Introduction: Vitality-Centered Design
There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique, and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium; and be lost.
~ Martha Graham
In 2019, Springhouse called together a group of community members to explore the question, "What makes Springhouse remarkable?" This group included Springhouse staff, learners in our youth and adult programs, and members of the Board. From that exploration, seven years of experimentation at Springhouse, and the doctoral work of Dr. Jenny Finn, the five principles of Sourced Design were articulated; this curriculum was developed; and the Vitality-Centered Design Lab was formed as a place to invite others to join us in the practice of vitality-centered design. We learned that what makes Springhouse remarkable is this: We put Life, vitality, at the center of everything we do.
At Springhouse, we are midwives. We listen deeply to the wisdom within and around us, and respond by designing a culture that draws out the vitality within all of us. Education is simply intergenerational relationships, where we foster and pass down vitality. This of course does not only happen in "schools". It can, and must, happen everywhere. Vitality-centered design is relational and is continually formed through feedback. We have seen what happens when vitality is placed at the center of the design. Awakening vitality within ourselves and within the community strengthens our capacity to courageously respond to the world's emerging needs. When design arises from deep listening, the shape it reflects a collective orientation around something deeper. The design becomes something not perfect, but unique and surprising, and holds a vitality that unfortunately many of us are not accustomed to. Creativity, resiliency, and connection (to name a few) are more readily accessible. In a place where vitality is at the center, the love is palpable.
We can't explain exactly what vitality-centered design is because we can't explain exactly what vitality is. Vitality, like the wind or the water, or our very breath, cannot be defined, but we still know its presence. Even though we cannot put a fine point on what vitality means, we can point to it by creating communities that bring us more fully alive. The experience of vitality in the community is the evidence of the efficacy of the design. Through continued iteration, experimentation, and sharing our experience with others, we are beginning to weave a web of communities seeking to foster vitality.
We know first hand that when a community decides to step into a new way of being and design, it helps to have principles for guidance and a community for support. Sourced Design principles are grounded in the research and practice of Springhouse co-founder, Dr. Jenny Finn (learn more about her research that informs this platform here), and the experience of Springhouse–an intergenerational community committed to building regenerative culture by creating vitality-centered education for the past seven years. These principles are universal and serve as guideposts in the design process. The five principles of Sourced Design are:
- Take care of vulnerability.
- Cultivate personhood.
- Build beloved community.
- Respect the wisdom of the Earth.
- Love and serve others.
These principles have led to a thriving and committed community at Springhouse with people who are devoted to fostering vitality and taking care of all that it brings forth. This design is not prescriptive, and does not offer a single answer to the very complex problem of the stifling nature of our current educational design. Though these principles are universal, we know they are not the one solution, or the only answer, to the problems that education faces. These principles are one pathway that people can engage to shape their vision, and work together, in redesigning learning communities that foster vitality. We will apply these principles through dialogue and community practice in ways that are rooted in place and the community where they are being practiced. The five principles are not answers, but lights to guide us in very complex and rigorous territory.
We face great challenges as a species and as a planet. It is time to wake up more fully to the vitality within and around us and to live in ways that take care of and awaken life in others. This begins with the adults, or people in power, listening to that spark within themselves and those around them (including the landscape we live with), and responding to it. In the world of education innovation, we often hear about what we should do to and for our young people. Change starts with adults actually doing what we hope for in our young people. If we want more creativity, curiosity, and vitality in our communities- let us have the strength to bring what we hope for in our youth. This requires great inner strength, opportunities to practice, and a community to support and challenge us. The first Lab will focus on applying the design principles to self.
Dr. Bettina Love
Schooled by Democracy
Vincent Harding- On Being Interview
John O'Donohue- The Question Holds the Lantern
Continuing the Conversation: Recovering the Sacred in Education
Relearn Festival- Jenny Finn and Springhouse Learners
Creative Bravery Festival- with Jenny and Springhouse Learners
Learner Centered Leaders Invest Time in Developing Deep Connected Relationships
Youth Passageways: Soul Centered Education
Shift your Paradigm from School Centered to Learner Centered
Capitalizing on the Natural Structures of Freedom by Jenny Finn
Sourced Design Foundation
- Why did you sign up for this Lab? What are you seeking?
- When you hear the word "vitality" what comes to mind?
- When have you felt most alive? How do you take care of the life within and around you? What are the ways you do not?
- What sacred wisdom or texts inform your connection to the vitality within and around you?
- What are the challenges you face when practicing these principles within yourself? Within your community?
- Are there any particular principles of Sourced Design that feel particularly challenging or life giving?
- Of the resources listed above, which ones are you drawn to and why?
- After viewing the Springhouse examples shared here, do you have any questions?