Initiative :
The Human Growth Project

This initiative is about building a coherent intellectual vision of what it means to grow as a person and articulating in depth and in context why that matters for society.


Curriculum literally means to ‘run the course’, as in curriculum vitae, the course of my life. The curriculum for humanity is to survive, adapt and flourish if we possibly can. However, we have to run that course in the context of climate change as a clear and present danger, artificial intelligence as a transformative but uncertain influence, and the possibility that democracy is dying.


The hidden curriculum of our time is how our souls might keep pace with the systems and structures around us and shape them for the greater good where possible. We see that as the challenge of human growth. Even if the Beatles were right, for instance, that ‘all you need is love’, we still need to cultivate love, the will to love, the power to love, the time to love, the skill to love and so forth – and those capacities are often things we need to grow into.


But what does it mean to grow as a person? Our premise is that this apparently simple question is surprisingly difficult to answer, and that this difficulty ought to be a matter of shared societal curiosity. A range of research models are relevant and valuable, for instance:


  • Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development

  • Kegan’s Subject-Object theory

  • Clare Grave’s Spiral Dynamics theory

  • Loevinger’s Ego-Development theory

  • Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial maturity

  • Abraham Maslow’s theory of human motivation

  • Carol Gilligan’s theory of self-development

  • Lawrence Kohlberg’s theory of moral development

  • Michael Commons’ Model of Hierarchical Complexity

  • Ken Wilber’s Integral Theory

  • Csziksentmihalyi’s flow-driven theory of complexifation.


However, human growth is not merely an academic matter. Our idea of what it means to grow is spiritual in reach, reflexive in spirit, normative in its implications, implicit in our institutions, and a matter of underlying societal telos. We therefore need to learn how to explore it better together, and the answer is likely to have psychological, ethical and political aspects.


To give one example, while working on a project with The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, Robert Kegan once said that policymakers were ‘unbelievably naïve’ in their ignorance of differing levels of mental complexity across society and how much that mattered for assessing an intervention. Yet the lack of awareness of this kind of perspective – that we grow beyond childhood in ways that are more or less systematic – is a big challenge. This initiative therefore features the preliminary research and public engagement necessary to understand what we need to know to make this inquiry more fully relevant to society at large than it is at present.


Success would mean widespread appreciation for human growth as a pattern that connects epistemic, emotional and existential phenomena, thereby creating a societal lodestar that may help balance the over-emphasis on economic features of life.

With this in mind, Perspectiva will host, lead and create an inquiry into the slippery question ‘what does it mean to grow?’. We are still considering which outputs to pursue, but the main elements of this initiative will be:

  • A research leadership side: Building coherence among models, making distinctions, sharing the evidence base and working towards a model that captures key elements of Eudaimonia but also speaks to the growth of mental complexity more generally.

  • A policy application side: The emphasis will be societal and political rather than organisations or business or personal development (because so many already do that). What do we know about ‘the hidden curriculum’ of going beyond consumerism, surviving social media, adapting to artificial intelligence, addressing climate change, or safeguarding public health? What are the implicit challenges on *how* we know in such cases?

  • A socially reflexive side: This is the critical point that is often overlooked, and which Perspectiva hopes to model. How do we inculcate a developmental ethic across society, ie a society where human growth is viewed as a shared endeavour with value for the common good?


This initiative, beginning in January, will be led by Andres Fossas with the support and guidance of Perspectiva.

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