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  • Writer's pictureTimothée Beaulieu

The Infinite Franco Game - It's Not Over Until We Say It Is

Updated: Mar 25

About a month ago I received a call from a French teacher friend of mine. She told me her school district had decided to cut her job and she would be out by the end of the school year.

Along with a small group of local allies of the French language, I proceeded to at first reason with the school district over saving her job, then attempted to adjust the budget (through a vote of the people) to get her job back.

This all culminated in me being told, to my face, by a school administrator that even if the money was there, they would not spend it on this teacher or the program. That was a lot of fun. Let me tell you.

What Game Are We Playing?

That felt like a real loss to me and the French advocates in my town. It got me reflecting on the efforts of many of us in the Franco-American community. Is this a game we can win? Are we looking at it the right way?

This thought process began to remind me of a lecture given by Simon Sinek I had watched a few years back. The talk centered around a concept called the Infinite Game.

A finite game is a game with set rules that you can win. Like hockey games or chess. An infinite game is a game played to merely continue the game. They can go on forever as long as there are players.

So while that very real loss (to a short-sighted school district) felt like losing a big game, it's not over.

Punt the Doom and Gloom into the Sun

That brings me back to our French-Canadian culture here in the US. Dr. Patrick Lacroix recently called out our biggest problem, by name, in the Canadian media.

The doom and gloom narrative hangs over many Franco-American and Acadian organizations in New England. It feels like everyone is watching this thing circling the drain. Folks keep imagining when the last French class will be or how much they miss St Jean Baptiste parades.

The Great Deportation and 1759 cast a long shadow, never mind the poor treatment we received in the mills.

That being said, just like the fight to save the French language in our schools, the growth and preservation of our culture is also an infinite game.

To keep players in the game, we need to focus more on the present and all of the good things happening in the Franco world around us.

Whining about the past in our Franco echo chambers may feel good at

the moment, but it does absolutely nothing to engage the younger folks we desperately need.

Applying the Infinite Game to the Franco-American World

In Sinek’s book, he describes an important five-step cycle. How do these steps apply to the elimination of the doom and gloom “rules” based game and transition to an infinite game mindset? Let’s dive in.

Advance a “Just Cause”

What is just cause in terms of our culture? A just cause is setting a clear inspirational goal for something so worthy people will buy in. People will surprise you and make crazy sacrifices for the right plan.

We cannot go back and undo what has happened in the past. But a plan with a positive message and not complaining about our mistreatment can work. There are very recent examples of this.

Build trusting teams

We are flush with talent in our little community. It’s really important to let that talent shine and let new voices be heard.

Projects that have been done the same way year after year with no growth or change need to be, revisited. Any good leader knows doing something the same way year after year and expecting a new result is foolish.

Specifically in our community, taking a chance and letting that talent shine will pay dividends and honestly, what do we have to lose?

Learn from your “Worthy Rivals”

If you have ever read anything I have written in the past I always point out how other 19th and 20th century European immigrant groups kind of dunk on us (if they even acknowledge our presence at all).

Let’s learn from those very clear examples of pride and action. When speaking of our culture instead of bringing up 1759 or how the Irish hated us, talk about our success.

“French-Canadians were a major part of building New England.”

“How awesome is poutine, it’s from Quebec you know.”

“We are so lucky to have French in our community, it has helped us connect to some new immigrants in town.”

Practice existential flexibility

This one may be the hardest for us. To keep this whole culture going, we have to be willing to pivot to new things. There are Franco-Americans who don’t speak French, have no idea what creton is, and definitely don’t go to church.

How do we engage those folks in a new fun way and how do we keep them around? Cultures grow and change we need to be open to new ideas, that may not look like what our parents or their parents would recognize as Franco.

It also doesn’t mean we have to stay in our silos. There are lots of things to celebrate in the Francophonie. We can engage with all those communities, who will absolutely rally to support us if we need them.

Demonstrate the courage to lead

Leaders in our culture need to look out for the culture’s best interest and not necessarily what feels good in the short term. Sometimes being nice and not addressing very clear and obvious problems, can lead to bigger issues.

This is not to say everything we do isn’t working, but let’s be honest there is a heck of a lot that is not working.

If you’ve sat in a meeting and bemoaned that the youth aren’t engaged, the language is vanishing, or our events aren’t working…it’s time to look in the mirror.

I very much feel we are at a turning point, we can either start to build the present or return to the history books.

Onto the Present

Our future can be very bright if we act now in the present. Are we going to have some losses? Absolutely. It’s time we realize there are no rules here. We can keep playing the game as long as we want. Let’s get to work to end the doom and gloom for good, engage the talent in our community, and bring new folks into the fold.


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