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, how our individual paths intersect with the needs of the community in this particular time and place.
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.
For example, our first prototype was a 60-minute workshop 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.
So we designed a second prototype, a four-week, 16-hour intensive 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.
Our fourth prototype, U and ME, evolved out of needs that became apparent during the U Change cohort. We saw that some youth in the Portland community are asking for adult mentors who can help them navigate the transition to adulthood without imposing expectations. U and ME will connect 10th graders with a group of three mentors who will meet together regularly over the time the student is in high school and into their post-secondary life to build relationships and deepen connections to themselves, the community, and the natural world. Mentors will be available as a friend would be — by text, phone, or in-person — in between gatherings, and they will receive support and training from The Source School too. We are aiming to begin experimenting with U and ME in January 2023.
As we round out this year, we will begin to iterate on the first, second, and third prototypes to continue to improve them to better meet our goals and the needs of the youth members. We hope that some of these prototypes will develop into pilot programs that could be supported through philanthropy now that we can show significant positive impact on the youth participants.