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It’s an idea whose time has come!

Only a little over a month ago, I was sitting at a table with Art Brock & Eric Harris-Braun of the Metacurrency Project, discussing the possibility of launching a new initiative together in the spirit of the “Superhero School” concept many people are currently exploring.

The premise is pretty straightforward: There are plenty of passionate, driven people who want to make cool ideas and projects happen. Access to resources (especially, money) is often a large barrier to actualizing them.  So why not create physical locations that don’t require money as a chief organizing energy source, where enthusiastic entrepreneurs, artists, designers and other creatives can come together and prototype their dreams?

The way I previously described the flavor of it was:

superhero school. center for disruptive innovation. continuous learning zone. collective intelligence. live/work startup incubator. community center. hackerspace. makerlab. autonomous zone. permaculture and sustainable food production. cooperatively owned communications infrastructure. resilience. r&d lab. a place for creative troublemakers.

The idea wants to happen, so without waiting for conditions to be ‘perfect’ to start, we’ve decided to just go ahead and help build it.

A relationship was forged with the owners of an old vacant paper mill up in Chatham, NY, who have a vision to see the place transformed into something that will stimulate local economic development and strengthen community resilience. We’ve been given permission to occupy, for free. :)

The nearby Quaker intentional community has offered us lodging in their homes, food from their gardens, and supplies they can provide to help us cover the basics of living for the participants who have committed to getting this idea off the ground. They gave us a generous welcoming last week, included us in their weekly potluck, and shared their general enthusiasm and support for what we’re doing.

An internationally distributed source team came together to be the driving force of the initiative – Arthur Brock, Eric Harris-Braun, Jean Russell, Ferananda Ibarra, Seb Paquet, Laura Conley, and myself.

The website went up, a call for applicants went out, and now we’ve gathered ourselves into a 13 person crew* of participants co-designing a new kind of live/work/play space for experiential learning, project development and cultural design.

We’re happy to report that we’ve just completed the first week of our 6-week seed project to build out the core infrastructure for the Emerging Leader Labs!

Our plan is to open source the tools, frameworks and practices that are developed here. One aspect of that is developing the patterns for how we address problems, with an emphasis on agility, rapid iteration, and effective communication. These are not to be rigid protocols, but flexible principles that can morph and shift depending on the outcomes we’re trying to produce.

Another piece is to develop multiple forms of impact measurement that are appropriate for different levels of value/well-being/wealth.

And of course, at the heart of it are the people.

We’re all bringing our authenticity and vulnerability to the party, ready to share our unique gifts and capabilities in order to be a contribution to something bigger than ourselves. We’re learning through this immersive experience how to actually collaborate and cooperate, and honor and respect each other’s sovereignty and potential.

We’re excited to be developing a new social and cultural ecosystem right here in real time, and eager to see what kinds of projects and memories will unfold from the space we’re creating.

Check in here and on the Emerging Leader Labs website for updates, or follow on twitter at @EmLeaders. Once this 6-week seed project is complete, we’ll be ready to launch the actual Labs. If this sounds like something you may be interested in participating in, contact us!

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*in addition to our source team, our participants include Connor Turland, Pritha RaySircar, Rubén Alvarado, Emory Mort, Benjamin Brownell, & Kyle Sykes

there are many initiatives like this cropping up around the world! check em out and get inspired:

93+ Superhero Schools, Collaboratories, Incubators, Accelerators & Hubs for Social & Tech Innovation