Delivered by MITx free of charge through the online platform edX (co-founded by MIT and Harvard in 2012), U.Lab: Leading from the Emerging Future is a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) that aims to prototype a new 21st-century university model, one that offers a hybrid online/real-world learning environment, with the goal of sparking a global web of interconnected hubs, inspiring initiatives, and grounding learning locally in places where societal challenges are manifest.
The course is based on Theory U, a framework, method, and way of connecting to the more authentic aspects of our self. The course introduces the variable of consciousness into management and the social sciences, and proposes that the quality of the results that we create in any kind of social system is a function of the quality of awareness, attention or consciousness that the participants in the system operate from. This approach to leading change is already practiced by business, government, and civil society leaders around the world.
The online course asks the questions: “Why do our actions collectively create results that so few people want? What keeps us locked into old ways of operating? And what can we do to transform the root problems that keep us trapped in the patterns of the past?” The answers this course provides lie in unconventional methodologies of suspending our habitual ways of thinking and acting, letting go of preconceived concepts and learning to listen to “what wants to emerge”.
The course was designed by Otto Scharmer, a Senior Lecturer at MIT, a Thousand Talents Program Professor at Tsinghua University, and co-founder of the Presencing Institute. He also chairs the MIT IDEAS program for cross-innovation in China and Indonesia.
Scharmer introduced the concept of “presencing” — learning from the emerging future — in his bestselling books Theory U and Presence (the latter co-authored with P. Senge et al.) His subsequent book Leading From the Emerging Future: From Ego-system to Eco-system Economies (co-authored with K. Kaufer) applies the concept of mindfulness to the transformation of capitalism.
The book tries to provide answers to the root causes of today’s global crises which result from outdated paradigms of economic thought. According to Scharmer, the symptoms of these crises can be summarized in three divides that disconnect us from each primary source of life: ecological, social, and spiritual.
“We need to articulate a different view of economic, political, and spiritual affairs—a view that is not primarily Left or Right, that is not wrapped around the primacy of this mechanism or that one, that doesn’t believe that the solution to our problems lies with Big Government, Big Corporations, Big Money, or Big Ideology.”
In 2015 he co-founded the MITx u.lab, a massive open online course (MOOC) that pioneers a blended o2o (online-to-offline) learning platform to enable transformational leadership learning for tens of thousands of participants in self-organized communities across 185 countries. Otto earned his diploma (with distinction) and PhD (summa cum laude) from Witten/Herdecke University in Germany. In 2015 he received the Jamieson Prize for Excellence in Teaching at MIT.
The course has been incredibly successful and it is running now its second edition, with an enrollment of 85 000 people coming from 183 countries. The Presencing Institute (which is running the course) has partnered with Impact Hub network to bring the edX / MITx course U.Lab: Transforming Business, Society, and Self to 33 Impact Hub locations around the world.
The Impact Hub network is a network of collaborators working in co-working spaces, that are focused on making a positive impact in our world. The network began as one single hub, in 2005, located in a warehouse in London, having in just 11 years evolved to be a wide network of hubs located all over the world.
By attending the course at an Impact Hub close to your address, one has the opportunity to have an offline environment to participate in coaching circle, have discussions, and connect with other individuals, interested in taking the outcomes of the U.Lab experience into the next level.
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Maria Fonseca is the Editor and Infographic Artist for IntelligentHQ. She is also a thought leader writing about social innovation, sharing economy, social business, and the commons. Aside her work for IntelligentHQ, Maria Fonseca is a visual artist and filmmaker that has exhibited widely in international events such as Manifesta 5, Sao Paulo Biennial, Photo Espana, Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Joshibi University and many others. She concluded her PhD on essayistic filmmaking , taken at University of Westminster in London and is preparing her post doc that will explore the links between creativity and the sharing economy.