What am I doing here? Head spinning from an intense week during the penultimate module of the inaugural THNK Class in Vancouver, working on the Future of Capitalism, I fly home through LA and, less than 24 hours later, I find myself sitting in a cab heading into a residential stretch of Kansas City to the Start-Up Village. The taxi driver doesn’t think we can possibly be going to the right place, but there it is — a new way station for entrepreneurs and misfits, hoping to catalyst change in their city, jammed between modest homes, from a re-fabbed bungalow of another era. It’s about as incongruous a sight as the Google Fiber lawn signs sprouting from overgrown gardens in this post-industrial neighborhood.

I sneak into the back of the session and grab a spot on the floor to listen to the discussion in progress. The conversation isn’t dissimilar from the ones I’ll hear play out several times a day during the following week. A mix of accidental business owners, people passionate about their community, civil servants, activists, transplants — all seeking a support group for the thankless effort it takes to create a new American narrative, one that builds opportunity on top of ashes and an understanding that we’re all better off when we’re all better off.

This is just the first stop for me on the current BLK SHP bus tour operation. Five of the other folks I join have been camping out on the former Barbara Mandrell touring coach between most of the 15 prior stops, from Austin to New Orleans, Baltimore to Ferguson (you can see the entire trip mapped here). But it was easy to relax into the rhythm of happenstance in service of “story foraging” as our anthropologist, Watson Hartsoe, occasionally said. At THNK, where I am on the faculty, and in most design thinking practice, this discipline is known as sensing — tuning into the people and places you encounter without agenda, with a child’s eyes, as you don’t know what you’re looking for until you find it.

Read about the rest of the BLK SHP bus tour journey here.

AuthorKaz Brecher