Evolution of the Hub Host Community: a Shift from Global to Local.

Simoon Fransen
9 min readAug 30, 2019


How it all started…

In 2019 we have started to experiment for the first time with ‘decentralized Hub Host support’. After 5 years of global support, facilitated by the Presencing Institute, this is the year where we have begun to “go local”! At the moment we count hundreds of hubs around the world. Since u.lab started in 2015, we have been supporting groups of people gathering around the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) to learn about- and apply Theory U. It has been an interesting journey, a joy to serve the community — but we also met our limits: because of language (not everyone is able to join the English calls on Zoom), time zones differences (although we even had some participants joining at 2am from their beds, and perhaps most importantly, cultural differences. Local needs require local responses. What is happening in the world, to which u.lab is also an answer, is a different story in the UK, Venezuela, Turkey, or the US — just to name a few examples. And in the same natural way as the global Hub Host community emerged, new local initiatives are being born. And it is only the beginning. In this article we meet Marina, Isabella and Alessandra who started the support in Italy. They join emerging initiatives in Australia, Germany, Romania, the Netherlands, Spain, the US and more.


How the shift from came to life in Italy: the Hub Host Journey of u.Lab Hub Firenze

Our experience with the Hub Host support simply “flowed” after the conclusion of u.lab 1x 2017 in Florence. One of the prototypes that emerged at the end was, indeed, u.lab Hub Firenze. It was the idea of Alessandra Pistillo, who shared it with the entire group that met on a regular basis for u.lab 1x, giving it in our hands to collectively co-create this “space-to-hold-the-space” for upcoming participants of u.lab 1x. This is why we started to communicate, to meet, and to exchange ideas together to make this space come alive and work.

At the beginning of our experience as Hub Hosts, we agreed on which areas we would have volunteered to make the hub work;

Susan George is our alma mater! At the moment she’s not very physically present, but she is keeping a close eye on our footsteps.

Isabella Martini volunteered to facilitate the u.lab 1x journey for the Fall 2018 course. “I am a professor, and I strongly felt that the area where I could have better used my highest potential was exactly there. I love teaching and facilitating learning activities with groups; and I have been so enthusiastic about u.lab 1x materials and tools that I could not wait to try and facilitate the learning journey along the U. Also, this gave me the chance to focus my work on a more specific task within the hub, which allowed me to be able to contribute to the activities of the hub because I was going through a harsh time in my personal life.”

Alessandra Pistillo volunteered to take care of the communication of the hub. “I am a communication consultant and copywriter and I love my job: I interpret it as a mission, to put creativity, empathy and storytelling at the service of the common good, to involve people and create active and thriving communities. The Theory U for me has become a real source from which to draw. When I met Theory U I was struck by the powerful delicacy with which it was able to dig into the deepest part of myself, until I reached the profound motivations of my profession. The path inside the U for me was and still is not only a journey on a personal level, but also a work one, which allowed me to strongly review my place in the world and to make some choices that I once found very courageous for the Italian context in which we find ourselves. Taking care of the communication of the Hub Firenze and narrating every meeting, event or experience that we do together is something I do with great enthusiasm, simplicity and joy; I live, I feel, and then I write. An activity that I consider a natural and spontaneous “beating the drum”.

Marina Seghetti volunteered to hold the space for the group. “Somehow that is the task in my life: to hold the space for others, to propitiate a generative and connective environment. In my experience it is like being an aware “riverbed” for the flow of what is wanting to emerge; “riverbed” in the sense of both as a container and as a boundary at the same time.”

We are a concrete, realistic and flexible core team. There are no fixed positions, there are functions to be developed and also these are dynamic. It’s a great learning experience!

Hub Host call

We also started to participate to Hub Host support calls, especially Marina, and to have a look at the Hub Host Guide, a precious tool to organize our work as hosts. The calls were fundamental to see how this process was still ongoing, how we were actually all experimenting on a worldwide scale to fine-tune the most suitable routes to create safe spaces to work with Theory U.

Isabella Martini: “Personally, at the beginning I expected to participate to the calls in order to receive instructions, then I realized that, on the contrary, we were expected to share our thoughts and ideas for how to shape “our” hubs in the future”.

Being hosts truly meant to level up our daily practice of Theory U. It was asking us not only to create a safe space to host the course and its prototypes, which was our shared core idea to start the hub, but also to live up with what we had learnt so far with u.lab and with our journey along the U. It was a true, and sometimes hard, extension of the course, a sort of a meta-u.lab, a u.lab within u.lab, or an advanced practice of u.lab 1x that required continuous practice, and that gathered together those people who were speaking the same Theory U language. It was a natural process that saw the people who had worked with the same degree of intensity and personal involvement during u.lab 1x come together and understand each other with no effort when speaking about how to run the hub. And, not to be forgotten, the people who shared the same degree of the enthusiasm and of deeply-rooted personal motivation to help our community to be contaminated with the seeds of Theory U, by using it in our daily working activities.

Marina Seghetti: Personally what motivated me to propose the space in Italian was that I start sensing this need in some members of the Ulab Italia I was communicating with; and I felt some resistance to the effect of the event Otto Scharmer had in Italy on the Ulab community, effect of energy dispersion on the common attempts. What was proposed as a beginning (the name of the event was just that: Cominciamo!), seemed to be provoking just the opposite effect at the Italian level. On the other hand in Florence the opposite was happening, our Hub was consolidating. So the intention arose to open up our experiences to others. In fact, the accomplishment of an initiative is precisely when it becomes also a point of possibility for other realities, and does not remain closed in on itself. At least in my experience.

Highest aspiration for U.lab Hub Firenze

Isabella Martini: “to become the living core for a community of people who are willing to know more about Theory U and to learn how they can learn to “speak from the U”, and not only “about the U”. This is where I feel that the U journey takes people: it takes their hands towards a journey within themselves, to find the source of their highest potential, and then to act from that source not only for prototyping in their outer world, but also to keep prototyping in their inner world as well to advance in the U journey, which is a life-long journey. It is as if the rising branch of the U splits in two very close parallel branches, that cannot work separately; they must be kept working together while we attend to our more trivial tasks, as well as when we are called to face hard times and challenging events in our lives.”

Alessandra Pistillo: “The journey into the U is a journey that starts again every day, and every day several times a day. Ulab Hub Firenze is a co-created space that has taken shape at every departure and every return from our inner journeys in the U, as individuals and as a group. Our strength a compact community, united in a common intent, which is to share some fundamental stages of our transformation and evolution and above all to learn together to grow in awareness.

What inspired me to start local Hub Host support was pure intuition. I felt I had to do it and there are not many other rational explanations to be able to give this incredible experience, which I see flourishing every day.

I realized that here my potential can emerge, that welcoming, perceiving, narrating and holding together is the contribution I can make for this cause. Theory U can really be a valid answer for people today, an answer that is needed in order to build the capacity of exploring the emerging future of the world. From micro to macro: the spirit, the texture, the transformation.”

The plan local

Our plan for U.lab Hub Firenze is to keep holding the space to facilitate U.lab 1x as a core activity in our area, offering the hub host support with the aim to deepen the practice, to achieve autonomy on the processes and encourage the ecological vision to contribute to a positive more human change of our reality. Also to welcome all emerging possibilities that will open up by working together, and in close contact with the Presencing Institute, to bring about sustainable changes in our societal ecosystems.

On a more practical level we will maintain the calls in Italian, with the necessary openness and flexibility to adapt to emerging needs and the co-creation of this space. We are evaluating the possibility of opening a Case Clinic space in Italian for the Italian Hub Host community.

Calls are held biweekly on Fridays; September 13, 27, October 11, 25, November 15,29, December 13 & 27 (evaluation) on Zoom at 3PM - 4PM CEST.

The next Hub Host Program in Italy?

As members of the core team of the Hub of Florence, we offer our intention to collaborate in preparing the next Hub Host program and we would love to host the initiative here in Florence.

Read all about the renewed u.lab: https://www.presencing.org/news/news/societal-transformation-lab?fbclid=IwAR3ePIKKrdsAzNJ-sbZyxILSfOW_biJ8wra-vn96d9qIWxsqtHMEwlwRWFY en don’t forget to register!

the annual cycle

More info about u.lab Firenze:

MAIL: info@ulabhubfirenze.it

Tel/Wpp: +39 334 206 6723

BLOG: https://medium.com/@ulabhubfirenze

Read writing from U.Lab Hub Firenze on Medium. Every day, U.Lab Hub Firenze and thousands of other voices read, write, and share important stories on Medium.

VIMEO: https://vimeo.com/manage/videos

FB https://www.facebook.com/U.LabHubFirenze/

Gruppo FB https://www.facebook.com/groups/966220523530149/?source_id=470043343752385

Core team:

*Article from the series ‘Voices from the Hub Host Field’