If you’ve been in Edinburgh over the summer, you might recognise this sign. It was the advertisement for the Edinburgh International Festival, which ended a few weeks ago. It felt an appropriate gesture then with the city’s population reportedly doubling during the festival, and feels just as appropriate now as we finally begin u.lab together today.
There is a great deal of interest in what we’re doing together here in Scotland. I admit that I get excited when I see tweets like this one:
But it’s about more than an ego trip (I hope). It’s excitement about what we’re growing and building together. That we are experimenting with this thing called u.lab and while that might be the vehicle for learning, it’s really about how we’re integrating that learning into our daily practice and our actions for effecting change: whether that’s in a personal way, like for one person who couldn’t believe she was able to get up in front of over a hundred people, including the Deputy First Minister, and tell her u.lab story last December, to the hub in Caithness starting a Social Innovation Lab to grow their local economy. It’s all these stories that give me goose-bumps.
Something else that really excites me is that u.lab opens up the opportunity to connect with, be inspired and learn from a global community, who are also all change-makers in their own way. I am just waiting for the day I hear about some experiments involving cross-country and international collaboration as a result of u.lab, in fact I’m sure they’re already happening (drop me a note if you want to share 🙂 ).
As we go into the first week of u.lab, pretty much everyone who’s done it will tell you it can feel overwhelming at times. There’s all the technology to get to grips with, there’s trying to fit it into our already packed schedules, and perhaps the hardest thing of all, it will possibly challenge some of our own deeply-held assumptions and beliefs. But our world (both social and environmental) is literally rocking these days. In order to make the shift in our awareness that is needed to help us collectively work together to bring about the changes we want, we need to relearn old patterns and habits of behaviour. All this can be destabilising and disorientating, but that’s also how transformational learning happens.
So can I ask a wee favour of you? Be kind to yourself as you go through the dizzy, exciting and difficult times. Take care to notice the stories you’re telling yourself. We are all great story-tellers, especially when we feel anxiety or under-pressure. We naturally tell ourselves “this is too hard, too much, too weird.” But hopefully you will also find that wee voice in you that says, “this is also exciting, different, an opportunity I can embrace in my own way.” Connecting and supporting each other is so important, whether that’s online or through local hubs and coaching circles. These can be safe spaces to test out your learning, when, to be frank, the wee voices in our heads are probably telling us we don’t know what we’re doing. Be brave, dig deep.
Week 0 should be available on the edX website from about 3pm (UK time) today. There’s no big live intro, it’s intended to be an orientation week where you can learn how to use the platforms and make connections with other participants. Enjoy, and keep in touch with how you’re getting on.