A Public Understanding of Humanity
In the 21st century the ability to understand people is no longer optional; it is no longer a nice to have. It is essential for all of us, both as individuals and as a society.
We live in a time that feels critically and perhaps fatally fractured. A time of contradictions, and confusion. A time when people criticize others for being overly self-focused based on what they see in their social media feeds, yet very few of us have done any level of honest self-reflection. A time when people call for unity yet avoid talking with anyone who does not share their same world view or lived experience. A time where almost no-one feels represented in the public narrative, yet we leave our biases and blind spots unexamined. All of which undermine our ability to understand others.
There has never been so much to understand about each other as aspects of our identities, belief systems, and stories that have long been suppressed have exploded into the global consciousness. And it has never been so critical that we do so of we are going to sustain careers and live fulfilling lives in a world of undeniable interconnectedness and interdependence.
Our current societal approach to understanding people: starting a bit in Kindergarten and then leaving it up to fate and circumstance to fill in the rest, doesn’t work. Too few people reach any meaningful level of mastery to act as a vaccine against the division and hatred that a lack of understanding has brought us. We need a herd immunity. We need a public understanding of humanity.
Much like the technological revolution brought by the Public Understanding of Science seeded in the 1950’s with the invention of hands-on science centers and the catalyst of the Space Race, A Public Understanding of Humanity could tip off a revolution in the lives of billions around the globe. But where will that revolution start?
A New Category of Public Space
Imagine a place…
…where you can learn about movements like #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter as they’re emerging.
…that uses digital and physical elements to immerse you in an experience that feels like an adventure.
…where you bring your family to begin critical conversations about the diversity of the human experience.
… where learning is human, exciting, and engaging
…where you are encouraged to contrbute own stories and learn from the stories left before you.
…where you can go to ask questions about things like immigration, and race, and religion without fear of judgement or misinformation.
… that stretches the boundaries of what you know about the human experience, confronting your own blind spots, and helping you grow and find a way forward.
…that inspires people to reach for the greatest in themselves and humanity
This is the place where the revolution in human understanding will begin.
At the Ubuntu Lab we are building that place… or rather those places
We are inventing a new category of public space: part museum, part community lab, part cafe; so that everyone has a place to go to better understand themselves, others, and the world we share. We are developing a new type of exhibit platform that allows the rapid deployment of content so that we can address topics with rigor and humanity as they happen. We are building off of decades of research and practice in experiential and informal learning to develop a new approach to pedagogy and content design. We are using experience gained from destination retail and small-scale learning labs to create a global network of spaces where content is linked and best practices are shared so that the same opportunities are available to kids in Cape Town and students at Berkeley.
The Global Engine of Learning
We are building an organization that can support and sustain a global movement to put “understanding people” alongside reading, writing, science, and math as the core competencies of our world. In order to do so it is critical to put three functions under one roof: a global network of public spaces, an in house R&D group, and an institute for scholarship. Our founders have learned from their combined decades of experience in formal and informal education placing these three elements together create a system of impact and business that is mutually reinforcing and much more than the sum of its parts.
A network of Public Spaces: Harnessing the power of place to host provocative exhibits, convene critical discussions, and facilitate experiential activities that change outlooks, inform iteration, and provide an important interface with formal education
An R&D Studio: Developing new methods and practices that help people learn about people; and designing experience-based learning products and services that can travel around the world to teach and connect.
An Institute for Scholars and Leaders: Extending the methodology, research, data, and people of the Ubuntu Lab to engage leaders, researchers, and the public in creative problem solving for human challenges
The Path to a Revolution
Research & Frameworks
From 2006 until 2014 we engaged int eh elemental research to develop the concept of understanding people, our “3 questions” framework, and practices of teaching and learning.
Pilots & Prototypes
Since 2013 we have been designing experiences, products, and holding workshops to test, refine, and adapt our models for design, learning, and rapid deployment. Now we’re ready to put it all together in one place.
Our First Spaces
WE are currently working on securing the funding and developing our first neighborhood space, with several cities around the world ready to be “second”
A Global Organization
Following the launch of a handful of spaces we will begin building out an organization to support the global movement of learning to understand people.