Billions of Brains on Fire

For over a year now, my firm has been envisioning a future in which the word "school" no longer conjures up just the first part of life but all of it. We have been thinking long and hard about how learning can never really end, how it must be a lifelong endeavor if we are each to truly flourish, to truly become the best selves we can be.

Too often we treat education as something from pre-school through high school or college. This may have made sense decades ago, but it doesn't any longer. The world is changing too fast and information is multiplying too quickly for learning to stop. Ever.

This is the fundamental idea behind the 9 Billion Schools movement we hope to launch with your support. In short, the movement is about creating a world in which everyone on earth gets to reap the personal and economic benefits of learning that is unique to them and that is as long, wide and deep as life itself.

By 2050 there will be nine billion people on our planet and, to our way of thinking, there should be nine billon schools because each person deserves to be a place of learning (and teaching) unto him- or herself.

We hope the 9 Billion Schools movement will inspire dialogue, debate and discussion about how personalized, lifelong learning can shape traditional education, development in the workplace and even learning as it relates to leisure activities that bring so much joy to our lives.

Information technology has advanced to the point where learning can happen practically anywhere and anytime. And IT is only in its infancy in many ways. Just imagine what artificial intelligence and more convincing virtual reality experiences will do for learning.

But 9 Billion Schools isn't about advocating for more technology for technology's sake. The movement sees technology as a means to an end: smarter people and a smarter, better world. 9 Billion Schools is more about a mindset, a way of thinking about human dignity and human flourishing than it is about any one technological solution.

Think about all the good and wonderful things that will be unleased if every person and every community were flourishing because every one was learning and growing. Imagine a world with nine billion brains on fire. What a dazzling light that will be because of more cures and less disease, more financial security and less poverty, more breakthroughs and less roadblocks. The list could on and on.

We hope you will join the movement. You can read the 9 Billion Schools manifesto and explore the first draft of our book. And we hope you will consider sharing your ideas with the 9 Billion Schools community; read how to do that here.

Lauren Della Bella is president of SHP Leading Design, a firm that specializes in architecting and building learning spaces of all kinds. You can reach her at

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