Foundations for Compassionate Systems Leadership workshop | Humboldt County, CA

By Jane Drake

The Foundation for Compassionate Systems Leadership workshop in Humboldt County was held at the end of October thanks to the efforts of the dedicated logistics team of Compassionate Systems Master Practitioners and local County Office of Education staff. Thank you to Janice Lourenzo, Michael Davies-Hughes and Compassionate Systems Master Practitioners-in-Training Colby Smart (Class of 2022-23) and Dina Macdonald (Class of 2022-23). We had such an engaged group of participants including students and educators from Humboldt and across the whole district of California, as well as a large group attending virtually from all parts of the world. As always Mette and Peter created a generative space that continued to blossom throughout the week, and it was noticeable just how keen and confident all the students were to speak into the closing circle.

The week provided a great opportunity for our Humboldt and Ventura research sites to meet with our MIT Lab research partners Drs. Judy Perry and Dan Roy, and there was a real sense of community and care in all the conversations and reflections throughout the week. The atmosphere was further enriched by the group from the California School for the Deaf, Riverside and their team of interpreters. Their perspectives brought wonderful insights and energy, and the interpretation is poetry in motion! The embodiment of words in that way adds such power to their expression. The experience was enhanced by the hybrid format managed by the Center support of Kristian Bindslev, Gustav Boll, Rask Wanscher and Miho Kito as absolute maestros in ensuring that the zoomies were cared for and their global voices were fully present in the space. Prior to the week, Gus and Rask from our Youth Leadership Team visited eight different Humboldt County area schools, meeting all the wonderful students participating in the week’s workshop and their peers. That really created a strong foundation for both the workshop and the work ahead. 

This workshop was part of our wider California partnership. Over the past 5 years, more than 2,000 people representing the system of education in California have attended an introductory workshop in the Compassionate Systems Framework. Many have chosen to deepen this work in their schools and systems, and close to 50 individuals have since become Compassionate Systems Master Practitioners by attending our year-long master practitioner program. The overall feedback we hear is that this work has changed people’s lives for the better. Individuals report experiencing greater well-being, a general sense of meaning and purpose with their work, and a deep sense of connection with each other and the students they serve.

We are now ready for the next phase of Compassionate Systems change in California working closely with key sites to begin our research into the impact of Compassionate Systems. This work will be a collaboration with the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence (CCEE), the MIT Systems Awareness Lab and the Center for Systems Awareness in partnership with Humboldt and Ventura County Offices of Education.

The process will be supported by the Center’s Site Development Team, a core group of Compassionate Systems Master Practitioners with experience at all levels of the school system. It will include regular connections and activities beginning with a proposed monthly series of events and ongoing support throughout 2023. 

Over the coming years this infrastructure of support and guidance is designed to: 

  • Build thriving communities of practice for leaders, teachers and students within and across sites to develop, hone and share practice and resources. 
  • Support sites to develop their collective aspiration, co-creating plans that build the internal capacity of sites to lead this work using the expertise and experience of the site development team.
  • Work as reflective partners to identify indicators of success and support the generation and collection of evidence. 

Our aspiration is that collectively we can grow the system into one that will be of benefit to all students and other individuals in the system – towards human flourishing and a new path forward. We strive to redesign it in service to ourselves and the students in the system, as well as for the coming generations.


Jane Drake
Managing Director | Center for Systems Awareness


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