What we do
We design events and resources that put you in the center of the action.
It's not just about being open to learning. It's about being open to changing your mind.
People rarely change their mind in the comment section, social media lets you easily surround yourself by “yes men”, and we all know it’s hard to admit we’re wrong in the heat of a debate. By the time we become adults, everything we read and believe is entangled with our identities. So learning something new doesn’t work the same way it did when we were kids — we’re carrying a lot more baggage around now. Controversial issues require special treatment if the goal is to find common ground and meaningful paths forward. We use what we know about people to create spaces built for exploration, conversation, and inquiry. We focus on the difficult topics that impact our everyday lives, and the impact of our everyday lives on others.
We do this in two ways: (1) Our Design Studio, which brings together diverse perspectives to co-create knowledge banks and experiences, and (2) Our Collective, which takes what we build and makes it accessible to as many people as possible, while providing the tools that you need to put them to work.
Areas of Focus
We bring people together around the issues that challenge us most.
Our initiatives lean into controversy with respect and tackle complexity with nuance. We focus on the issues that divide us, using the tools that bring us together.
Human bias shapes the way we view and construct the world from our senses to our systems. It is the root of misinformation and interpersonal conflict. Information is filtered through the media and institutional bias and our identities and pre-existing beliefs shape the evidence and sources that we do and do not take seriously. It shapes our habits, our relationships, our conflicts, and our points of view. By better understanding our personal, social, and systematic biases, we can strategize ways to navigate them.
From climate change to plastic pollution to renewable energy to endangered species, sustainability is a critical topic. Earth's immediate future depends largely on collective human behavior. It's essential that individuals have access to the research, as well as the voices of those disproportionately impacted, so that we can make informed personal and collective decisions that support healthy and sustainable ecosystems.
Mental and physical health are major barriers to fulfilling lives for many individuals. Information on how to lead the healthiest life possible, eliminating discrimination against those with atypical neurology, and understanding of research and systems for healthcare can make a big difference. This type of education requires a comfort acting amidst uncertainty, and as new technology-driven options become available, require ongoing evaluation skills.
The world is changing rapidly and many individuals feel displaced, dismissed, or unimportant in the conversation. Many innovations once written off as science fiction are finding their way into our realities, and it's our collective responsibility to ensure they do so equitably, ethically, and intentionally. As automation takes over jobs, as the convenience of AI competes with our privacy, as health innovations stir us to reconsider our values, and as bias sneaks into our technological advancements, it's essential that all communities feel ownership over their seat at the table.
Capitalism can leave a powerful mark on institutions designed to protect and serve rather than profit. We need to examine and understand our current systems, identify points of contention and conflicts of interest, and understand the options on the table to improve our society for everyone. From homelessness to poverty, to human rights, to juvenile justice, we know much more about what work and what doesn't than what typically finds its way into headlines.
Most individuals are unaware of the ways that our government, economy, and other core infrastructure operates, the access points, and the practical strategies for making a difference. For a democracy to be realized, we need to engage, inspire, and welcome informed community voices into the conversation. We need to elect diverse leaders that are representative of the population that they serve. We need to prioritize historical awareness and cultivating compassion driven by an understanding of context.
It’s Only Human
Exploring the biases that shape our world
“It’s Only Human” — our flagship show — is coming back with even more art, more experiments, and more installations that invite you to explore the ways your brain constructs its own reality. By partnering with community leaders, educators, designers, and technologists, participants will have the opportunity to engage with our collective understanding of human error, how it impacts our personal lives, how it shapes our institutions, and how it influences the lives of others.
Through research mixed with media arts, technology, and interactive exercises — as well as plenty of food, drinks, and music — we’re creating an immersive environment for people to put down their guards and question everything they thought they could trust. Participants will leave with a new respect for the limitations of their brain, a new understanding of the forces that can persuade it, and a new strategy for navigating biases in our daily lives .
Following the premier, the show will be deconstructed and packaged to scale, so that members of our Collective can tailor it to their communities.
What we Make
Our Design Studio
Exploring current issues through art, science, technology & story.
The Design Studio offers creative, fun, and credible learning experiences for adults to engage with critical current and personal issues without financial barriers. We bring together a rotating assembly of expert advisors, creative contributors, and community leaders who work with The Plenary’s team to co-create immersive and practical educational experiences. Our design studio centralizes knowledge and makes information accessible to everyone.
LIVE EVENTS & POP-UPS
Our signature events bring together experts, leaders, and creatives from across fields to design an educational experience like no other. Each one hones in on a critical issue and puts participants in the middle of the conversation. Our pop-ups are like mini-events where we invite community members to steal a sneak peak at and share their ideas on our in-the-works activities and exhibits before they’re ready for primetime.
We’re big believers in the importance of interactive learning, but that doesn’t mean multimedia and digital communications can’t be powerful tools. We use multimedia to supplement our signature events, engage new audiences, and share our work.
For the low key learning moments, we produce easy, engaging activities that support critical knowledge and skill-building. From interactive workshops to craftivism to date nights to know-and-tells, we take something we already love to do and turn it into a learning opportunity.
Exploring the consequences of human behavior
Society is built on decades of innovation, growth, and development — as well as the unintended consequences that can come with them. From the spread of infectious disease to the destruction of coral reefs to the growing infestation of plastic in our oceans, many of the choices made across human history have led to today’s challenges. “Unintended” is an investigation of nature, our interactions with it, and the massive emergent impact of countless minuscule decisions.
This show will bring together artists, scientists, historians, and advocates to co-create a multi-sensory experience on the complexity and fragility of life on Earth. Participants will get hands-on experiences, hear stories from across the globe, peer into possible futures, and help us co-build everyday strategies for cleaning up the most pressing unintended consequences of our time.
Following its premier, the elements of the show will be processed and packaged for mass distribution, and members of our Collective will be supported in bringing it to their communities.
What we Make
Supporting community leadership for the next century.
The Collective picks up where the Design Studio leaves off. Our events and activities are built for scale, and our community is built to inspire. Whether you want to complete our training and tailor a full replica of one of our signature events to your community, or just host a trivia night on a topic you care about after your next dinner party, we collect, curate, and share everything you need to make a difference in your community. Our collective decentralizes knowledge by supporting grassroots teams and individuals as they work towards local change.
Want to host a show of your own? Or turn your book club into a change-oriented study group, with a syllabus sourced from the experts? Or host a trivia night you’ll actually learn from? Or learn from the leaders that came before you? We offer our Collective members DIY kits that make everything we build accessible and ready for you to customize to your community’s needs.
RESOURCES & TRAINING
Sometimes you want to get your hands dirty, but aren’t quite sure how to do it. We pull together resources and calls-to-action from partner organizations to help you become the local leader you want to be. We also create in-depth training programs for members who want to get more involved and learn the ins and outs of running successful recreational learning events.
Inspiration is half the battle. We share stories from across our network and, encourage members to share their own, so that we can continue a cycle of learning from and supporting each other. We’re also working on more in-depth ways to connect members who want to be part of an activated community — stay tuned.
I Am A Scientist
Delivering the Stories & Science of real world researchers to classrooms everywhere
In addition to perpetuating stereotypes about scientists being Sheldon-Cooper-types in lab coats, pop culture too often paints a picture of scientists as one-dimensional, socially awkward, and dull. This - along with historical mistreatment by STEM professionals, the lack of visible role models, unconscious biases, and peer pressure - contributes to fewer females and students of color pursuing STEM college degrees, and even fewer feeling supported in their careers if they do. In the 30 years between 1973 and 2012, 66 black American women earned a PhD in Physics, compared with 22,172 white American men. Role models matter, and we need to do better.
But the lack of diversity doesn't stop there.
STEM is becoming an increasingly influential force in our personal, professional, and political lives. To ensure that society is shaped equitably by our country's best minds and ideas, it's critical that these fields reflect the multidimensionality and diversity of the American people.
Not every student wants or needs to pursue a career in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM). However - should they choose to - demographics, interests, personality, and socio-economic status should never get in their way. To do our part, we interviewed and captured images of over 20 scientists from all passions, talents, interests, and backgrounds. We’re creating classroom posters and toolkits to make STE(A)M careers technically and psychologically accessible to all students.
We need your support.
Our initiatives are funded in part by membership in our Collective. Members have access to resources, perks, and DIY activities. Our members support us, and in turn, we support our members in achieving their goals for personal activism and local leadership.