Consulting Projects
KPU Scenarios Project
The scenario planning methodology is a disciplined and rigorous way to think about the future — especially aspects of the future that may have an impact on our success.

The scenario planning methodology is a disciplined and rigorous way to think about the future — especially aspects of the future that may have an impact on our success. Scenario planning is not a means of forecasting or predicting the future; rather, it’s a way of recognizing that the future is inherently unpredictable. But at the same time we need to think imaginatively about what the future might hold. If we don’t, that future may surprise us in very unpleasant ways. As Nobel laureate Thomas Schelling notes:

There is a tendency in our planning to confuse the unfamiliar with the improbable. The contingency we have not considered seriously looks strange; what looks strange is thought improbable; what is improbable need not be considered seriously.

A scenarios project seriously considers the unfamiliar, the strange, and the improbable. The process leads to a number of divergent narratives of possible futures as a way of grappling with driving forces that we cannot control. By using creative and imaginative approaches to narrative creation, we can learn to adjust our organization to survive and thrive within the context of future change. In this way we build organizational resilience and what Nassim Nicholas Taleb has called Antifragility.

The outcome of a scenarios project is not the production of a scenario plan but rather a set of possible and plausible scenarios, narratives of futures that might impact our organization. But the scenarios outcome is, in many ways, secondary to the process itself: wondering, ruminating, imagining. The process engages the community in a broad discussion about difficult but important issues and themes that are infrequently discussed but which are pivotal in the life of the organization.

The Kwantlen scenarios project was initiated by Kwantlen Polytechnic University as a way to create a set of stories of divergent futures but also to engage KPU’s broad community in courageous conversations. After a series of consultations and workshops to gather ideas and directions, I was tasked with writing the four core scenarios as well as a typical day for each scenario. The complete set of four scenarios follows below.

Frank’s Scenario

A broad shift in global and local economics is underway. The turbulence of unconstrained markets has been harnessed, finally, by industrial movements focused on regional efficiency and autonomy. In Canada, individual provinces control their natural resources and corporate practices. The water wars continue but are contained regionally. Global warming has brought more drought, but also a greater focus on local solutions. Health care and educational services are also regionally focused and are delivered through governments working with corporate partners. Students integrate their educational activities with their economic contributions. Employment is almost universally required for students to pay for tuition. Educators are typically corporate employees and work mostly through the efficient means of virtual space. In British Columbia, the delivery of educational programs is streamlined and integrated by one large corporate stakeholder, the Cinnadella corporation. Continuing through the spectrum of adult learning, each Cinnadella student works with a sustained and customized learning portfolio. The goals of educators and the initiatives of students are partly integrated with corporate culture, but vestiges of the traditional university culture remain.

With few exceptions, education is sponsored by Cinnadella in exchange for service to the corporation. The connected themes of career skill and personal development are integrated into the educational system and reflect corporate values. Systematic approaches to lifelong learning serve to enhance the employment prospects of individual students.

All former post-secondary institutions in BC were integrated into the Cinnadella University Partnership (CUP) more than 20 years ago. The four campuses of the former Kwantlen Polytechnic University still serve as educational hubs. The former Langley campus serves as CUP’s Centre for Desalination and the former Surrey campus is Highcastle Manor, a student residence. The two other former campuses, Cloverdale and Richmond, remain true to their original purpose: the former Cloverdale campus is CUP’s corporate hub south of the Fraser, and the former Richmond campus is the centrepiece of CUP’s School of Design.

The Ministry of Education and Cinnadella work together closely and are, in many ways, indistinguishable. Credentialing is managed by the Ministry and matching services are provided by CUP. Admissions and transfer services (the former BCCAT, now long gone) are integrated at CUP, which handles the regional complexities of an integrated provincial, federal and global post-secondary system. Internationally, broad-based agreements between CUP and other corporate institutions allow for online and in-person opportunities for students to build their educational profiles and to follow career opportunities. CUP’s educational programs are focused on market efficiency and industrial development but also encourage personal exploration and discovery. The historical, cultural and personal themes that traditional universities once cherished are somewhat in evidence at CUP but are not foundational to its purpose.

At CUP, lifelong learning means lifelong integration between education and employment. We’ve learned — from the economic upheavals of 2014 and 2019, from the water wars that plagued us in the twenties — that the essence of global stability involves the synthesis of corporate governance and social development. CUP offers an extensive array of programs to meet these goals, and students pursue a multitude of educational activities.

Instructors at CUP widely view their role — at every level — as founded upon principles of student virtual support. Content is ubiquitous and available for a fee. Tuition is prohibitively expensive unless students contract with Cinnadella for loans and service in kind. The role of educators is to contextualize content within the corporate structure and to work with students to codify their learning by way of practical application. Technology facilitates much of this process. With broadband access approaching 100 percent (except in some areas still affected by the heat storms of the last decade), students initiate their Digital Educational Portfolios upon initial enrollment. Portfolios are maintained throughout the life of each employee and serve to document their achievements and goals. Portfolios are the property of students but are also available to Cinnadella for purposes of employment review.

Recreation and leisure activity are viewed as important but not foundational to the overall health of the society. Rather, corporate allegiance is the key to personal success. The health crises of the twenties and thirties — when the lives of millions of people were shortened by preventable diseases of lifestyle — have mostly been replaced by broad corporate initiatives to keep students involved in productive activities. Technology Attachment Disorder (TAD) is evident in about 30 percent of the population in British Columbia. The main symptom of TAD — an inability to communicate face-to-face — is a consequence of the educational imperative for intensive digital engagement and virtual activity. Thus, while technology is a cornerstone feature of the delivery of educational programs, CUP recognizes that technology immersion cannot be the sole method of student participation.

In the lower mainland, most people live in large housing complexes with attached medical clinics, care facilities, and schools. Most of these facilities are operated by Cinnadella or its subsidiaries. Virtual travel is the norm for employees at every age. Schools act as nodes for virtual interaction within a wide network of student activities that extend beyond the school itself. The classroom is a meeting place for students and a project space to work on educational projects. Virtual educators help to prioritize, streamline, and develop the experiences of students. Educational models focus on efficiency and performance as well as personal development. For students today, the classroom is CUP, the school is their way of maximizing economic and personal development, and the educator is a virtual guide.

A Day in the Life of a Student

Frank Nobusuke and his friend Juliana are reclining on the lumpy sofa in Frank’s dorm room, discussing their upcoming convocation events. Neither really wants to attend these formal celebrations of their achievements, but both of their families have insisted. Educational milestones, after all, are important. When Frank’s parents came to Canada twenty years ago from Norway to work for the Cinnadella Fish Farming Group, they brought their socialist ideas about education with them. Although they are a simple middle class family and unable to pay the exorbitant tuition fees charged by the CUP, Frank’s family encouraged him to work toward qualifying for one of the employer-sponsored seats in the Singh School of Entrepreneurship (SSE). Frank slogged away at his online sales job with Coastal Tourism and earned a sponsored space in the company’s credential program in Advanced Ecotourism. The sponsorship allows him to work four days each week but also to attend school one day a week and on evenings. Frank also qualified for a basic dorm room in the newly-constructed Highcastle Manor. Entirely built from recycled plastics, Highcastle is popular among eco-zealots, but Frank thinks it has a strange, acrid smell – almost as though it was built atop a landfill.

Frank initially thought he’d be bored in the Eco program, but his involvement in the mandatory service learning project has piqued his interest. Frank has helped to map the migration and survival patterns of the birds at Boundary Bay. In some ways, he’s begun to follow the paths of his parents: working with nature, close to the ocean, advocating for the right balance between humans and the sea.

Juliana reminds Frank that tomorrow is the last meeting of their student cohort. They will both miss those afternoons hanging out in the Singh Student Learning Centre, lazing on the faux-leather seats in the atrium, working on group projects, listening to Dr. Tagomi regale them with stories of crazy tourists and awe-inspiring hikes. All the stories are in the video archive, of course, but Frank still enjoys hearing them in person. Besides, Dr. Tagomi is free and open with her stories, whereas each video viewing costs Frank just a little bit more of his dwindling reserves of capital. Dr. Tagomi has the same kind of schedule as Frank: Monday to Thursday at the Tourism Secretariat, SSE on Fridays for tutorials. But all this is about to change, Frank realizes: soon he will be moving on.

But how much of a community is he moving on from, really? Many of his courses have taken place online, and Frank is aware that he has met, in person, perhaps 20 percent of the graduating class. Sure, he’s seen them all online – seen a few of them way too much, in fact – but there are always differences between the virtual and the real. He’s not sure he knows any of them all that well except for Juliana, who also lives in Highcastle and who, like Frank, is probably going to be paying off tuition for the rest of her life.

Frank asks Juliana if some of the virtual tutors will be at convocation. She’s not sure; most of them work from home and don’t attend campus much. Besides, it’s quite possible that some of them will have course responsibilities at the same time as convocation. It would be a shame, Frank muses, not to see Dr. Childan, who was a great virtual tutor. He told stories, like Dr. Tagomi, but Childan’s stories were usually about the past, about the ebb and flow of history, about how we repeat so many of our past mistakes without realizing what we are doing. Frank is sure that if Childan is at the convocation he will take pains to point out to everyone that it is the hundredth anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attacks. It’s one of Childan’s favorite stories: how the Americans never imagined an attack was possible, how they ignored the warning signs, and how they were eventually devastated by the precise planning of the Japanese. Juliana likes that story too. In fact, she posted the famous Schelling quotation about the attack as a persistent post on her wall display. Every morning, after the display wakes her and scrolls through the trajectory of her day, Juliana sees the last, insistent reminder. It says:

There is a tendency in our planning to confuse the unfamiliar with the improbable. The contingency we have not considered seriously looks strange; what looks strange is thought improbable; what is improbable need not be considered seriously.

Frank is not sure how the next phase of his life will unfold. He doesn’t know how he will pay off his educational debt, and he isn’t sure he wants to work for Cinnadella for the rest of his life. But at least he has choices, and a curious temperament, and after tomorrow a credential that will set him on his way. He lies back, gazes at the ceiling, and wonders about his future.

Juliana’s Scenario

A broad shift in global politics is underway. The turbulence of unconstrained markets has been harnessed, finally, by social movements focused on the provision of basic human needs. The scrabbling of nations for control of natural resources has given way to more collaborative strategies and practices. The water wars are over. Global warming has brought more drought but also has encouraged greater gumption and cooperation. Health care and educational initiatives have begun to focus on regional approaches and to emphasize the role of autonomy and sustainability. In British Columbia, the delivery of educational programs is streamlined and integrated by local stakeholders working with government partners. Beginning in kindergarten and continuing through the spectrum of adult learning, each learner works with a sustained and customized learning portfolio. The goals of educators and the initiatives of learners are closely entwined.

With few exceptions, education is free. The connected themes of career skill and personal development have become integrated into educational models at every level. The primary and secondary systems, as well as the first two years of post-secondary education, are funded entirely by the provincial tax base and provide general education for all. Post-secondary learners pay nominal fees for the latter two years of degree programs and for graduate school. Systematic approaches to lifelong learning are the key drivers of the education system.

A single public post-secondary University (Lower Mainland University, LMU) and a single public trades and technology school (the BC Institute of Technology) serve British Columbia. In the private sphere, The University of British Columbia caters to specialized and professional programs. All other former post-secondary institutions – Simon Fraser University, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Langara College, Vancouver Community College, and so on — were amalgamated into LMU more than 20 years ago. The four campuses of the former Kwantlen Polytechnic University now serve as satellite sites for LMU. The former Langley campus serves as LMU’s Centre for Oenology and the former Surrey campus is the Centre for Business Alignment. The two other former campuses, Cloverdale and Richmond, remain true to their original purpose but are not part of LMU: the former Cloverdale campus is BCIT’s hub south of the Fraser, and the former Richmond campus is the centrepiece of the private Highcastle School of Design.

The Ministry of Education and LMU work together closely and are, in many ways, indistinguishable. Credentialing is managed by the Ministry and matching services are provided by LMU. A government administrator is the Chief Operating Officer of LMU. The Dean of Oenology is jointly appointed to both the university and the provincial Ministry of Education. Admissions and transfer services (the former BCCAT, now long gone) are integrated at LMU, which handles the complexities of an integrated provincial, federal and global post-secondary system. Internationally, broad-based agreements between educational institutions allow for online and in-person opportunities for learners to build their educational profiles and to follow diverse opportunities. While industry plays a key role in the development of educational credentials in both local and global contexts, LMU also maintains a broad range of programs focused on the historical, cultural and personal themes that universities have cherished since their inception.

One concrete result of the turbulence and successful navigation of the previous two decades has been the broad recognition of education as an integrative process of lifelong learning. Whereas previous generations paid lip service to notions of lifelong learning and personal development, we now know that we neglect these themes at our peril. We’ve learned — from the economic upheavals of 2014 and 2019, from the water wars that plagued us in the twenties — that the essence of global citizenship is personal development. Sweeping changes to mental health legislation have led to the deliberate embedding of personal development as the core of formal education. Moreover, learners typically remain involved in some type of educational initiative for most of their lives. An extensive array of post-baccalaureate programs offer a multitude of ways to fuse educational plans with career activities and personal goals.

Instructors within educational institutions widely view their role — at every level — as founded upon principles of facilitation, mentorship, and learner advocacy. Content is ubiquitous and free. The role of educators, therefore, is to contextualize content and to work with learners to codify their learning by way of practical application. Technology facilitates much of this process. With broadband access approaching 100 percent (except in some areas still affected by the heat storms of the last decade), learners initiate their Digital Educational Portfolios in kindergarten. Learner portfolios are maintained throughout the life of each learner and serve to document successes, reflections, and general experiences within the educational sphere. There are no grades. Instead, collaborative assessments and self-assessments are used to track student progress. In British Columbia, LMU manages the portfolios and makes the data accessible to learners wherever they are. The User Data Access legislation ensures that learners own and have access to their materials.

Recreation and leisure activity are viewed as foundational to personal development and to the overall health of the society. All citizens are encouraged to pursue leisure activities and to integrate those activities into their daily schedules. The health crises of the twenties and thirties — when the lives of millions of people were shortened by preventable diseases of lifestyle — have mostly been replaced by broad social initiatives that facilitate health and leisure activities in local communities. However, some health challenges persist: Technology Attachment Disorder (TAD) is still evident in about 20 percent of the population in British Columbia. The main symptom of TAD — an inability to communicate face-to-face — has led to many new treatment strategies, but our progress has been slow and the problem persists. Educational programs and workplaces include prevention-based approaches to minimize the probability of TAD. Thus, while technology is a cornerstone feature of the delivery of educational programs, we recognize that technology immersion must be balanced with interpersonal experience.

In the lower mainland, most people live in large housing complexes with attached medical clinics, care facilities, and schools. A well-developed transportation infrastructure provides for self-driving vehicles, an advanced light rail system, and person-powered bikes. Both personal and public transportation provide a full complement of digital services. With the fossil fuel crises of the twenties now well behind us, both local and international travel are the norm for learners at every age. Schools act as nodes for interaction within a wide network of learner activities that extend beyond the school itself. The classroom is a meeting place and project space for learners to bring together their diverse activities and to share with peers. The educator as facilitator helps to develop and nurture the experiences of learners. Educational models have moved beyond the old hierarchies of instructor authority and expertise. For learners today, the classroom is the world, the school is their way of traveling through that world, and the facilitator is a traveling companion.

A Day in the Life of a Learner

Juliana Frink is woken by the chime of her alarm. The blinds begin to modulate the incoming light, the room grows brighter. She swings her feet to the floor, rises from the bed, and checks the wall display. Three meetings are listed there: one with her cohort at LMU, one with her project partner, and one with her fitness group. She gazes outside, searches the sky for signs of rain, and smiles in anticipation of yet another unseasonably warm day. The sands at Boundary Bay will be dry again today, and she looks forward to spending time at the shore with her friends from LMU. Perhaps they will finish stage two of the desalination study by the end of the afternoon. Juliana thinks of the weeks ahead – publishing, presenting, traveling – and hopes that her work on the study will be finished soon. After all, her trip to Patagonia is on the horizon and she hasn’t yet begun to finalize her plans. Six months in the mountains is not the kind of thing you can just show up for.

Juliana sends a quick note to Tagomi, her project partner, to remind her about their plans to work on portfolio assessments today. It’s as much a reminder for Juliana as for Tagomi; working on the assessments provides precisely the kind of focus that Juliana needs right now to balance the various commitments of her life. The self-assessments help her accomplish that goal. Working with Tagomi on self-reflection and self-assessment is Juliana’s way of staying in touch with herself, her needs and goals, her future. She’s used the portfolio assessments in this way since she was a teenager in Oslo, and now that she’s 45, her method seems to have served her well.

Four interconnected careers in business and ecology have unfolded in her life, and each step along these paths has brought her closer to herself, her family, and to the society in which she lives. Still, there’s much more to do, much more to see. Her boys, Frank and Robert, are now well along their own paths, making their way through service learning projects, building careers in design and urban planning, soaking up experiences the way that shore plants at Boundary Bay flourish with the incoming tide. Juliana pauses, remembers her Dad’s generation – careers of exigency, economic urgency, necessary but not impassioned choices – and feels grateful that at long last humanity seems to have been smart enough to get some things right. Whatever turns her life takes, wherever she finds herself, she will be the author of that journey. Her accomplishments – and indeed, her failures too – will be hers alone to shape and to hold.

She notices an item on the news scroll: today is the hundredth annniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack. She taps the item, scans the details, and pauses at a quotation that catches her eye. It’s from an old book about the attack, written by a scholar now long dead. As Juliana reads, she finds in the quotation a kind of wisdom. It says:

There is a tendency in our planning to confuse the unfamiliar with the improbable. The contingency we have not considered seriously looks strange; what looks strange is thought improbable; what is improbable need not be considered seriously.

Juliana taps the timeline on the wall display, drags a waypoint to it from the map, and places her order at the Cinnadella café. Ruminating about the unfamiliar and the improbable, she gets moving, hoping she can make it to the café in time to meet Tagomi for breakfast.

Robert’s Scenario

A broad shift in global politics is underway. The turbulence of unconstrained markets continues but is mediated by broad agreement about the provision of basic human needs. The landscape of education is still adjusting to the Equitable Acquisition to Education Treaty (EAET), signed my most nations in 2035. The treaty mandates that most post-secondary education will not be funded from tax dollars.

The scrabbling of nations and corporations for control of natural resources continues. Health care and educational initiatives are focused on global approaches that emphasize collaboration between governments and the corporate sphere. In British Columbia, the delivery of educational programs is stratified based on economics. Post-EAET multinational corporations, such as Cinnadella, provide bursary programs for employees and are directly involved in the delivery of post-secondary education to their student employees (termed clients). Employees thus have relatively cost-effective access to post-secondary education, but those not so lucky to be employed pay exorbitant tuition fees. In many ways, corporations have supplanted the role that governments once played in funding education. Revenues to support such funding are now collected by way of employment as opposed to taxation, but otherwise the situation is similar.

Technological change has transformed the delivery of educational services. Interactive technology platforms offer opportunities for the integration of educational systems around the world and provide opportunities for widespread institutional and corporate collaboration. Educational clients travel seamlessly across national borders. Many post-secondary institutions are integrated into massive communities based on the alignment of specialized programming (MIT and India Institute of Technology, for example, which formed a single unit in 2032). Linkages to multinational corporations such as Cinnadella are the norm and are required for individual economic viability. Various configurations exist, but each shares the common element of stratification and global reach. At the same time, global universities constantly seek ways to anticipate niche trends and to work with industry to develop programs to address changing needs.

Educational offerings are increasingly customized to meet the demands of clients and their employers. Universities assess students only within the specific context of an employment outcome. Credentialing structures award designations based on individually negotiated outcomes (involving active employer involvement) as opposed to predetermined programs or degrees. Employer-specific credentials are common (the Cinnadella Bachelor of Web Development, for example).

Beginning in kindergarten and continuing through the spectrum of adult learning, each client works with a sustained and customized learning portfolio. The goals of educators, employers, and students are closely entwined. The delivery of educational services through technology requires few professors or teaching assistants. The assessment of client projects is managed by data processing services. Where professors of teaching assistants are required, they need not be co-located with clients.

A few traditional Liberal Arts universities remain (three on the West Coast of the Americas). These institutions serve only the wealthiest clients and are the training grounds for many of the corporate elite. Many aspiring clients are attracted to these schools, but the rate of acceptance is vanishingly small.

The connected themes of career skill and personal development have become integrated into educational models at every level. Systematic approaches to lifelong learning and employment are the key drivers of the education system.

The four campuses of the former Kwantlen Polytechnic University now serve as corporate offices for the Cinnadella Corporation. Virtual education has rendered campuses unnecessary. The former Langley campus serves as Cinnadella’s Centre for Corporate Agility and the former Surrey campus is the Centre for Business Alignment. The two other former campuses, Cloverdale and Richmond, are now transit hubs.

Admissions and transfer services for educational clients are integrated globally at Highcastle, a worldwide centre for niche program tracking and credentialing. From their offices in Oslo, Highcastle handles the complexities of client movement through an integrated, global post-secondary system.

Educators widely view their role — at every level — as founded upon principles of client support and corporate facilitation. Content is ubiquitous and available to clients for free (but at a cost to others). The role of educators is to contextualize content within the corporate structure and to work with clients to codify their learning by way of practical application. Educational portfolios are maintained throughout the life of each client and serve to document their achievements. Grades are tied to employment performance and efficiency. Portfolios are the property of the niche provider (Cinnadella, typically, or one of its competitors).

Recreation and leisure activity are viewed as foundational to the overall health of the society. The health crises of the twenties and thirties — when the lives of millions of people were shortened by preventable diseases of lifestyle — have mostly been replaced by broad corporate initiatives to reduce stress and burnout. Technology Attachment Disorder (TAD) is evident in about 40 percent of the population in British Columbia. The main symptom of TAD — an inability to communicate face-to-face — is a consequence of the imperative for intensive digital engagement and virtual activity. Thus, while technology is a cornerstone feature of the delivery of educational programs, we recognize that technology immersion cannot be the sole method of educational and employment participation.

In the lower mainland, most people live in large housing complexes with attached medical clinics and care facilities. Most of these facilities are operated by Cinnadella or its subsidiaries. Virtual travel is the norm for clients at every age. With the exception of the few remaining Liberal Arts universities, post-secondary campuses no longer exist. Instead, clients interact through the virtual network. Educators help to prioritize, streamline, and develop the experiences of clients. Educational models focus on efficiency, performance, and economic outcomes. For clients today, the classroom is the world (both real and virtual), education is a means to improve economic viability, and educators are guides.

A Day in the Life of a Client

Robert Childan meanders through the streets of Oslo, ruminating about his future. He has just finished high school and must decide – soon – which of many bewildering paths to follow. He enters the gate of Frogner Park, with its sculpture garden crowned by the totemic Monolith. The horizon beyond is dominated by the massive tower of Highcastle, the educational governance corporation. The granite facade of Highcastle is incised, above the entrance arch, with words that Robert cannot read from where he is standing. But he already knows what they say; after all, he’s been hearing them all his life:

There is a tendency in our planning to confuse the unfamiliar with the improbable. The contingency we have not considered seriously looks strange; what looks strange is thought improbable; what is improbable need not be considered seriously.

Planning, thinking, adjusting. It’s all he ever seems to do. He knows he should be excited by the future, by the prospect of entertaining strange and improbable futures. But he’s overwhelmed as well. So many choices, each one like a branch on some infinitely gnarled tree. He’s not sure that he will find the right niche, make the right choices, winnow through the labyrinth of branches to find a single shimmering leaf to call his own.

He knows this much: he cherishes his friends. Their times together in virtual space, in the city, and on the road have been the best moments of his life. He wonders about the mess his life might be were it not for Tagomi and Frank. And yet he knows their paths will diverge – sometime, and probably soon – as they each pursue their career trajectories. Even now he can see it happening: Robert’s bursary from Cinnadella (his mother works there) is contingent upon the corporation approving his educational choices. He cannot simply enrol in whatever he would like. He has made deals already, and he is bound by them. He thinks there will be many more to come.

Robert passes a small group of elderly park visitors. A woman at the head of their procession is holding a sign. It says “In remembrance of those who died at Pearl Harbor: 100 years.” Robert ambles beyond them, finds a vacant bench, and sits down. Look, he says to himself, this is not the end of the world. Just get started. You never know, it might be fun.

He blinks twice in rapid succession and his contact lenses activate. He scrolls through the contacts list provided by Cinnadella, finds the name of the client recruiter, and activates a holo-chat. The park fades from view. Juliana, a Highcastle agent, comes forward to greet him. Above Juliana’s head he can see Highcastle’s tagline, “your educational match is just around the world.” Robert wonders where in the world he might end up.

Juliana and Robert chat for more than forty minutes. She seems to sense his reluctance, his uncertainty. She begins with broad ideas (Where does he want to go? What does he like to do?), then incrementally leads the conversation toward concrete plans and goals. Robert starts to feel more comfortable. He broaches the idea of working on social justice issues, a passion he and his mother share.

Juliana tells Robert about Cinnadella’s International Social Justice (ISJ) program in which clients travel to a number of hot zones – areas of poverty, political instability, or environmental upheaval. Juliana mentions a project in Canada, working with migratory birds at a place called Boundary Bay. That sounds intriguing to Robert, but he is particularly interested in the water wars that still affect a number of equatorial nations. Juliana confirms that indeed, in this program he can travel to these places. She reminds him that the ISJ program is on Cinnadella’s list of approved curriculum.

They end the visit with Juliana’s suggestion that Robert take the next step: talking to a program facilitator. He agrees that he will do so, then signs off. As his lenses recalibrate to the park with its lovely, totemic sculptures, Robert wonders where his friends are on this cold but clear afternoon. He resolves to talk to them before they all make decisions. Perhaps they can stay together for a little while.

As Robert makes his way out of the park, he glimpses the procession again. They are huddled together, moving slowly, and their dark clothing almost blends with the stone of the sculptures. They could be sculptures, he thinks, frozen in time.

Tagomi’s Scenario

A broad shift in global economics is underway. The turbulence of unconstrained markets has been harnessed, finally, by industrial movements focused on efficiency and scale. The scrabbling of nations for control of natural resources has given way to fully corporate strategies and practices. The water wars continue but are contained regionally. Global warming has brought more drought and more competition. Health care and educational initiatives are globalized, corporate, and focus on the integration of social roles with economic contributions. The employment status of citizens determines their access to education from an early age. Students and educators are universally employees of corporations. In most of North American and Asia, the delivery of educational programs is streamlined and integrated by one large corporate stakeholder, the Cinnadella corporation. Continuing through the spectrum of adult learning, each Cinnadella employee works with a sustained and customized learning portfolio that matches and serves their employment role. The goals of educators and the initiatives of employees are fully integrated with corporate culture.

With few exceptions, education is an employment initiative paid for by employees and sponsored by Cinnadella. The connected themes of career skill and personal development have become integrated into corporate models at every level. Systematic approaches to lifelong employment are the key drivers of the education system.

All former post-secondary institutions were integrated into Cinnadella more than 20 years ago. The four campuses of the former Kwantlen Polytechnic University now serve as corporate offices. The former Langley campus serves as Cinnadella’s Centre for Desalination and the former Surrey campus is the Centre for Business Alignment. The two other former campuses, Cloverdale and Richmond, remain true to their original purpose: the former Cloverdale campus is Cinnadella’s corporate hub south of the Fraser, and the former Richmond campus is the centrepiece of Cinnadella’s School of Design.

Credentialing, admissions, and transfer services are integrated at Cinnadella, which handles the complexities of a global post-secondary system. Internationally, broad-based agreements between Cinnadella and other corporate institutions allow for online and in-person opportunities for employees to build their educational profiles and to follow career opportunities. Cinnadella’s educational programs are focused on market efficiency and industrial development. The historical, cultural and personal themes that traditional universities once cherished are not aspects of the programs Cinnadella provides.

At Cinnadella, lifelong learning means lifelong employment. We’ve learned — from the economic upheavals of 2014 and 2019, from the water wars that plagued us in the twenties — that the essence of global stability is corporate governance. Cinnadella offers an extensive array of programs that offer a multitude of ways for employees to fuse educational plans with career activities.

Instructors at Cinnadella widely view their role — at every level — as founded upon principles of corporate management and employee support. Content is ubiquitous and available for a fee. The role of educators is to contextualize content within the corporate structure and to work with employees to codify their learning by way of practical application. Technology facilitates much of this process. With broadband access approaching 100 percent (except in some areas still affected by the heat storms of the last decade), employees initiate their Digital Educational Portfolios upon initial employment. Portfolios are maintained throughout the life of each employee and serve to document their achievements. Grades are tied to employment performance and efficiency. Portfolios are the property of Cinnadella.

Recreation and leisure activity are not viewed as foundational to the overall health of the society. Rather, corporate performance is the key to all personal success. The health crises of the twenties and thirties — when the lives of millions of people were shortened by preventable diseases of lifestyle — have mostly been replaced by broad corporate initiatives to reduce stress and burnout. Technology Attachment Disorder (TAD) is evident in about 30 percent of the population in British Columbia. The main symptom of TAD — an inability to communicate face-to-face — is a consequence of the corporate imperative for intensive digital engagement and virtual activity. Thus, while technology is a cornerstone feature of the delivery of educational programs, Cinnadella recognizes that technology immersion cannot be the sole method of employment participation. However, no alternatives yet exist.

In the lower mainland, most people live in large housing complexes with attached medical clinics, care facilities, and schools. Most of these facilities are operated by Cinnadella or its subsidiaries. Virtual travel is the norm for employees at every age. Schools act as nodes for virtual interaction within a wide network of employee activities that extend beyond the school itself. The classroom is a meeting place for employees and a project space to work on corporate projects. The educator helps to prioritize, streamline, and develop the experiences of employees. Educational models focus on efficiency, performance, and economic outcomes. For employees today, the classroom is Cinnadella, the school is their way of improving economic viability, and the educator is a manager.

A Day in the Life of an Employee

It is midnight. Tagomi Caréz wakes up, rubs her eyes, and in a moment of disorientation wonders if she is back at the landfill. She can smell the acrid air, and she listens for the sounds of the trucks – all night, all day, every night and every day. But she does not hear the sounds of the trucks; no, just the quiet whirr of fans shuttling air in and out of her room. And the smell? A sense memory, nothing more. A legacy of youth spent wandering mazes of detritus, searching for that one glittering thing that would save them all from servitude. She never found it, of course – no one did – but she did get out. Eventually, and after many trials and false starts, she found her way to Highcastle, the educational arm of the Cinnadella Corporation.

Tagomi leans toward the retinal scanner, waits for the system to check for outstanding infractions or fines, and logs in. She scans the most recent timestamps in her academic passport: 59 hours this week so far. She’s getting closer. Maybe a month more. Someone rolls over in bed in the next room – little Frank, maybe, or Juliana. It’s crowded in there with four kids and two small beds; no wonder there’s so much jostling and moving about at night. But not for much longer, Tagomi hopes. They’ve already come a long way in a few short years: away from the landfill, across the mountains to the city, and into a housing hub where they can at least have a chance. Her parents died in the shadow of that implacable monstrosity – Cinnadella Corporation Landfill 26 – but Tagomi won’t. Nor will her kids.

She sees the path clearly in her mind’s eye. Another year of down-payments for the Highcastle Entrepreneurship degree, then the rest is simple interest. A lifetime of it, sure; but in Tagomi’s mind it’s a fair price. And five years of service for Cinnadella with their cola plants in Africa won’t be so bad either. It’s a good deal for the equivalent in tuition. She’s been serving the same master for a long time, making these kinds of deals, inching her way toward something she can’t quite see and can’t quite imagine: a better life, more freedom, less urgency. She thinks she’s closer now, certainly closer than what might otherwise have been. At least she has the ability to buy an education. Between daytime work and nightime studying she is just able to make a go of it. Her parents weren’t so lucky.

Besides, the cost for completion of this phase is not so high. Africa will be interesting. She’ll have her choice of cities where she can virtually serve out her time without having to leave her home, her family, and her friends. And the kids appreciate the sacrifices and choices she is making – at least on a day when everyone is feeling generous. But most days they just keep moving, crunching through the next tasks and tallies, trying to grab the light wherever they can find it.

Frank and Juliana have already started to think about their own paths. Early days yet, but Tagomi thinks the kids might make it even farther ahead than their mother. Frank, her eight-year-old, has started looking at virtual living in various places. He probably will never leave the city in which they live, but Tagomi hopes he will at least see the last of the shore birds at Boundary Bay. They’re almost all gone now. Tagomi understands that Frank will spend most of his life roaming in virtual space. And he might even go to Highcastle. Juliana, for her part, wants to go. She’s been working for a few years, since she was six, doing odd virtual jobs and stock data entry. She’d like something new, something with a future. As for the twins, they’ve still got a few years before Cinnadella will find a use for them.

Tagomi hears a plane rumble overhead, on its way to somewhere or from somewhere. It doesn’t matter much these days – to or from – it’s all the same. Everything in one place. At least, one virtual place. Tagomi thinks about some of the cities she might visit in that virtual world: Singapore, Colombo, New Oslo. She wonders about the final achievement of her degree and the opportunities it might bring. She hopes for more freedom, more choice. The will and the power to make her own life. Not many people can do that anymore. But maybe she can.

Tagomi reflects on her interaction yesterday with President Frink. Although she’s read many of the President’s daily updates and has participated in a number of year-end forums, yesterday was Tagomi’s first opportunity to participate in a virtual seminar with the President of Highcastle. The seminar was only open to employees in the final year of their program. With her holo-band on in her apartment, Tagomi had the familiar sensation of sitting in a virtual space – in this case, Dr. Frink’s office in the Cinnadella Presidentium in Bangalore. She and Robert, an older employee from Cascadia, sat beside one another and shared an excellent view of the city. They could see the half-lowered flags along the river, to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attacks. Although Tagomi knows that President Frink is incredibly busy supervising an educational conglomerate with more than four million employees, professors and guides, the President made each of the seminar students feel welcomed and appreciated. He gave each of them a small digi-scroll with the following words written upon it:

There is a tendency in our planning to confuse the unfamiliar with the improbable. The contingency we have not considered seriously looks strange; what looks strange is thought improbable; what is improbable need not be considered seriously.

As Tagomi reflected on these words, trying to figure out what they meant – are they a message, a puzzle, a directive? – Robert noticed a chess board near the window. He gazed at the pieces for a moment, then offered a move. President Frink quickly offered a counter-move, and the gathered party joined the game. It was fun for Tagomi, a sign of what her future might hold, a talisman. She wants more of this – more of the unfamiliar and the improbable.

But right now she needs to get moving. She has only an hour to finish preparing her presentation on landfill efficiency. At four AM local time the virtual group will gather and the employee presentations will begin. Tagomi needs to make some final edits. She needs this presentation to stand out. Her professor, Rudolf Cho, will attend the virtual classroom today. If she wants to impress him, Tagomi’s presentation needs to be perfect.


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