Scott Keoni Shigeoka
Born in Hawaii, I grew up in the small town of `Aiea right next to Pearl Harbor. I lived in a tiny wooden house that stood on what used to be sugar plantations. My ancestors moved from Japan to Hawaii to work those fields. And before that, it was Ahupua`a—where Native Hawaiians harvested loʻi, fished and lived.
When I was a kid, my dad and I spent weeks constructing a two-story treehouse in the mango tree in our backyard. When we finally finished, we climbed to the top floor to celebrate. We sat down, took a breath in and then looked out at the beautiful view of the surrounding neighborhood and lush, green mountains.
A few weeks later, my dad went to prison. I was entering the seventh grade, stepping into the toughest two years of my childhood. I was grappling with my identities, working through my dad's imprisonment, healing through sexual trauma and experiencing constant bullying. I felt isolated and broken. But at the end of each school day, I'd run up to the top of the treehouse, and I'd take the view in. It became my sanctuary. It helped me heal. It was as if my dad knew that I would need that treehouse in those years to come.
Over time, I slowly started to engage with others again. Once retreating into the fantastical lands portrayed in my computer video games, I eventually ventured out into the "real world." I went on my first camping trip. I joined clubs. I made friends. I started to feel a sense of belonging to the people around me. By high school, I had formed a strong community built on trust, security, empathy and a whole lot of effort. I was voted Homecoming King.
Since then, I've been reflecting: What can my past teach me about the work I do today, and what does that mean for the future? Why did my treehouse become a space for healing, and how do we design and build those kinds of spaces for others? How was I able to foster community, and can we take those lessons to forge deeper connections among thousands or millions of people?
Today, I’m exploring these questions with curiosity and joy. I'm designing new spaces for people to connect, learn and collaborate with others. I’m working alongside community leaders who inspire me. I’m expanding my understanding of how and where we find healing. The journey has been deeply purposeful and playful, and it’s a path that I’m dedicating my life to.
I design meaningful, human experiences. I work with senses, spaces and performances to construct non-ordinary worlds that help people live more fully in the ordinary one. I embody a feminine and doula-like leadership style. I guide people through natural moments of transition — similar to a birth — and help them push past their own "limiting beliefs" when bringing something to life. I'm working on my first book called letting the world take me (2019), a collection of short stories and poems. I'm a former music writer with The Washington Post.
I'm a Community Design Lead at IDEO, where I train, fund and support extraordinary leaders with advancing community initiatives that tackle social issues. I'm on a mission to decolonize design, and work with world-class partners to establish programs that help communities access more wealth, power, knowledge and relationships. I'm the founder of a social enterprise that created music festivals, artist residencies and leadership summits in Iceland, where I was a former Fulbright scholar and MTV Networks fellow.
Today, I spend a lot of my time deepening into my Japanese roots and holding space for difficult yet healing conversations with the younger version of myself. I'm also working on being more concise and making this bio shorter.