Day four started out with a challenge for the fellows to find their way out of downtown San Fran, over the bridge to Oakland! We met up in the heart of the city, known for being densely populated with artists. Our first experience of the day was a visit with Qeyno, an inclusive innovation company focused on tech education. Qeyno’s Headmaster CEO Kalimah Priforce told us about their mentor-driven programs to help kids learn code, where students coming up with inspiring ideas such as an app to help stop bullying. Tech Equity week, Hackathon, and Moonshot are groundbreaking ventures at Qeyno to feed imagination, passion and “empathy spillover”, while creating opportunities for high potential youth in low opportunity situations.
In the middle of hearing the inspirational stories of their student body, Kalimah casually dropped the fact that Prince (!!) had been a client, and helped them change the conversation from planning for worst case scenarios by imagining the best case scenario. We had a collective moment to soak up the magic of Prince (!!) via Kalimah before transitioning to learning about the Early Learning Lab. Director of Design & Innovation Sheetal Singh found a few volunteer fellows to role play various perspectives of the community, shedding light on the complexity of dealing with early childhood education. The Lab especially focuses on children before they reach grade three, which has been shown to be a strong predictor for the life path that a child could take. Early Learning Lab experiments with modified design thinking practices for bringing parents and caregivers into the loop by rapidly prototyping ways to provide positive outcomes for these young kids.
After a vitamin packed fruit and tea break, we formed two groups and half went for amazing tacos at Xolo (because our brains already needed more fuel!), and participated in an observational research activity with Leyla in Lake Merritt park. With this activity, we had the opportunity to notice the ways we differ in how we view the world, each person sharing their individual way of observing and documenting spaces. It was a revealing look into the way each of our brains work, and how important it is to be able to recognize how we all view the world through lenses influenced by our own experience in it.
After tramping around the East Bay, Fellows arrived at the Humanist Hall for a mind-blowing (and mapping!) afternoon. Our mentor Jeremy McKane is an underwater cinematographer who believes “the shortest path between two humans is art” and makes “motion pictures for mindfulness.” Jeremy brought his mind-controlled digital art installation, LUCiD, a biofeedback device that looks like a telephone operator headset and can Read. Your. Mind!
Fellows lay on blankets in groups and watched Jeremy’s art projected on the Hall’s ceiling, taking turns wearing the headset. The raw brainwave data is then fed to meditation and attention algorithms that play different film clips. When you’re distracted, you see trash floating in the ocean, and facts about plastic. As you reach a meditative state, you see beautiful underwater scenes of whales and dolphins. As your concentration continuously shifts between mindful and distracted, the videos change, and even more amazingly - your mind created new synaptic pathways! After a few minutes, it’s easier to bring the beautiful underwater footage back on the screen. But Fellows also felt the pressure of their own and other people’s expectations to succeed, making it harder to relax.
Jeremy’s passion for the ocean and its creatures was clear, saying he always tells kids “superheroes exist! There’s animals that can fly and see through walls!” Did you know that dolphins have x-ray vision, and can tell when women are pregnant using echolocation? Jeremy believes that, because of climate change and ocean degradation, “We have this finite moment in time to fix the oceans because I believe the next 10 years will dictate the next 10,000 years. I truly believe that.” Quoting Sylvia Earle, Jeremy said, “now’s the best time to be alive in history, because we have the best chance to make a difference.” (For more insights from Jeremy, and to learn about what's really going on with ocean plastic, check out this interview between him and our founder, Leyla.)
Fellows then broke into small groups to help each other workshop real-world problems in our lives. Each fellow got to speak about a problem area in their lives for 2 minutes, then got 10 minutes of feedback and additional questions from the group. Provocative questions prompted people to dig deeper, and we all received great ideas about how to disrupt and design better solutions to work and personal issues, while experiencing the benefit of peer mentorship.
After an inspirational day of beautiful stories about people and the planet, Fellows got to perform 90-second scenes that incorporated design concepts, film genres and emotional prompts. Co-host Jessy shared her love of improv with the group during the daily reflection, pointing out things that improv and design methods have in common – trusting the process, pulling on observations of the world around us, and realizing there are no mistakes, only gifts. Fellows were game, trusted the process, and came up with some fantastic scenes! The Team’s Period Piece about Making Change involved a time-machine trip to the French Revolution. A Film Noir/Systems Thinking skit involved a Fellow smoking cigarettes while trying to stop a bathtub from overflowing (a callback to Leyla’s stocks and flows metaphor), and three Fellows played the chemical change-agents oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine in a Coming of Age story about Cognitive Behavior.
When the skits were over, we called it a night, and fellows were left with tantalizing instructions to meet extra-early in front of Embarcadero (for ???) the next morning!