always need to be big
  • Future leaders of America discuss where we can find broken systems and the process in which we can start to change them



Brought to you by: Humanity 2.0 – a Non-Profit (Non-Government Organization) focused on identifying and removing the most significant impediments to human flourishing through technology and thought-leadership in collaboration with the Holy See (Vatican).

Special consideration; to CommPro Worldwide for their PR and media support

INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPTS: Gary Sheng, Co-Founder/COO at Civics Unplugged, Madison Adams, Director of Dialogue at Civics Unplugged, Noor Myran, Founding Fellow of the 2020 CU Fellowship, Julia Terpak, Founder of Gen Z Connect, Ashley Lin, Founder/CEO of Project Exchange, Maryam Tourk, Co-founder of CU Summer Camp, Dariel Cruz Rodriguez, CU 2030 Steering Committee at Civics Unplugged and Chabu Kapumba, Senior Fellow at Civics Unplugged

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 00:01

Hello, everyone. And welcome back to groupthink. Groupthink is our dialogue series at CU, where we pick a topic and have a discussion about whatever feels meaningful. My name is Madison. I’m a high school senior from Verges, Oklahoma, and I’m joined by some lovely members of our community. So if everyone could take a minute to introduce themselves, that would be great. 

Maryam Tourk – Co-founder, CU Summer Camp: 00:013

Hi Everyone. I’m also a high school senior. I’m from the suburbs of Chicago and my name is Maryam. 

Ashley Lin – Founder/CEO, Project Exchange: 00:23

Hey everyone. My name is Ashley and I’m also a high school senior, and I’m from Vancouver, Washington.

Dariel Cruz Rodriguez – CU 2030 Steering Committee, Civics Unplugged: 00:30

Hey everybody. My name is Dariel Rodriguez. I’m a high school junior from Orlando, Florida.

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 00:39

Hi everyone. My name is Chabu. I am a first-year university student and I live in Toronto, Canada, 

Julia Terpak – Founder, Gen Z Connect: 00:49

Hi everyone, I’m Julia Terpak.  I run a platform called Gen Z Connect that aims to empower Gen Zers. And I’m 23.

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 00:56

Hey everyone. I’m Gary. I’m one of the co-founders of CU in New York city.

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 01:03

Awesome. Well, thank you guys so much for taking the time to join us tonight. Today we’re talking about surviving, thriving and shifting broken systems, and we’re going to try something a little bit new with the format towards the end. So I’m going to let Chabu explain because that was her idea. 

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 01:27

So I’m really excited about tonight’s topic, but after, you know, our usual group think practices, we’re going to stop about two thirds of the way I believe to pause and reflect on some of the answers that we gave throughout the conversation, just to see if you can pick up some underlying themes, the ideas and major takeaways from the conversation. 

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 01:47

Yes. And you guys think 7:15 would be fine for that. Awesome. And we always like to start off with a word association. So think of three words that come to mind when you hear broken systems, and then we can go through. And as you say your words, you can talk more about them if you would like, so I’m going to go ahead and share my screen And then whenever you’re ready, just speak up and I can write them down. 

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 02:22

I can get us started. So when I think of broken stuff systems, my three words are prevalent, disheartening and overwhelming.

Dariel Cruz Rodriguez – CU 2030 Steering Committee, Civics Unplugged: 02:46

Alright, anyone else? My three words would be fixable, inevitable and fixable. Wait so optimistic. I love it all fixable. Fixable, inevitable and breakable.

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 03:00

Yep, I guess I can go, family, self, and community.

Maryam Tourk – Co-founder, CU Summer Camp: 03:28

I can share mine. So mine were suffering people, corruption and inefficiency. And no one’s really explaining theirs, so I’m not sure if we’re supposed to wait, but I guess I’m just going to go ahead and share them anyway. Well I guess I think of broken systems in a way where it’s like, Oh, when a system isn’t running properly and these are kind of the results, people suffer and there’s a lot of corruption because they’re also people that are taking advantage of them. And then obviously there’s a lot of inefficiency because the system isn’t working in the way that it should be. 

Dariel Cruz Rodriguez – CU 2030 Steering Committee, Civics Unplugged: 04:13

Well, I say fixable because any broken system can be rebuilt like what we’re doing here. So any system is bound to break at some point founding fathers thought our system was perfect at first and then it broke and now we’re working to fix it and breakable because of how fragile systems are and how breakable that they can be. One bad Apple could turn it into her system bad.

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 04:48

And to explain the words that I chose, I would say that prevalent, just because I think system broken systems were exclusive to political systems, but when you really think about it, anything can be a system in any system can be broken disheartening, because it’s a very strange realization to come to when you realize that you’re operating in broken systems and overwhelming because of just like the sheer complexity of those issues. 

Ashley Lin – Founder/CEO, Project Exchange: 05:06

My three words are compounding, regeneration and hope. And I guess when I think about broken systems like compounding, because you know, things build on each other I honestly don’t know why regeneration came up. I was trying to bring out the word I noticed. I’m not sure if I’m saying the right word, but when I think about fixing broken systems, I think about creating space for old or different truths to be restored. And then hope because I feel like if you want to fix anything, you need some degree of hope.

Julia Terpak – Founder, Gen Z Connect: 06:13

So my three words are miscommunication, repair and overwhelming also came to mind just like someone else said, but miscommunication more so from the different outlooks going into the systems, like people’s different intentions and people’s different outlooks that they may think that something is positive going into a system, but someone else’s outlook could be completely different. And more in depth look at it. And it could be negative repair, just because obviously broken, you think of repair and overwhelming. Again, like someone said the complexity of it all. 

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 06:59

Awesome. Thank you, guys, so much for sharing. And now we can get into the actual conversation. So if any of you have a question or propagation okay.

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 07:22

Chabu, would you have any provocation you want to start off with? 

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 07:38

No, you can take it away, Gary.

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 07:42

Dariel, what about you? 

Dariel Cruz Rodriguez – CU 2030 Steering Committee, Civics Unplugged: 07:46

What type of systems around your world do you see every day? 

Maryam Tourk – Co-founder, CU Summer Camp: 08:06

Well, I like this question Dariel, so props to you for asking it because before CU, I didn’t really think of a lot of things as systems. I thought it was like, Oh, there’s the political system. And that’s pretty much it, but now I kind of see everything as a system, I’m a system and my family. So yeah. Look, all the things that I’m learning, unplugging from old mindsets and plugging into new mindsets. But yeah, I definitely see myself as a system and my family as a system and school as a system and pretty much everything is a system. It’s just what scope it applies to, if that makes sense. So that’s pretty much my take on the types of systems I see everyday.

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 08:57

So I think I can maybe list a few off the top of my head. So school is absolutely a system. The way that I choose to do my reflections in the morning, that’s a system to prepare me for the day. My family is a system the, as much as like America itself, like the democracy is a system, but then there’s also a global system of play. There’s lots of variety with this answer. I totally resonate with what Maryam said.

Dariel Cruz Rodriguez – CU 2030 Steering Committee, Civics Unplugged: 09:26

One type of system I’ve started to realize after Civics Unplugged is my County government is the one big system. So at once I thought my school just reported to our County government and that was it. But I, now I’m starting to realize how many different parties are involved in our school system and how many different parties are involved in how we police our County. Police unions, teachers unions all connects to both our County and their respective trades along with other partner agencies that may not be so public, but are still very well in that system. There’s a lot of different things influencing the sessions and that requires systems thinking to truly understand the decisions that a leader may make.

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 10:17

I think it’s so important that you brought that up because local systems are probably the most undervalued, but the most impactful ones I would say.

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 10:25

Yep. On that note, I have a provocation or I guess a question, what systems might you want to think about if you’re trying to ensure that every baby is able to get the proper nutrition around the world? Like, shouldn’t that be a cool, global cooperation goal? Like all babies get good nutrition. So what systems should we care about? 

Dariel Cruz Rodriguez – CU 2030 Steering Committee, Civics Unplugged: 11:01

First stop would probably be your nation, the state department, or the foreign relations type body of whatever nation you’re in, which is connected to the international community. And that international community is connected to a bunch of other foreign state agencies and, you know, having that good relationship with a non-profit or whatever you’re boating with that can help you be a part of that system of foreign relations and foreign aid and things like that.

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 11:48

I’m going to intentionally go in a different direction and start with smaller. So I would think about family dynamics and parents knowing what nutrition should look like for their child. I think about local communities, because not sometimes parents aren’t there 24/7. So what does a support system know by proper nutrition? I think about schools and friendships and cultures that you build around children, just like what kind of systems and cultures are you building around their relationship with food, and then you can get to doctors and the medical system. I think that all those people in communities with all those smaller systems would help create a system where food health, proper nutrition was accessible and feasible.

Maryam Tourk – Co-founder, CU Summer Camp: 12:33

I also think a lot about historical systems because I know that Native Americans face little access to good grocery stores. And so they have to either travel a really long time, because they’re not on the reservation or they just have to go to junk food stores. And that leads to a lot of not access to proper nutrition. And so I think about like just historical actions in the past that lead to inner city communities or Native American reservations, not having access to proper nutrition and just the implications of decisions from a while ago and how those systems impact, who gets access to proper nutrition today.

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 13:19

We can go back to this question but related to this I was going to say what systems/entities, I guess those are systems. What systems are incentivized to create conditions upon which babies don’t get the proper nutrition? 

Dariel Cruz Rodriguez – CU 2030 Steering Committee, Civics Unplugged: 14:54

I’d say corporate America, you know, the big giants and food Tyson foods, you know, all those other companies, because they make big money by surge pricing, their foods and different nations other than the United States. And if there’s nobody to make sure that children get proper nutrition around the world, who’s to say that they can charge whatever they want. So that could be a possible benefit to not give babies the proper nutrition around the world to corporate America. 

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 15:22

On the note of corporate America, did y’all know that the food and drug administration was basically bribed to say that sugar was good for you. Like bread, heavy carbs and sugar was good for you for decades.

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 15:52

To this day, there are things that will be on an American website that I cannot order or ship to Canada because the FDA might’ve approved of it, but it’s actually not approved in Canada. 

Dariel Cruz Rodriguez – CU 2030 Steering Committee, Civics Unplugged: 16:07

Pizza is actually considered a vegetable in school lunches because of corporate America because of the tomato sauce. They’re considered a vegetable so that pizza companies can still insert themselves into the school cafeteria, which means they are considered a healthy snack. According to the what was it? Agriculture USDA. According to USDA, they’re healthy food. Guess who benefits from that? Pizza Hut school lunch program and Domino’s school lunch program.

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 17:03

So one thing I’ll add is the current medical industrial complex it doesn’t make much money on keeping healthy people healthy. It makes more money on charging, sick people, ton of money for stuff that might not even work that well. Madison, can you check the chat just so that you, if you stopped the flashing lights and maybe we can not chat so that the, so we’re not distracted by it.

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 17:45

I think that, my response is in the same line of like what was said earlier, but essentially like what incentivizes people to rig a system is to create demand that wouldn’t naturally exist. I think I want to pose the question. What is a surface level issue that you’ve witnessed and then it’s correlating system that it engages with.

Dariel Cruz Rodriguez – CU 2030 Steering Committee, Civics Unplugged: 18:22

Standardized testing, department of education is involved major textbook companies like Pearson or McGraw Hill in college. College boards, college admissions offices are going to see this college admissions offices. Basically anything that profits off of standardized tests, textbooks, tutoring programs, Khan Academy themselves. And at least some way Khan Academy is happy that our school Princeton review charging me like a hundred bucks for a 30 page book. But yeah, anything involving education, even teachers, because they have to have in some school districts have to have good test scores in order to get paid. So supporting standardized testing and preparing students to take that tenderness test rather than teaching them content that will help them, that’s why it’s done.

Ashley Lin – Founder/CEO, Project Exchange: 19:54

You know, that’s why high school principals are so focused on graduation rates and ensuring schools have high test scores instead is how they demonstrate that they are leading their schools in the right direction. And that they’re doing a good job. It’s really sad how a lot of what drives these systems is literally profit and power and how people just want to make money and will do whatever they need to do to make money. 

Julia Terpak – Founder, Gen Z Connect: 20:31

Yeah. On that point when I was in college, for all the business classes now you can’t even buy reuse books. You have to get new ones because they have the access codes as well. So you can’t even do secondhand shopping for textbooks because of the access codes now.

Dariel Cruz Rodriguez – CU 2030 Steering Committee, Civics Unplugged: 20:51

it’s probably a God save that my school district pays for my college classes right now, since I’m still in high school, because with my family, I probably wouldn’t have made it past my associate’s degree and still be able to afford that college education there. 

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 21:22

You’re so smart for understanding how the system works and using it. Dariel unrelated to this topic. What this is making me realize the way that we’re doing this, how in the YouTube, a comment section or the caption you can have the timestamps. So we can literally have the questions here so people can quickly scan if they think they’d be interested in this conversation. And then I would actually love for you to test out with the 20-21 fellows, if they are interested in clicking on any of these sections, you want to definitely. You can also show how much of amazing systems that CU fellows are actually having their own hangout nights. So I may just come into one of them and just show it to them.

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 22:16

So another issue that exists like a surface level issue is the unhealthy, diet culture that exists, especially on social media platforms towards women, but then a correlating system that that relates to is a patriarchal system. That’s both historic and very prevalent and things like an internalized male gaze that makes that system thrive.

Dariel Cruz Rodriguez – CU 2030 Steering Committee, Civics Unplugged: 22:45

I actually got diet Coke because I thought having diet Coke and having an entire McDonald’s order will balance it out. So that diet culture definitely played a role into what I just did.

Maryam Tourk – Co-founder, CU Summer Camp: 23:19

Well, one of the things that I was actually just talking about today was related to the beauty industry is so many things. I guess the beauty industry in general seems a very surface level issue. Like, Oh, looking good, but even things down to how good your teeth look is something that nobody even thinks about what about people can’t afford dental care without health insurance. And if you can’t afford health insurance then you’re not going to have good looking teeth. And I even think about this, but I can’t remember. I think it was AOC, she posted something on her story about how she finally was able to afford dental care because she’s a Congresswoman now. And she was like, Oh, having good teeth or insulting people because I don’t have good teeth is just very reflective of their access to health insurance or money to be able to pay for all things related to beauty. 

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 23:59

So I think that’s really interesting to think about. I think it’s really interesting how, there are things that we do, almost like habits or almost like societal habits that we still have in practice that are a byproduct of older systems. And then we don’t even notice that that’s why we do certain things.

Dariel Cruz Rodriguez – CU 2030 Steering Committee, Civics Unplugged: 24:33

I have another thought-provoking thing if I can. If a system is too broken, is it better to just dismantle it completely or try and reform and shift them?

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged:25:10

I really want to say that it’s better to reform and shift them just because there’s so many examples where the people who are the most entrenched in the system are the most participatory in the system typically are those that are marginalized in a lot of different ways. So it’s almost to resolve the issue you have to engage with those who are invested in the system the most, if that makes sense. So no, I think it’d be better to shift it and kind of like bring everyone along in that process. Because dismantling, it also means putting those who are the most compromised in the system at risk.

Dariel Cruz Rodriguez – CU 2030 Steering Committee, Civics Unplugged: 26:06

I say shifts because as Chabu said a system right now, that’s at least barely sustaining its people, is a little bit better than no system at all. And that simply what happens when you dismantle a system, you have no system for a good amount of time before something else happens. It’s happened throughout life with evolution and biology and you can apply that same concept here to social studies. Cause you know, everything is connected. And just starting from one point and moving on up is better than starting from no point at all. 

Ashley Lin – Founder/CEO, Project Exchange: 26:44

Wait. So to clarify, dismantling means like breaking apart the system and building something new, almost the president dismantling systems.

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 27:08

I think there’s more than more than just this option. Right. Can we add like build a different system that’s serves the original purpose and we’re still very early in this journey, but is CU trying to address a lot of the failings of the education system, the personal development space, the mental health treatment space mentorship space democracy tech sec, like the answer is yes. Right? The answer is all of these things and historical sector. Yeah. Like the main bias almost these, sorry for people that are doing this right now, the speech and debate sort of like had Gemini on people’s minds. We’re not debating things. We’re not like we’ll wait, we’ll have different perspectives on different things. But the fact that we’ve been taught as a society to think that winning over other people and you know, crushing someone in debate. Well, that’s reflected in what YouTube videos that people watch, like X person crushes this other person. And we think that we actually think that that’s the right thing. And that starts from a very early age. I think that sort of mentality.

Dariel Cruz Rodriguez – CU 2030 Steering Committee, Civics Unplugged: 28:58

I would think building a system is a by-product of both dismantling and shifting it because when you’re shifting a system you’re basically building on top of that system when you dismantle it, a new system is going to have to come by sooner or later. So you’re building an entirely new system.

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 29:29

Noor do you have any provocation question anything related to shifting surviving thriving you’re shifting broken systems.

Noor Myran – Founding Fellow, 2020 CU Fellowship: 29:38

Yeah. Hi, I’m Noor. I’m from the suburbs of Chicago. The first thing that kind of comes to mind, just with that question is like, I guess what does it mean if a system is broken? Because part of that to me is they’re obviously systems that are just in place that systematically or systemically harm certain individuals. And to me that’s broken beyond repair. And so I think it, just the last question, I think it depends on what the system is and l what definition of broken we use, just cause like, if a system, even if you continuously reformat, if its intent or purpose was to harm a certain individual, it’s going to continue to do that. In which case you dismantle and create something new that does serve a better purpose.

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 30:37

Yeah. I’m going to be honest. For the CU team, the meaning of future of democracy has changed drastically over the past 12 to 18 months. We realized that just about everything including, but everything related to our political system, not just like whether Florida has open primaries or rank choice voting, right. It’s the culture all, the lobbying machines, all the different CIT systems that, that, that would for the political system to not work. And so everything has to change the whole world. Like there’s a whole new world to be built where that is not held down by this really pathological machine to Noor’s point. And I almost feel like broken sometimes is not enough. It’s not enough. That’s not even harshly enough of a word. It’s so broken. It’s gaslighting us. And it’s killing us. It’s making us want to kill each other. Literally.

Ashley Lin – Founder/CEO, Project Exchange: 32:09

Actually really interesting Madison, when you introduced topic, I think you said something about like surviving, thriving and shifting broken systems. And I guess I am wondering is surviving and thriving a requirement before you can shift those systems. Should people be expected to survive certain systems? I guess also surviving has such, I don’t know like a shipwreck Island survival for me as soon as like life or death, which I know some systems are, but I also feel like people deserve more than you.

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 33:07

I think the connotation of the word surviving is super important because when you’re operating in a broken system, you are by no means thinking visionary or thinking ahead or engaging with the bigger picture. I think that a common quality characteristic and a lot of broken systems is the fact that there is no time to think about why things are the way they are and recognize a system that’s in place. So I think that surviving isn’t necessarily being surviving is just focusing on what’s in front of you for the sake of just being able to make it to the next day. Thriving is like, what would be required of an actual shift.

Ashley Lin – Founder/CEO, Project Exchange: 33:57

So how do you go from surviving to thriving in a system that isn’t built for you?

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 34:05

Or maybe you’re thriving in spite of it. And maybe often you’re privileged to not have to deal with the day-to-day ramifications of this brokenness. And so you recognize that you can serve other people, not just yourself when you’re shifting. Julia, do you mind talking about how delusion is almost necessary for, well, a lot of things related to change.

Julia Terpak – Founder, Gen Z Connect: 34:51

Yeah. Gary and I talked about this recently and something that I’ve been thinking about for the past year, that in a lot of ways you have to have some sort of delusional thinking in order to, I say, to be successful, but also just achieve big goals. And yeah, what you’re set out to do you are often not going to be the most intelligent person or the most well-rounded person for a certain task, but you have to believe that you are unique in a way, and you’re thinking is unique in a way for you to be able to achieve these goals that you set out for yourself. Not, I guess you could say a God complex in a way is what Gary and I were talking about. But yeah, you kind of have to just be delusional in order to reach these crazy goals that you set.

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 35:43

And just to kind of kind of more explicitly to I guess what is evoke when you’re saying to survive and this isn’t like a social system is the odds are really stacked against someone that is trying to shift the system. And I was actually talking to a friend earlier today that everything about CU is an experiment. We don’t know if what’s going to happen, but I think we’re all down to we’re all down to try. We’re all down to. And also why it’s actually making me think about why it’s important to enjoy the process of trying to get the system to a better place, because you can’t control the outcome. So at least we can say that we enjoy each other’s company, that we enjoy these dialogues and we got better individually and every step of the way.

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 36:50

I think it’s so imperative to focus on the idea of the process that leads you to a potential goal. Especially if you’re genuinely unlearning and disengaging and unplugging from a problematic system. That means that your new learning should be applied to your goals. And that can be a really exhaustive process when you’re working towards something and then never quite getting there because the goal reiterates or shifts. So I think that if the process isn’t a sustainable system of its own, it’s not a fulfilling system of its own then that would make, you know, thriving in the system or disengaging with the system really hard to do.

Ashley Lin – Founder/CEO, Project Exchange: 37:36

And I also feel like it doesn’t always need to result in systems being shifted or big things happening. I feel like there are a lot in smaller system to shift, or even like, if you don’t quite shift the system, you can better understand how it works. 

Noor Myran – Founding Fellow, 2020 CU Fellowship: 38:03

Ashley’s point just kind of reminds me of one of the many problems associated with the systems we partake in today is that it’s almost like you’re unsuccessful if the end goal isn’t reached. And we’re told not to switch the end goal up because you know, that’s decided on and if it’s what you’ve been working toward. And so I think that it kind of reminds me of how, we see CU as right now an oasis, but I guess one of the end goals is that at a certain point, it’s not just an Oasis, it’s just how the world functions. And so I guess, it’s a sign of a broken system that if the end product is more important than the path or the system that the system of changing or getting to the end product I think that, you know, that this system is working well when you’re comfortable, I think with failing to get to, you’re comfortable with the end goal, not being fulfilled there.

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 39:21

I think that something that I value more than anything in any type of systems intervention as a systems intervention that’s designed to make itself cease, you know what I mean? Like if I am designing a symptom intervention to create food security, my end goal is to make sure that my job doesn’t exist anymore at some point in time. And I think that that’s something that’s almost rare, especially when I look at really big systems interventions that exist are really classic iterations of what it means to engage in work. Like that’s not an ongoing conversation that at the end of the day, the hope and ambition shouldn’t be to get bigger and grow. It should be to not have to need this intervention anymore. And I think that that’s something that needs to be at the forefront of conversations.

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 40:33

So I will I just want to add one more point to Chabu. So the example that I like to use to really make me believe what Chabu said is like someone that operates a homeless shelter has an incentive, whether they want to admit it or not, they have an incentive and especially if a for-profit one has an incentive to, and a for-profit prison as well. Right. They have an incentive to make sure that the issue can persist, especially like that. And think about how, almost certainly this has been the case where the board of the homeless shelter company or for-profit prisons, how do we scale think about what that says about our society, that we have people that are thinking scaling a prison. It makes sense if it’s a business anyways. 

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 41:49

Yeah. So we can continue on to reflections here, or I don’t know, what are you going to call this section Chabu?

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 41:56

So I’m actually a thought just came to mind if there’s any way that you could share the link of this page, just so everyone can kind of scroll back and forth and look at what we’ve said so far. But I guess the overall goal of this section of the call is just to look at the things that we talked about and not necessarily answer the provocation or topic of this group think, but just kind of think of what are some underlying themes or conclusions, just reflecting on the great discussion that we had.

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 42:37

One is that language really affects the way that we talk about change and see our ability to make it. Like the language we choose to use, like broken, shift. Can you also add and how much we even believe that we can make change and you don’t have to put this, but even the word making change has a bunch of baggage as well. 

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 43:30

I think I picked up on something similar there. I just like the idea of shifting systems, rather than because there’s so many words that you could use it replays of shifting, but I think the word shifting respects the fact that it takes a lot of time and learning and relearning and reiterating. So rather than instantaneously turning it into something different, or magically resolving everything instantaneously, the idea of shifting, which takes time, effort. I imagine pushing something really heavy across the street that has a lot of powerful meaning behind that too.

Ashley Lin – Founder/CEO, Project Exchange: 44:12

Yeah. I think what was it about what resonates most with me is just an idea of systems don’t always need to scale and you don’t need to be huge. And I can just an overall, trend towards thinking about systems like smaller and more tangible things, system of yourself and system, family, and some systems aren’t intended to be really big. I think that’s one of the ways that we measure success is how big something is or how much it grows. And I think that can be really toxic.

Noor Myran – Founding Fellow, 2020 CU Fellowship: 44:33

Just to kind of second Ashley’s point. I was also reading a few of the notes from above, and I know my mom said that you’re your own system. And there are a plethora of systems that you can change. And I feel like that could be a thought that’s really scary as there’s so much that can or should, or needs to be changed. But I know being able to shift, you add yourself as a system and understanding the process and how that works is at least for me, it was a really cool segue into thinking a little bit bigger, not necessarily like life, but what other systems around me, other than myself can I shift knowing that I’ve started shifting my own?

Dariel Cruz Rodriguez – CU 2030 Steering Committee, Civics Unplugged: 45:52

I learned that there are a lot of systems that aren’t organized bodies that you could look at, for example, Chabu explanation of how the patriarchy could be seen as a system that you could connect to the diet trend, I guess you could say, or good points. So knowing that there aren’t organized bodies that could be considered systems, this is very helpful. 

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 46:19

That’s scary, right? Because we’d like to blame people in a boardroom for why we’re suffering. 

Dariel Cruz Rodriguez – CU 2030 Steering Committee, Civics Unplugged: 46:34

But often it also taught me that I’m part of a system of banana lovers.

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 46:38

I think my next point connects to what Gary just said about the fact that it’d be easier to blame a group of people in the boardroom. And I also noticed that, throughout the conversation, we kind of talked about different systems and iterations of systems and for the most part, the conversation with almost point to one specific system. So instead of the multiple ones that contribute to creating issues, and I think it just kind of goes to show how it is so overwhelming that it’s really easy to pick one. And it’s hard to put that doesn’t resolve very much because systems are connected to other systems. And that’s a really important thing to engage with when you’re looking at these issues.

Maryam Tourk – Co-founder, CU Summer Camp: 47:23

Another thing kind of related that I was reflecting on throughout this entire conversation is that in order to realize what systems need to be shifted, you kind of have to be disillusioned with the world around you in a way, but in order to create meaningful change, you have to have a sort of delusional or idealistic amount of hope because otherwise, you won’t be able to kind of pursue the change in a meaningful way. That’ll be able to continue it. So I don’t really know where that balance is between delusion and hope for the future. But I think balancing the two is something really important to consider.

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 48:06

Well, so Maryam, I don’t know if I’m kind of on the section, but just to kind of respond to that. I personally did not, you know like a year and a half ago, think that I would care so much about the, be honest and be transparent about the individual wellbeing of each of you. And it’s like, what I would just like, Oh, obviously I should care and it feels good to care, but also practically speaking, I feel a lot less bad if for example, open primaries campaign in Florida does not fully succeed if I’m is growing a lot has an amazing future. And it’s not about the next year. It’s about the next 10,20, y’all need to lead this. Like, y’all need to be the Jedi;s that are leading everything and the next day to succeed. 

Noor Myran – Founding Fellow, 2020 CU Fellowship: 49:24

I think that’s kind of like one of the biggest lessons that I learned, I think this year, especially with speech because like everyone says, Oh, if you’ve grown as a person, then you’ve done well in the tournament or the round or the competition. And I feel like every time that was told to either me or competitors or kids from my school, it was always like, I still didn’t do well. And it was like, you’re just saying that because XYZ. But I think that when you really embrace the fact that you still are growing, even if a certain, success didn’t pan out the way you thought it would, or that you wanted it to I just think it’s cool to see that that’s something that can be embraced and when it is like, at least for me, it just makes me even more enjoyable than it was from last year. 

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 50:28

Noor just said made me realize that even though existing in the system feels like it doesn’t feel like a tangible thing. It makes perfect sense for progress to also not feel like a tangible thing. And that’s a really important parallel to keep in mind.

Julia Terpak – Founder, Gen Z Connect: 50:44

And I think to Noor’s point, not achieving the large end goal, doesn’t discredit all the efforts that you made throughout the process of trying to better that system. There are many small efforts that can be achieved throughout that process that positively affect those surface level things that we were talking about that play into the bigger system. Long-Term it all adds up over time. 

Ashley Lin – Founder/CEO, Project Exchange: 51:16

You know, I guess to that point, I feel like a lot in contributions in systems change gets overlooked. I feel like it’s, I don’t know, but I just get the vibe that people think system shift, like one person starts a movement or does something cool. And then everything changes. And actually, so many people have been working on these systems for decades. And there are so many parties who are involved and I don’t know. I just feel like there needs to be a lot more contribution, like recognition of I guess, acknowledgement of contributions that people aren’t again. So people don’t burn out, because of some changes super quick.

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 52:05

Honestly. I had a mental model that I didn’t really acknowledge for a longest time about systems change being like a million man March. It’s all about the big marches and stuff. And look, I think a lot of people think that, and I don’t think that they’re consciously, thinking about the question right now, the answer. Well, I think that’s such, it’s so prominent in people’s brains. Cause a media you’re making and then in who do we celebrate? We celebrate the people that are good talkers. They’re really photogenic. They’re really good at soundbites. I never been going to soundbites and Madison especially knows, I hate giving quick, short, I mean obviously short answers, but by the way, Julia, thank you for your great questions. I’m about to respond to one of them. I think we can do a reflection on this reflection section. Cause it’s the first time we did it. So maybe we do that for like a couple of minutes.

Julia Terpak – Founder, Gen Z Connect: 53:23

I think also if something can majorly change all in one, go like all in one huge effort, you also have to evaluate if that change is even good, because I think some so much thought has to go into something that’s actually calming good in a way and valuable change compared to these mass efforts that are all at once. I think those have to be evaluated more.

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 53:55

I think that I also appreciate the fact that these conversations are very much the process and it’s equally important to reflect on your process as you engage with it. And so, I really enjoyed it and I feel like I was able to appreciate the content a little bit more. 

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 54:22

Yeah. I liked it as well. I think both of those sections couple really well together because the general conversation allows us to go deep on specific topics like nutrition. And this allows us to think bigger picture about what we talked about.

Maryam Tourk – Co-founder, CU Summer Camp: 54:40

Okay. I was just going to say that, I think normally after these conversations, there’s so many ideas modeling through my mind and I’m just sitting on a wealth of information and reflections and I’m like, okay, but now I have to go do everything else I have to do. And I kind of like the processing might happen later or sometimes I hate to admit it, but it might not happen to the level that I want it to, but this is kind of like a forcing function, just sit down and reflect and kind of ruminate on everything we’ve been talking about now. And it kind of like, kick-starts the process for me so that I can continue it on my own, but also it makes it a little bit more I don’t want to say productive because everything that we’re doing here is. I don’t want to make it as in like, Oh yeah, this is good or money-making or anything like that, but it is it feels more efficient for me to be like, okay, we can collectively reflect and then it just helps me to start that process. 

Noor Myran – Founding Fellow, 2020 CU Fellowship: 55:39

Yeah, for sure. I also, I think it’s cool that the reflection portion kind of made me, not only reflect on the conversation, but also on the systems that are the broken systems that we perpetuate without actually knowing. So I thought that was cool, but I also, I was coming at these speechless. I wasn’t able to come to the first half and being able to read notes and kind of always get the general just of what happened earlier was cool. And then bring that into the reflection part. I thought it was interesting.

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: (56:24):

What do you think Madison? 

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged:

Oh, I mean, like I said, I think that it was a really good addition. Thanks for the suggestion Chabu.

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 56:34

Well, thank you for being down to experiment.

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 56:37

It’s all about love experiments. Okay. Well, there’s not anything else. Thank you guys so much for coming. It was a great conversation as usual, and I will see you all next week. 

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