Human Systems Fundamentals Classes

Apply here—the next batches start March 24th.

(This is about our intro classes. You can also read about our follow-on program, the High Impact classes in Design and Metrics.)

What is Fundamentals?

Everyone in our Human Systems Training Program starts by taking Fundamentals — three 2 hour sessions (plus homework). The Fundamentals course teaches a new way to think about human motivation, which we hope you’ll find relevant to how you approach your work (and in some cases, your personal life). In particular, you’ll learn to name values and norms as precisely as most people can name goals and feelings, and you’ll use this newfound articulacy to see where values and norms come from. This will help you see how to create, or re-envision, social spaces so they support people’s ability to have meaningful, purposeful experiences.

For those interested, Human Systems also offers a follow-up course called the High Impact Program. Learn more about that here.

What You’ll Learn

Fundamentals will help you understand the basic concepts and vocabulary to use when analyzing your own, and others’, personal values. You will learn to speak plainly about your own personal values and the values of others. You will come to understand when, where, and how you decided to be the way you are. For many people this means confronting unsettling questions. It can be tough. It’s worth it.

Subsequent practice sessions and coursework will hone your ability to study social environments and understand how they influence people’s ability to live by their values, or not.

What You’ll Study

In Human Systems: Fundamentals, you’ll study different ways people approach social situations. You will be invited to form your own conclusions about which approaches lead people to have meaningful experiences, and which approaches lead to people experiencing a loss of meaning. Here’s a quick intro to some of the ideas:

Strategies, Norms and Social Visions. When we engage in a social space, our behavior is driven by different things: sometimes we have a specific strategy, like a goal to achieve (e.g., I may want to convince you to invest in my company); sometimes we have a social norm we’re trying to comply with (e.g. to act professional in an environment); and sometimes we try to create or spread a social vision (I may want to model political activism because I think more people should be politically active).

Personal Values. Sometimes we aren’t guided by norms, visions or strategic goals. In these cases, we aren’t flying blind: we still have ideas about how we want to be. Not because we want to make a specific impression on others, but because we ourselves think it’s a good way to be. We might want to be honest, or authentic; we might want to keep things light, or serious, or funny; and so on. Through trial and error observation, people adopt approaches that they believe lead to a good life. These are personal values, ways of approach social situations that result in meaningful and rewarding experiences.

When social spaces support people in living by their values, they tend to have meaningful experiences. They don’t feel compelled to act in ways that don’t align with their values. This insight opens up the possibility of intentionally designing social spaces that generate meaning.

What You Get

Fundamentals consists of three sessions facilitated by our kick-ass trainers…

  • Session 1: Understanding Values (2hrs) — This introductory session will explore the terms “social norms”, “social visions”, “strategic thinking”, and “values”. We will untangle them, and connect that to human relationships and social space design.
  • Session 2: Collecting Values (2hrs) — The breadth of potential values is vast, and emotions provide us with important information for articulating our own values and/or those of others. In this session, we will dive into that connection and learn to view the relationships and social spaces we encounter/design through a values-based lens.
  • Session 3: Space Jam (2hrs) — In our final session, we will explore the results of our “Field Tripping” project (an applied exercise in values-based design), and the connection between values and “Time Well Spent”. Then we will introduce you to “Space Jamming”, a way of creating small-scale social environments in which to practice values.

…and optional (but encouraged) self-study continuation.

  • Self-Test — check your strengths and weaknesses in values literacy and values-based design
  • Values Textbook — a free copy of Joe Edelman’s upcoming book, for anyone who really wants to nerd-out about values
  • HSx — A zine version of some of the games that you played, designed to make it easy for you to play them with your friends, family, community, neighbors, etc
  • Human Systems Slack— A place to share the results of your first field tripping experience, join practice sessions to get further clarity on your own values, and network with others who understand and support your ideas.
  • Other programs — Humans Systems Literature 101 (an Online Book Club), Community Events (parties, practices, and meet-ups online and offline), Values Wiki (a project to classify and clarify human values).

Graduates of Fundamentals will also be able to apply for our High Impact Program.


Human Systems: Fundamentals costs $260. If you don’t feel like you benefited from the first class, we’ll give you a full refund.

Tuition goes toward paying the trainers, supporting development of future curriculum components, and providing financial aid to other students.

The program consists of three online training sessions with five students or less. Trainings are also available as a one-day in-person experience for groups of six or more. Financial aid is limitedly available (see above), and is awarded on a case-by-case basis.


New batches of Human Systems Fundamentals take place on a rolling basis throughout the year, usually starting about once per month.

Once you sign up, we’ll place you in a small group (five students or less) that does one session per week for three weeks. Class day (of the week) options are set differently for each cohort, but usually include both weekday and weekend options. Classes are usually held at one of these two times:

Morning/Afternoon Sessions

  • 07am Pacific (PST)
  • 08am Mountain (MST)
  • 09am Central (CST)
  • 10am Eastern (EST)
  • 03pm W. European (WET)
  • 04pm C. European (CET)
  • 05pm E. European (EET)

Afternoon/Evening Sessions

  • 12pm Pacific (PST)
  • 01pm Mountain (MST)
  • 02pm Central (CST)
  • 03pm Eastern (EST)
  • 08pm W. European (WET)
  • 09pm C. European (CET)
  • 10pm E. European (EET)

How to Apply

Apply here. We usually process applications within 7 days of receiving them, although it could take up to a month at busier times.

You can also leave your email, so we can follow up.