Origins: A Conversation, an Adventure, an Idea
In 2010, Michael Radke was working at UC Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science, co-facilitating a course for undergraduates on how to host conversations with middle schoolers on an upcoming exhibit on Race. It highlighted the lack of biological basis of Race, the nature of it as a social construct, and the ramifications of it on the lived experience of billions of people around the world. Kristi Radke was working with a group of Egyptian students on a scholarship program with the Department of State. During the run of the exhibit she brought her students to a session in the RACE exhibit, and Michael facilitated the subsequent conversation.
It started with an observation by one of the students that while it was interesting to see the western idea of “Race” they did not have anything like it in Egypt. Another student pointed out that as a Coptic Christian he could entirely relate to the kind of discrimination he saw in the exhibit. This dissonance sparked an hour-long conversation about the many manifestations of race, bigotry, and division in the world. At the end, the students remarked how wonderful it was that we had a place to have such discussions. Kristi and Michael responded that we didn’t really have a space dedicated to this kind of learning, it was only a temporary exhibit shoe-horned into the context of a science center.
Having gotten married the year before Michael and Kristi had put off an official honeymoon while they settled into new jobs, however when the RACE exhibit closed, they set off on a five-week overland trip around East Africa. As it so often has been for them, their travels were transformational, opening their eyes to a broader view of the human experience, giving them an opportunity to build new connections, and deepening their love of the world.
As they settled in for the long flight home, Michael and Kristi came to a simultaneous insight. Travel is an amazing privilege, and an opportunity that all people should get, to expand their worldview, and make a human connection with the people around the world. However, the reality is that it’s an impossible (and perhaps foolish) idea to implement. Not everyone can experience this, the luxury of time and financial freedom just does not exist for everyone.
As they thought about these two recent experiences, they began to consider how to ensure that people could have the important discussions such that they experienced at the Race exhibit, and also provide a way for people to develop some of the insights gained from travel. From this the Ubuntu Lab was born: by using the hands-on museum model, so often found in science centers, and applying it to a new mission: to help people understand people, a new category of museum could be created.
Dedicated experts with a proven record of success.
Michael has spent the better part of two decades criss-crossing the globe researching, consulting, teaching, and exploring the human experience. Thirteen years ago, a conversation in a township outside of Cape Town ignited his quest to help people find unity in our diversity by helping them connect with their own and others’ humanity. The course of his work has brought him into the offices of international luminaries and experts, as well as grassroots change-makers, entrepreneurs, and educators.
Kristi Radke has been working in education for over a decade, supporting international students as they find their paths to success through higher-ed. She has traveled to more countries than most and has a passion for connecting with people and helping them reach their goals.
We have been very privileged to be supported by a global team of talented leaders, each of whom have helped us get where we are today. From journalists to designers, academics to entrepreneurs, we have some of the biggest minds of a generation at work helping us bring the Ubuntu Lab to life. As they have helped us along the way they have contributed their advice, expertise, leadership, and always rolled up their sleeves and dug in with us whenever we’ve asked. Hundreds of people have opened doors, acted as thought-partners, content creators, and been wiling to do anything at anytime which makes the Ubuntu Lab a uniquely collective entrepreneurial effort.
Joining those who have done the hard work of building this idea into something real are hundreds of people around the world who have stood up and declared that Understanding People is powerful, possible, and learnable; and what’s more something all people deserve access to.
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