Publication Date

Spring 5-16-2019

Document Type

Action research project: Open access

Degree Name

MA Higher Education Leadership


Leadership Studies


Why, as a global community, are we collectively creating results that nobody wants such as poverty, hunger, and inequality? Learning about the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the leadership learning and change theory known as Theory U by Otto Scharmer (2009), led to a profound shift in my awareness of the global challenges we face as a species and a strong desire to study Theory U. This action research report includes an explanatory account of my collaboration with the University of San Diego Global Social Innovation Community to cultivate vertical literacy (capacity for awareness of self and our connection with our wider ecosystem) using contemplative practices. My values of learning, growth, contribution, intuition, and transformation through practice have influenced this community and encouraged them to take pauses to gaze inward to reconnect to themselves and others which, in turn, can enhance their social innovations. The ultimate aim of this research is to provide tools to expand ego- to eco-system awareness in order to create social innovations towards greater social and sustainable good. I provide evidence of my findings using mixed methods of quantitative and qualitative data triangulated to increase validation including two exploratory surveys, video and audio recordings, field notes, journal entries, and photos. Results reveal that Theory U contemplative practices can support the social innovation process in a variety of ways: guided journaling helps cultivate clarity; stakeholder meditation helps cultivate perspective, empathy, and understanding of stakeholders; and Social Presencing Theater helps students move through feelings of being stuck, discovery of potential, and thinking beyond boundaries.