Theory U - A Public Seminar


Reinventing the 21st Century University for Co-Shaping Societal Transformation

Presented by MIT Scholar Otto Scharmer and Colleague Eva Pomeroy


March 26, 2019, 11:00am -12:00pm

University Club Ballroom B, 123 University Place, Oakland

Hosted by U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering James R. Martin II and the Organizational Innovation Lab
Please RSVP at

Live stream link: 

Theory U Announce

The major ecological, social-economic, political and digital disruptions of our time require new capacity in our societies so we can respond to these disruptions generatively rather than reactively. How do we build this new capacity across all system levels and at scale? How do we help leaders and change-makers build this co-creative capacity in organizations and networks so as to shift mindsets from silo to systems views? What does it take to capacitate young people to address the enormous disruptions coming our way in this century from a place of curiosity, compassion and courage rather than a place of ignorance, hate, and fear? 

The problem today is not that we don't know what the solutions are. The problem is that we are not implementing what we already know. The problem is a collective knowing-doing gap. That gap cannot be addressed by adding more knowledge. It can only be addressed by shifting our collective consciousness from ego-system to eco-system awareness.

How can we reinvent our universities and learning systems in ways that put the learner in the driver’s seat of profound societal change? How can we reinvent our pathways of learning in ways that give all learners access to new social technologies that empower them to pioneer and co-shape a society which is more inclusive, sustainable, co-creative and aware?

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Claus-Otto-ScharmerClaus Otto Scharmer, PhD, Senior Lecturer, MIT

Otto Scharmer is a Senior Lecturer in the MIT Management Sloan School and founder of the Presencing Institute. Scharmer introduced the concept of “presencing”—learning from the emerging future—in his bestselling books Theory U and in his co-authored book Presence. He is also co-author of Leading from the Emerging Future, and author of The Essentials of Theory U.

In 2015, Otto co-founded the MITx u.lab, a massive open online course (MOOC) for leading profound change, which has since activated a global eco-system of societal and personal renewal involving more than 120,000 users from 185 countries. In 2019, he co-founded the Societal Transformation Lab (u.lab-S), involving 300 place-based teams focusing on reinventing education, governance, and economies in the context of their eco-system. He works with the UN Sustainable Development Group on implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). He received the Jamieson Prize for Excellence in Teaching at MIT (2015) and the European Leonardo Corporate Learning Award (2016). In 2018, the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General appointed him to the UN Learning Advisory Council for the 2030 Agenda.

For more information:;

Eva-PomeroyEva Pomeroy, PhD, Social Innovator in Residence, Concordia University

Eva Pomeroy’s work builds on two decades experience in experiential learning. In 2016, she co-founded the Concordia U.lab Social Innovation Hub in 2016, a laboratory learning space that blends undergraduate & graduate students, staff & faculty, and members of the local community as co-learners. Working with the u.lab platform, and in a learning community, learners engage in a process that connects them to purpose and connects purpose to action. Eva co-convenes and co-facilitates the Presencing Institute’s Social Field Research Summer School. She is the 2019 recipient of the Concordia Alumni Recognition Award for Innovative Teaching. 

Resources on Theory U
U.Lab: Reinventing the 21st Century University
In this thought-provoking video, Scharmer talks about the current transformation happening in higher education and invites you to join in prototyping a new type of university education for the 21st century.

U-lab MOOC Course and Leadership for Change: Interview with Long Term Economy
In this 2019 interview, Scharmer answers questions about Theory U. Theory U is addressed to everyone who deals with situations of disruption, which is the common human condition of this century. Theory U is about developing collective leadership, the capacity of a system to “sense” and “shape” the future. 



Education is the Kindling of a Flame: How to Reinvent the 21st-century University
In this 2018 Huffington Post article, Scharmer outlines an idea that could reshape our universities while also prototyping new ways of addressing urgent societal challenges. He talks about the need to develop vertical literacy-- the capacity to deal with disruptive change. To build vertical literacy at scale, he lays out 10 principles the new universities need.

The Essentials of Theory U: Core Principles and Applications
This book offers a concise, accessible guide to the key concepts and applications in Otto Scharmer's classic Theory U. Scharmer argues that our capacity to pay attention co-shapes the world. What prevents us from attending to situations more effectively is that we aren't fully aware of that interior condition from which our attention and actions originate. Scharmer calls this lack of awareness “our blind spot”. He illuminates the blind spot in leadership today and offers hands-on methods to help change makers overcome it through the process, principles, and practices of Theory U. 

EdX MOOC Course: u.lab
Starting in 2015, this MITx u.lab MOOC course has been offered every fall. It has since activated a global eco-system of societal and personal renewal involving more than 120,000 users from 185 countries. This course focuses on how to activate our capacity to lean into the emerging future. Contents of this course is based on Theory U, a method developed at MIT for leading change in business, government, and civil society contexts worldwide.

Why Universities need Homerooms
In this 2018 article, Pomeroy talks about the kind of education that can give hope for the future. Her viewpoint is informed and inspired by her research experience with u.lab Scotland. She proposes a learning space in universities where students could regularly attend and form a small, continuous community, connect with each other and, together, make sense of what they are learning. She believes such “holding space” enables students to review their learning, make connections between various courses and with current societal challenges, and develop meaningful relationships that will lead to inspiration, creativity and joy. 

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For questions, please contact Gemma Jiang (