Pod Technology emerged during the 2020 pandemic. How do we cultivate deeper relationships in a virtual world?
Working at the profound intersection of "hands, head, heart" -- with personal practices, design-thinking, and peer learning -- our pilot project quickly turned into a platform. For a pod participant, here is the simple process:
- Sign-up for a pod offering that interests you, and create a profile with deep, customized questions.
- Everyday, the Pod Host emails out a prompt with "head, hand, heart" material.
- Participants engage the prompt, submit their reflections, learn from each others' responses, and interact in various creative ways.
- Periodical zoom calls bring everyone together as a group, deepening the peer-learning in real time.
- By the end, a greater collective intelligence arises from the whole process, and ripples get nurtured in decentralized ways.
History: In March 2020, as the pandemic hit, we launched KarunaVirus to highlight our capacity to respond to suffering with compassion. Soon after, as the pandemic fallout brought our broken systems into focus, we held public dialogues with 100+ leaders to explore transformation. Anticipating Zoom fatigue, we wondered -- what comes next? We tried an experiment, whose success royally surprised us. That quickly turned into this Pod platform. :)
What Others Say
Thousands of people have used the pods. Below are a few insightful comments.
We just finished a 7-day pod and we were amazed at everyone's comfort in sharing so deeply and vulnerably. Unlike Facebook or a commercial platform, you can’t buy this. No price tag! It’s simply a gift where in the end you lose track of who is giving or receiving. Kindness, compassion, appreciative joy, and equanimity permeate the whole ecosystem.
This is the University experience that makese sense to me! No single leader, no following, we are simply a "family band" walking side by side, sharing our senses, information and awareness for the benefit of all! I'm beyond grateful!
Animal Rights Pod
The unique blend of online sharing in a trusted space with live video calls, woven together with personal practices, offers a transformative experience with deep connections and a sense of community. Long-tail ripples continue long after, as the platform seamlessly enables ongoing engagement and synergies to emerge.
Technology always reaches beyond its utility, and that creates unintended consequences and disrupts the real-world magic. Pods draws a very skilful boundary around technology and our humane-ness.
Love + Power Pod
If a teacher is interested in circulating the teaching more than creating an identity, Pods offers a "many to many" solution that I haven't encountered anywhere else. And the fact that it is offered as a gift somehow makes a huge difference.
Typically, wisdom and healing practices such as meditation, yoga or qigong are seen as individual practices that are often difficult to sustain on a daily basis when first starting out. The Pod experience, by its very design, made it a sacred collective experience. In our group of 200, 90% completed the 14-day pod, 70% continued for another 30 days, and a whopping 62% self organized into their own groups to do a 100-day Gong!
The real magic of the Pod platform lies in what Anchors can do behind the scenes, with very intuitive interfaces. With an ultra-flexible platform, hosts can adjust duration, intensity, pacing, intimacy and much more -- to create a unique field of transformation around the theme of your pod.
No ads, no solitication, no data tracking, no gimmicks. Volunteer run. You can feel the love. :)
Create your modules, import from open-source archive, structure as 21-day challenges, and more.
Tools that make it easy to build an engagement spectrum, that spans Hosts, Volunteers, and Podmates.
Split into sub-groups to create intimacy, and support emergent ideas and topics.
An integrated RSVP mechanism for seamlessly convening as a group, while building shared context.
From event reporting to live-call chats to email campaigns, Pod's toolkit ignites collective intelligence.
How Can I Host My Own Pod?
If you'd like to host your own Pod, please submit our application form. While we can't accommodate all the requests we get, you'll hear back from us if we can support your work. Please note that our platform doesn't support any commercial classes.Apply Here
Frequently Asked Questions
What kind of courses or programs can be run on the Pod Platform?
As background, we created the pod technology at the outset of the pandemic, as a labor-of-love experiment, to cater to the surging demand for our “deep change” incubator, Laddership Circles. Unexpectedly, that rippled into many volunteers adopting the platform to offer thematic virtual immersions which has already supported thousands.
From our original Leadership to “Laddership” pod, volunteers have hosted pods on wide-ranging topics -- from Power + Love to Cultivating Sacred Space, NGO: Impact to Transformation, Qigong, Business + Values, and more. We’re ramping up capacity to host 21-day challenges on wide-ranging practices, from “new story” to “belonging” as well.
Content-wise, curriculum topics that aim to support others (and oneself) in the journey towards deeper awareness, mindfulness, wellbeing, kindness, service, compassion, etc. could potentially be hosted using this platform. However, beyond the content, the pod tech is designed to foster a peer-learning process -- where rather than having teachers give teachings, everyone’s engagement, reflections, and contributions foster a ‘living university’ of collective wisdom and emergence.
Your website says it’s a “peer learning” platform. What does that mean?
Pods are designed to blur boundaries and hierarchies. Everyone is a teacher and everyone is a student. What subtle gifts manifest when we assume value everywhere? The pod process optimizes learning from each other by drawing out dormant stories, uncovering innate wisdom and holding space for untapped potential to rise to the surface.
I am curious to learn a bit more about the “head, heart, hands” framework of this platform.
Gandhi offered a trilogy of "hands, head and heart" and suggested that we, as individuals and cultures, should first align those elements and ultimately learn to lead with the heart. Today, our traditional educational institutes are geared mostly to cater to educating the mind, while vocational schools are great at skilling the hands. But we have very limited frameworks to amplify “compassion quotient (CQ)” of the heart. Perhaps that is because compassion's effect is distributed -- in time and space -- and hence hard to quantify and monetize? ServiceSpace ecosystem is holding this question in various circles, and supporting many experiments to generate a cultural dialogue around it. Our Pod Platform is the latest virtual iteration to that end, and is built to promote deep holistic learning and growth.
Can you please clarify on the aspect of “deep relationships”? How is this relevant to a learning environment?
We have seen that learning can be much deeper (and fun) in a field of mutual trust and care. When we relate deeply to each other, the whole can be much greater than sum of parts. Just like graphite and diamond are made of the same carbon atoms -- their only difference being in how those atoms are linked to each other -- with deep relationships, we unlock synergistic capital, which creates a transformative field for collective change.
How many participants can I host in a pod?
The pods we have hosted in previous months have engaged groups of participants ranging from 20 to 250. Some hosts choose to keep their immersions more intimate by design, but the tech can support much larger groups as well.
So you don’t charge anything, and you don’t even monetize user data. Really? What’s the catch here?
:) Pinky promise, there is no catch.
If it helps to know, Pods are a project of ServiceSpace. Across our various ServiceSpace platforms, we send upwards of 70 million emails a year, and 14,000 people interact with our online content archives every hour. None of this has been charged or monetized in all 20+ years of our existence. We are just a bunch of volunteers, inspired to do small acts of kindness, as a practice to support our own inner transformation. So the opportunity to offer this platform to you, itself is our reward. :) Consider it our small attempt to honor the spirit of kindness you embody, and the values which you aspire to nurture in yourself and in the world.
Who can host a course on this platform?
We welcome both individuals or organizations. As explained earlier, all ServiceSpace projects are completely volunteer-run and offered in the spirit of gift. To that end, this is not a space for one to derive commercial benefit or monetary return from their pod or participants.
Our hosts range from seasoned monks, to NGO leaders, educators to entrepreneurs to everyday heroes, and more. Most of our hosts are individuals or non-profit organizations who are using this platform to offer courses in their community as a gift, without any charges.
As a pod host, what would be my responsibilities?
Below is a brief overview of activities you would find yourself involved in as you host a pod. Once you start the process, we have a detailed guide to support you in the process at each step.
- Pre-Launch - Design a curriculum (you can also import content from our previous pods), create an invite page (like this), and invite participants to join. Everyone creates a pod profile to get acquainted with others in the group.
- Live Pod - Participants use the pod’s private feeds to engage with the head, heart, hands material, post their responses, and read and comment on others’ responses. As a host, you’ll want to read participants’ reflections, add your comments, and support their learning process by leveraging various creative tools and ideas to amplify the collective wisdom. Also create and manage events, like weekly group video calls.
- Post Pod - Numerous tools to stay connected, to continue the learning journey, to create and support resultant projects, etc.
Can I invite my teammates to co-create this offering?
Absolutely. More people would mean you can share the workload and unlock synergies.
The platform can technically function with minimal human efforts, but having a crew of spirited volunteers to hold space and search-and-amplify individual and collective emergence can work wonders on the overall course experience. For a flavor, read about our pilot pod from June 2020: Alchemy of Uncertainty.
How many volunteers you’d want to engage is a function of how many volunteers you have, :) and also how deep you want the human element to be. We have seen 200-person pods hosted with a few volunteers, and we have seen 25-person pods served by a team of 10 volunteers, too. (We have witnessed surprise group films being created overnight, group rap songs written and recorded in the span of a few hours, and so on). The possibilities are endless. [More about our process of volunteerism.]
All of this sounds so exciting. I would love to offer a course through pod platform.
Great -- next step is to fill out the application form and if we’re able to approve it, a coordinator will be in touch.
If you are new to ServiceSpace and Pods, you may also find it beneficial to join one of our upcoming pods as a participant for an experiential dive.
Ultimately, while the pod platform has emerged to be a powerful amplifier to augment our collective learning journeys, as all of our hosts invariably reckon, it is the “human-ware” (i.e. the art of holding space gently with love, the art of “laddership”) that makes “software” come alive in a deep way.