For this third session, we welcomed Veronique Swinkels, co-founder of The Undercover Activist, who presented her training programme on how to become a positive workplace activist in the business world of tomorrow. This project aims to respond to a structuring trend in today’s and tomorrow’s workplace: while parents separated their political activism from their jobs, the younger generations are increasingly refusing to make this choice, and aspire to occupy a position that is in line with the political values animating them. This is already happening in Europe and we expect it to increase.
This trend constitutes a lack of separation between professional ambitions and personal aspirations in one’s lifestyle, in the way one wishes to participate in shaping the world in which one wishes to evolve. This influences the state of mind in which the younger generations build their professional project, the choices they will make and the attitude they will adopt within the company. The result is a paradigm shift that changes the employer/employee relationship. The values that drive this generation are fairness, respect, sustainability, work-life balance. The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) identify specific actions that political activists can seize upon and use to generate change within companies. Thus, the undercover activist brings activism to the workplace, to the company, aims for change from within, and is loyal to the common good.
This trend can be explained by several factors, the more central role played in recent years by the economy within the global system and its growing influence on the economy, the loss of influence of intermediary bodies, the responsibility of companies in major international issues (relations between states, economic warfare, environmental crises, climate change, etc.), and the more systematic use of economic sanctions than military confrontation by certain states. However, the education system has not yet adapted to this situation and it is this gap that the “positive workplace activism” training seeks to fill. Young workers have not been trained in the complexity of the business world. And the fact that many companies have perceived the aspirations of this new generation, but have not yet integrated them into their activities, or do not really wish to do so, produces a gap between speeches and the actions of these structures. This gap gives rise to encounters that are not always happy between new entrants to the labour market who initially think that they will be able to carry their values high and then find that the missions entrusted to them are not in line with those values. This training seeks to give them the means to manage this type of disappointment, to offer them the tools to deal with it so that it does not only turn into frustration, to enable them to understand the different power structures and to act in an effective way since the system cannot be changed individually.
Our discussion led us to discuss the extent of this trend in the new generation, which is thought to extend to half of the students currently in school. Veronique Swinkels shared with us her surprise to see companies sending employees to her classes on their own, which shows that, while some stop at the marketing aspect, others have a real desire to become what the class offers. Finally, Marie-Hélène Caillol concluded by underlining the risks inherent in this trend, which is very European, while companies still have the possibility of calling on workers who are not from the old continent. This situation also carries along a potential generational divorce which would result from the lack of trust between employer and employee and which would not benefit either side. Finally, there is the double challenge of information: on the one hand, the media must be capable of providing useful information on corporate trials, not just for communication purposes or to caricature abuses; and, on the other hand, the training of citizens capable of exercising a critical mind within the company and in the face of the media system to counter manipulation and orientation of information.
We invite all of our readers to participate in this series of events which we hope will be useful to you in practising anticipation in your everyday life, both professional and personal. This new project is conceived, like the GEAB, as a decision-making tool to enable you to appropriate our method of anticipation and thus be able to foresee in order to act.
 Literally an undercover activist, we did not favour the French translation because the expression undercover includes the idea of secrecy, that political action would take place in secret, which is not the case in the idea of those who are carrying this concept.