Our approach is to sense together the future that is emerging in and through each of us using a variety of methods, many of which are described in the Theory U model. By describing and understanding the current systems of education from a multiplicity of perspectives, most especially including the view from the periphery where marginalized voices often reside, we have see opportunities for transformation to begin. Through community discussions, interviews, and collaboration, we are developing and running prototypes at multiple levels — national, state, district, school, educator, and student — to innovate, scale impact, and advocate for change.
Prototypes are ways we can “learn by doing” how to move our vision forward in response to needs in our communities.
Out of the Presencing Institute’s u.lab 2x 2021 course and our evolving learning, several prototypes have emerged between our two locations, including with home schools in Los Angeles, with teachers in Maine, and with youth in Portland.
Below is one example of the way our programs evolve.
Our first prototype was a 60-minute workshop on awareness-based systems change at the Maine Youth Action Network’s 2021 virtual spring conference. We learned that 60-min is not enough! However, we iterated on that workshop and offered it again at MYAN’s Fall 2021 in-person conference. We learned that anything we bring to the conference next time needs to be entirely experiential. We have since brought this workshop, which we constantly iterate, to multiple youth conferences.
We then, out of that initial learning, designed a second prototype, a four-week, 16-hour intensive on awareness-based systems change called Theory U for Youth, which began in October 2021. Out of that experience, we learned more about the needs of youth in our community by offering a micro learning environment that tested our pedagogical ideas and values in real time.
We also learned that youth want to apply the learning from the 16-hours intensive, so we created a third prototype, the U Change cohort, and joined u.lab 2x again — this time with with the teens from Theory U for Youth U Change cohort. While running the cohort over nine months, we experimented with the model in real time, with the youth. Now we have a much clearer idea of how to make it successful and what needs to come next.
Theory U for Youth, U Change is now a program that will continue at Portland High School in 2023-2024.
All of our programs and services begin as prototypes that grow out of a need shared with us by students, educators, community members, or districts.