January 08, 2019

Ei State of the Union, 2019

For the past three years, I’ve written a full update on the “state” of Experience Institute. It’s a simple way to give you an inside look at what’s been going well, what hasn’t been working, and where we’re going next. The past year was wild, so buckle up. This is going to be a ride.

First of all, 2018 by the Numbers:

10 keynote talks

65 workshops

1,100 students

12 Wednesday Words with a total of 21,934 reads

Working with:

13 companies

2 universities

11 high schools

1,100 Leap Maps used

Fun, right?! High five the person next to you, and then keep reading.

Now, as a quick reminder, Ei exists to establish experience as a credible form of learning and equip students to transform our world.

We currently do that by writing curriculum, leading programs, and designing tools for college/grad students and career professionals at growing companies.

Here’s how those efforts went in 2018:

5 Things That Went Well

1. Built New Workplace Programs

Our flagship program, LEAPS, grew to include two new companies and we added a suite of shorter programs ranging in topics from Storytelling to Design Thinking — all of which help teams and individuals do their very best work while staying curious and collaborative. Much of this expansion has happened with one of my mentors and dear friends Melissa Quinn and her team at Performance Coaching. Together, we have over 40 years of industry experience and a flare for leading engaging, memorable workshops.

2. Launched Second Pilot at Stanford

In 2017, our friends at Stanford invited us to apply the lessons we gleaned from our year-long Fellowship to pilot a new summer program. The goal was to help 13 new graduate students rethink their summers through short-term projects and experiences around the world. We completed that pilot in September and launched our second cohort with 27 undergraduate students and 13 new graduate students. All of this is now under the project title, Design Summer: http://designsummer.stanford.edu

I simply can’t describe how much we are learning with and from those students and staff as we build Design Summer. It’s been some of the most challenging, rigorous work the team and I have ever attempted and it's clearly meeting a real need in the students’ lives.

3. Launched Experience Lab with UC Berkeley

We recently partnered with our friends at Sage Corps and, after a year of talks with UC Berkeley, have teamed up to launch Experience Lab at UC Berkeley. Together, we’re re-envisioning life after college through a new affordable, adventurous, transformational way to launch into a new career. Keep your eyes on this.

4. Prototyped High School Curriculum and Programs

Last January, we started exploring how we could help high schools offer more experiential learning opportunities for their students. We piloted curriculum with over a dozen classrooms in a wildly diverse set of cities and demographics. The initial response from students and educators has confirmed we’re onto something special. Look for more in 2019.

5. Began Updating Online Presence

We’ve been revamping Ei’s website and digital storefront. We stopped using Medium and developed a new blog to house Wednesday Words. Because of that, we have a delightful new “stage" to share helpful stories and lessons from a wider array of authors and leaders. We also launched a new store that’s easier to use and has a new fulfillment backend so products are shipped faster and cheaper than ever.

Where We Hit Challenges


As a small, self-funded company, focus will always be a challenge. As we lead both sides of Ei — higher ed and workplace — we’re often making hard decisions about where to commit resources. We keep overhead low, our team tight, and we’re constantly learning new ways to streamline our processes while staying open to new concepts. Which means we’re often discussing when to “focus” and when to “flare.”

Accessibility for Experiential Learning

Access to opportunities to design your learning through experience can’t just be for the privileged. So we spend a lot of time researching how to widen our reach through new funding options for students of all ages and backgrounds. There simply aren’t easy, cut-and-dried solutions here. These challenges are rooted in big systems that need to be redesigned from the ground up — which may take years, if not decades. But where can we start? And what pilots should we lead next? We have a few ideas that we’ll be testing throughout 2019. Which leads to the next challenge:


It’s no secret that helping individuals navigate some of life’s biggest transitions isn’t fast work. And working with big institutions has its quirks, to say the least. But the impact on students has been incredible and the people we work with are brilliant, dear friends. On one hand, we need to set realistic expectations for how quickly this work can move. On the other hand, we’re going to try a few different ways to reach a wider demographic of students faster. In any case, we know we're playing a long game here.

What’s Next for 2019

Share the stories and theories behind experiential learning.

The simplest way we can support your next steps is share what we're learning as we build Ei. Expect to see a mix of articles, videos, artwork, and products. We want to add to the chorus of voices advocating for student and professional education environments that equip people to tackle the world’s most complex problems. We have the community and team to make this happen and will create resources to help navigate life and work with confidence, clarity, and community.

If you want to begin receiving Wednesday Words in your inbox, click here.

Build a simple tool for anyone, anywhere to discover what experience is worth doing next. (Leap Year 2020)

Eight years ago, I created Leap Year Project. Four years ago, the Ei team built Leap Kit. And now, we’re working on a simple deck of cards to help anyone, anywhere handle transitions through small, meaningful projects to learn, grow, and change their world for the better.

If you’re interested in testing our newest idea before we launch, click here.

Fuel workplace learning.

The future of nearly every industry in America is dependent on how fast they can develop and retain talented teams. In a world where there is more disruption than ever, learning is the way people of all ages and stages in their career will stay relevant, and companies will continue to thrive.

This part of Ei is expanding and we’ll be looking for 1-2 people to join our team and help with our workplace programs. Message us on Instagram or twitter @expinstitute if you want to learn more!

Continue experiments around improving and reimagining the higher ed experience.

We believe that cramming all of your higher education into four years of classroom learning is an outdated system that doesn't support the learner or society as a whole. Our work at Stanford is laying the groundwork to help students design gap quarters or full gap years. And our work at Berkeley is helping students rethink life after college — creating a new on-ramp to learning that doesn’t break the bank and is focused on launching into top-notch careers.

If you know a student who should know about our newest program, nominate them here.

The Bottom Line

If you made it this far, you’re great. Thanks for being a friend, accomplice, or enthusiastic onlooker. The Ei team and I believe, wholeheartedly, that the best way to improve the world is to help every person become a learner — curious, empathetic, and active in engaging local and global problems. And there’s no better way to learn than through experience. As we've pursued these endeavors over the past five years, we have been supported by incredible people. That’s you! Thank you for being here.

If you have any thoughts or ideas after reading this, we’d love to hear from you. We have thick skin, soft hearts, and energy for days. So send us an email (hello [at] expinstitute.com) or pop in anytime. Otherwise, have a great Wednesday, and I’ll see you next week!


The Spark You’ve Been Looking For

Visit our store to find award-winning education tools used by individuals and teams around the world.