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Mycelium Rising: Real Education for the 21st Century

Travel Ambassadors
by Matthew Abrams Nov 21, 2012
Matador Ambassador Matthew Abrams is on the forefront of reimagining education for the new century.

WITH 42% OF COLLEGIANS taking 7 or more years to graduate at an average cost of about $25,000 per year, they leave college with tremendous debt into a job market where 54% of youth under 25 are unemployed. The combination of these graduates not having a sense of their passions, along with large amounts of debt, leaves them with little choice but to take a job primarily for a paycheck. This reality has set a trajectory where 80% of people are unhappy with their jobs. In essence, we as a society have developed an educational system that leaves the majority of our citizens financially indentured without ever having the chance to find or create a job they love.

The Mycelium vision is to short-circuit this system.

Imagine an idea hive, a hackerspace. A home for heretics, outliers, nonconformists, and innovationaries. A Petri dish for possibility, an incubator of dreams. A living lab where you can hone your superpowers as you learn from and create with the great thinkers and doers of our time. A modern-day Plato’s Academy.

This is the Mycelium School.

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” Traditionally, higher education freezes both the man and the river — a technique that offers structure and commandment over learning, and limits the potential of the learner to innovate and improvise in a rapidly changing world. We do not live in a paint-by-numbers landscape, but a wide-open blank canvas. Our times are like none before in the course of history and call for a new type of education. A new type of learner. Now is the time for artists of life that have the courage, confidence, and imagination to step up and paint a new world they know is possible.

The Mycelium team set out with one task: Forget everything about what schools are and imagine what emerging leaders need to flourish. After 3 years of working through this question with top curriculum designers from across the world, the Mycelium School is now coming to life.

Mycelium is the vegetative part of the mushroom — the largest living network on the planet. It is alive, intelligent, and adaptable. Some call it the internet or the neural network of nature. The mycelia link into root systems of trees, plants, and other mycelial webs and transfer information and nutrients across the forest floor. Their mission is to increase the health and vitality of the host ecosystem. Mycelium participants and their creations are the fruiting bodies, but what keeps them alive and flourishing is this underground network of support. This is the living network that will grow in the Petri dish of the Mycelium School.

There comes a time in our lives where we must answer a fundamental question: Am I going to walk the path the world expects of me, or am I going to walk a path of my own design? There are some that have no choice but to do the latter. It is for them that the Mycelium School was created.

The Mycelium School is a nine-month educational program in Asheville, NC, for 18-35 year-old, high-potential social entrepreneurs. It is an experience designed to amplify the participants’ unique gifts while offering them the skills, connections, and hands-on entrepreneurial experiences they need to realize their potential out in the world. The doors will open to the first tribe of disruptavors on July 1, 2013.

The curriculum is designed around 7 disciplines that are core to fully realizing the potential of a change agent, and which are developed both in the classroom and out in the world. They are:

  • Self-Awareness
  • Systems Thinking
  • Design Science
  • Creative Adaptive Leadership
  • Social Entrepreneurship
  • Network Building
  • Healthy System Creation

Over the course of nine months, participants research, design, prototype, and launch individual or team-based social ventures. Throughout the year, they are supported by personal and entrepreneurial coaches, advisers, and visiting instructors. These visiting instructors are leading thinkers and doers, from designers from Google’s Innovation Lab to bestselling authors and serial entrepreneurs. The ultimate impact of the program is not to graduate “finished products,” but rather unleash emerging leaders that are confident, capable, and well-connected.

Mycelium School participants are passionate, capable, and driven to leave their mark on the world. They look around them and often feel alone. Like they are the only ones drawn by something greater than paychecks and pop culture. They are insatiable learners walking the edge of themselves and the world. Their curiosity and wide range of experiences help them make connections others can’t see. They are leaders already on their journey, hungry for a learning program that will plug them in and turn them loose.

Participants will connect with and learn from contemporary masters from pioneering fields such as design, technology, innovation, and social entrepreneurship. During their nine months, the relationships between the participants and other thought leaders are established and deepened. After graduating, this network will continue to grow and tighten. Together, they will support one another as entrepreneurs and human beings. This is the principle of mycelium.

We are always on the lookout for prospective participants, visiting instructors, and visionary investors. If you’d like to be part of this evolution in education, drop us a line at

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