Lara Stein: “We need new systems optimized for humanity”
Too often, when we tell people the purpose of Worlds Studio — helping brands generate more meaning and abundance, and less waste — the reply we receive is: “How beautiful and idealistic! But that’s not how the world works.”
This is partly why, when we learned that Lara Stein had created Boma, we had to ask her for an interview. Lara and her collaborators have managed to engage political leaders and corporations alike, and they are helping foster a new generation of individuals focused on driving positive impact. They are living, breathing proof that the business world is gearing up for real change.
Being positive and constructive often go hand in hand with humility and openness — that probably explains why Lara was willing to share such an inspiring conversation with us, despite being engaged in so many projects.
As usual at Worlds, we wanted to know which passions and needs led her to create Boma.
Our Abundance Design formula : 1. Need + 2. Love + 3. Envision = 4. Make for community
1. Need: redesigning systems
Lara grew up in a liberal family of lawyers in South Africa during Apartheid, with a brother who helped rewrite the constitution. “What growing up in SA taught me was that systems, be they political, technological, social, can be optimized to bring great pain and suffering to people. But they can also be optimized to bring great joy. And it’s a very deliberate choice. We all live in a world where we take some of these systems for granted even though they are not great, and they aren’t making anyone happier or healthier — we just accept them. We can think outside the box and create very different systems if we choose to.”
She is inspired by the works and thinking of Neri Oxman, who “does work at the intersection of biomimicry, technology, and ethics, designing from and with nature. Neri really has the ability to look at nature and natural systems and think about the world differently, and therefore drive a different kind of change in the world. Generally speaking, those are the people who interest me. It’s people who are able to look at existing systems and say ‘Well, that may be a system, but it’s not working for the planet.’”
2. Love: creativity, structure, and beauty
Lara started dancing when she was 4 years old, practicing up to 6 hours a day. “What ballet gave me was this idea that creativity, commitment, and depth can come together in a way that can optimize for both beauty and efficiency. I think that’s a lot of what art is about. You have to be a great technician but you also have to deliver it in the most beautiful way that has the most meaning for humanity. I think if we could come at everything with that kind of a perspective, we wouldn’t be building cell phones that are creating addiction. We would be thinking about how we can make the most beautiful technological device that can allow us to be the best kind of human that we can be on the planet.”
3. Envision: leading by example
Lara believes the world needs courageous leaders and CEOs who are ready to think differently and work in an agile way.
“A lot of big corporations are still of the mindset that it’s winner takes all, and they’re just maximizing for shareholder value. But there are a lot of companies right now that are starting to think differently, beyond the CSR budget, and starting to think about how they could be more responsible companies on the planet. I think we have to lead with a few examples. We need those courageous organizations that will step up to say ‘We want to be part of this network that’s driving this different kind of change. And we understand that by doing this we can be as successful, possibly more successful, because we can create a system that really drives positive impact.’”
4. Make: an open source positive innovation community
Lara is reaching out to the people she trusts, who share her values and who she has loved working with in the past. They are all entrepreneurs, creators of large scale, quality events and have impact organizations of one kind or another. Together, they are bringing Boma to life. It’s a global, decentralized network that, among other missions, supports local innovative initiatives and gathers “a combination of big corporations, smaller corporations, business leaders, government leaders, educational institutions, community, and youth.” They will collaborate, ideate, and design new systems for a better world. Through a “creative commons,” the innovation of one corporation will also benefit the other members of the network.
At Worlds Studio, we believe that designing for community is the best way to nurture the abundance of our planet. Lara has significant experience in building communities. She has helped lead the building of the worldwide network of TEDx conferences, headed Women’s March Global, designed SingularityU’s global expansion, and helped organize Pangea Day, a global program of film, music, and talks that was aimed at building intercultural bridges of empathy. “It was in that moment [Pangea Day] I saw that people are really missing that connection in their lives, and giving them a reason to come together around something meaningful was something they were searching out. That was over 10 years ago, and I think it’s more relevant than ever now. We’re craving more and more that interpersonal communication and connection. And I think if you can find ways to bring groups together where they connect in interesting and meaningful ways it brings great value to our lives.”
She also learned that smaller community events tend to generate stronger connections between individuals.
All of these best practices were applied through the creation of Boma. They believe in a top-down and bottom-up approach while emphasizing glocal (global + local) impact. Lara has brought together leaders who have already grown meaning-driven tribes, making Boma a ready-made community instead of having to develop from scratch.
We are looking forward to seeing and supporting the results of such a promising union.
Nesem Ertan and Katie Connor, Worlds Studio