Online Orientation Overview

A call to good thinking, good design, and good action

Our abilities to think well and to bring our good thinking into action through design are affected by many factors, the least of which is conventional 'intelligence'. At Gaia U we understand that most everyone has the necessary brain power to comprehend the current state of the world enough to a) critique the current situation and b) design and activate strategies to transition our self, our communities and, ultimately, our societies to an ecosocial future.

If we experience challenges with either the critique phase or the design & action phase, the Gaia U approach is to suspect one of the following may be true (feel free to add your own observations to the list below):

  • No one has ever explained how to do 'thinking' in a way that makes sense to us,
  • Most of the thinking we have been asked to do has not been relevant to us and has often been propaganda for the powerful,
  • We are not confident that our own thinking is as good as other people’s
  • When our own thinking is different from that of the dominant culture we risk being called 'crazy' or 'unrealistic'
  • It is not up to us to redesign and act for a better society; there are other people much better qualified than us to do that
  • Just coping with survival in everyday life is enough to keep us busy – we don't have the luxury of 'time to think'
  • The world (or at least the layer made by humans) is too complicated/complex for us to understand so we'd best leave it to the experts
  • The situation is too urgent to stop doing and make time for thinking

These are all impediments to good thinking, good design, and good action. The Gaia U Online Orientation is aimed at reducing the effect of these limitations. To do this, we use a blend of tools that help us do integrative work in the intersecting realms of technique, consciousness raising, emotional intelligence and confident agency.

  • Integrative means joining all these realms together to make sense of the whole
  • Work means applying our minds and bodies to the ecosocial transformation ahead with persistence and timeliness
  • Intersecting means noticing that all these realms affect each other
  • Technique means developing agile competence with methods that help us deconstruct, reconstruct, critique and expand other people’s thinking, as well as our own
  • Consciousness raising means learning to use critical frameworks that help us see the matrix of power and privilege (the Patrix) that shapes our current cultures
  • Emotional intelligence means strengthening our own capacity to recover from the shocks of the past and the present in order to prepare for the shocks of the future (i.e. Climate Change) without ceding our power
  • Confident agency means designing and acting for our own good, the good of others and the good of all life on Earth

The Orientation provides us with multiple opportunities to practice doing integrative ecosocial work within the supportive context of an online community of un/learners that includes both peers and professionals.

Expect to practice, expect to engage, expect to change.

Practice and Purpose

Witnessing this process over the years, both in ourselves and our associates, has shown us that purposeful, practice-oriented engagement is a transformative and effective process. Initially this means committing to allocate the time and effort required for each Element (1 Element = 2 weeks) to:

  • Week 1:
    • Read the deconstruction/reconstruction of the content to prepare questions and answers for the webinars
    • Add your thoughts and reflections on the content to your journal
    • Attend the webinars that are hosted at the end of the first week (live is best for juicy peer-to-peer interaction; recordings are posted within 48 hours) 
  • Week 2:
    • Complete and post assignments
    • Continue active participation in the un/learning community through forum postings 
    • Post final reflections in regard to your experience and critique of/gratitude for the element 

The assignments are intended to be light, multifunctional to-dos. The focus is on practicing using the tools and techniques and not on generating a large quantity of writing. Ten lines of thoughtful reflection trump both a rambling essay and no reflection at all. You can reuse your assignment responses later by integrating them with the extended pieces you will later generate for credit known as Output Packets. For example, an outline of your life stories made in the early Elements can show up as the structure for a more detailed narrative in your Life and Career Review, an Output Packet that you develop starting Week 8.

If making the essential space for the above list is an unrealistic promise for you to make, then you are probably better off delaying your start date with us until you have cleared your calendar.

Time Allocation

We recommend an average time commitment of 8 hours a week with occasional 16 hour weeks to get ahead and make the space for those inevitable and rare 4-hour contingency weeks when the rest of life presses in. You will need to actively defend your 'study time' against other people and projects that demand your time and, possibly, your own patterns of creating diversion dramas in your life. 

This allocation of time/defense of space issue is, we note, a key area of un/learning for most world changers, and we address it continuously throughout the Orientation by asking you to renew your promises around engagement from time to time.


A powerful notion in Gaia U is un/learning. It has to do with noticing that much of the current received wisdom about, for example, people, nature, economics and  'the others' is riddled with misinformation. This does not serve us well. We offer multiple 'liberating' structures that help us see the misinformation and understand its function. This enables us to actively un/learn the ways of thinking that are driving our conventional cultures towards collapse.

A Distinct Absence of Stuffy Academics

It may help to know that Gaia U is not seeking to emulate the conventional Academy, nor is it staffed by people with extensive, conventional academic backgrounds.  We do appreciate scholarship, defined as critique-full gathering of thinking and attitudes that enable us to act effectively for ecosocial regeneration. We seek to assist you in developing these skills. 

Gaia U is home to the thoughtful artisan, the ethical shop-keeper, the ecological campesino, the wholistic practitioner, the open-source manufacturer, the permaculture designer and other disruptors who often come from the so-called 'lower middle class'. We are more conjoined in spirit with the sisters and brothers of the working class than the elites of the coordinator and owning classes.

Thus, you won't find yourself cowed by 'brilliant theorists' or 'towering intellects'. Rather you'll find geniuses of ordinary intellect working together to bring about an ecosocial future through strategic, thoughtful, life-long actions.

Extrinsic versus Intrinsic Motivation

Another common feature of members in the Gaia U community is that we are drawn more to generating communities of resilience and autonomy and less attracted to dancing to the tunes of moneyed pipers. This means that we generally expect to create our own livelihood through ecosocially congruent activity. Whilst 'good' jobs in the mainstream can be a comfortable delight, they are rarely a primary goal. We support each other to develop the necessary courage and skills for this journey throughout the Orientation and beyond. 

Digital Competency

During the Orientation, we will ask you to work at a wide range of computing tasks many of which require an internet connection. This is an opportunity for you to develop very useful digital 'chops' ('chops' are also called skill-flexes in Gaia U) that can serve you well beyond the bounds of Gaia U. 

Your time in Gaia U will be greatly enhanced if you are pleased to be doing this. If you are already fed-up with the amount of time you spend online or in front of your computer, then you need to either triage your online life to make space for Gaia U or get your education some other way. We are an online outfit, so online you must go. 

We recommend that you make space for at least 4 online sessions a week doing everything in one session courts stress and disaster. Be realistic about this. 

A Summary of Promises

By signing up for the Orientation you are promising to:

  • Be online at least 4 times a week (and learn to troubleshoot your connection)
  • Commit 8 hours a week on average to your Gaia U work
  • Complete the readings before the Webinar at the end of Week 
  • Complete activities and forum posting for each element by the end of the Element

An Ecology of Websites

Note that we use minimally 3 websites to handle learning systems, portfolios, and creative exchange. You will need log-ins and passwords for each of these and keep these in a secure, accessible place. Each of our sites has an automatic 'lost password' function that you can use to reset a password should you need to. 


For a list of all the Online Orientation Elements click here.

For Stand-Alone Online Orientation fees click here.