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Byron Shire
February 9, 2023

Solving life’s intractable problems

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Volunteer facilitator for the U Lab hub 2019 Jennifer Lalor with Susanna Carman. Photo Jeff Dawson.

Sometimes it feels like it is impossible to create change, move forward, or resolve a conflict.

Now is a time of huge change, as the impact of humans on the planet stresses Earth’s support systems, creating a time of ‘unprecedented disruption,’ says Susanna Carman.

Carman is a member of the Sourdough Business Women’s (SBW) leadership committee, and her group have been facilitating a local ‘hub’ for U Lab, which seeks to find new ways to resolve intractable problems and situations.

These issues can be at all levels, from the personal and organisational to large-scale systems. The experiential course, developed by Otto Scharmer and his team from MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), looks at ways to give people the skills to lead themselves and teams in a time of disruption, says Carman.

Open learning

The U Lab course has been running on the EdX open learning platform since 2015, and over 120,000 people have participated so far. Local ‘hubs’ are created where participants come together at regular intervals to engage in the course material and the broader network.

Sourdough Business Women’s network has been facilitating a local ‘hub’ as part of the course for several years, and this year both men and women are able to participate.

‘This is the first time at this hub that we are opening it up to men’, explained Ms Carman. ‘We have prototyped it under the SBW network, and are now scaling this up around the Northern Rivers region so that people have a structure around which they can address complex and intractable problems.

‘You can do it at three levels. The personal, team/organisation/business development or with large-scale initiatives that require multiple stakeholders.

‘It would be great if organisations and groups like local councils, business chambers, or youth services had a project they were working on that they could work on as part of this process.’

The U Lab approach is being used around the world at all levels to create change including by the Scottish government, who are encouraging local governments and community directorates to use the U Lab approach to achieve transformation change.

Having done the course several times herself, Ms Carman says, ‘It taught me to listen in a way that deepens my understanding of a challenge. To slow down and be curious rather than move into action straight away so that I could be more skilful and constructive when I’m leading in a situation where there is tension. When the tension can be diffused it is easier for everyone to be creative, imaginative, and collaborative.’

Find out more

An introduction night is being held for interested participants on August 15 at the Byron Community College in Mullumbimby from 5 till 7pm.

The course will then run for 11 weeks from mid-September to mid-December with a ‘hub’ event every two weeks.

Find out more online at Sourdough or register online.

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