Thursday, 25 February 2016

U.Lab: My experience

Wayne Trevor – Lambeth resident, lead of community projects West Norwood Bzz Garage and Open Orchard, Hub member, TfL employee and U.Lab participant – reflects on what U.Lab: Future of Lambeth meant to him.

“I’ve been hearing lots about U.Lab – what exactly is it?”

This was the response I heard from anyone listening to me enthuse about the amazing course I was doing – a course that was having a life-changing impact.

Reflecting back, I’m not sure I am much clearer on what it is. It’s an Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), as the education bods at MIT like to call it. It’s a leadership course about transforming business, society, and self. Or as I often told people, “it’s basically a theory that explains why everything in the world is broken, and gives the tools and hope on how to fix them”.

At its heart is Theory U, an approach to leading profound change that has been developed by action researchers at MIT, and practiced by leaders around the world, for over 20 years. We got to practice Theory U on the topic of ‘the future of Lambeth’.

And when I say practice, I mean practice. We got to act out (yup, cringes and all) how we experience the systems in Lambeth and how we’d like them to be, in a process called Social Presencing Theatre. We listened, meditated, journalled, listened, watched, coached, shared, prototyped and listened some more through 10 weeks of the U.Lab course.

The thing that got me the most was the honesty and vulnerability it encouraged us to express. How often in any workplace or community group are we encouraged to really share what’s going on, to express those little doubts, those massive frustrations, the despair of not knowing what the hell we (or someone else) is doing? All of this is welcomed in U.Lab – it’s necessary even. And we do it on a personal level, and as a group. It helps us to move through those experiences. To work out what is of value. What we need to keep and what we need to let go of. And then we take all of that and we do something that we collectively think will make a difference – a process called prototyping.

The course is finished. But two months later and 8 of us are still prototyping. That was how valuable we all thought this stuff was – so far clocking up about 100 hours of work after the course. We’re following our energy – on running a U.Lab course on the Lambeth Food System. Our hope is that we can bring a group of people together who will bring energy and enthusiasm to make some amazing changes.

Watch this space Lambeth.


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