Our Story

Hello, fellow human.

Our world faces many urgent issues that require people to come together and find fresh capabilities and solutions. Yet on local, national and international levels, it seems we are more divided than ever by social, economic, and political differences; less common purpose, more yelling, less listening, more fear. How do we get un-divided so that we can work together and move forward? 

At Treehouse Institute, we believe it is critical today and for humanity’s future to engage people across social divides. 

Treehouse Institute is an internationally recognized social innovation lab dedicated to creating safe spaces for brave conversations and new interactions. We use storytelling, design thinking and making, and other humanistic practices to develop programs that build empathy, agency and hopeful action in our communities.


Adam Burk


Adam Burk is a serial community builder and innovator. He has a knack and passion for working with people to accomplish things they have never done before. He was selected by the World Economic Forum to create the Portland Global Shapers Hub in 2015. He led teams to open Portland’s first public charter school – Baxter Academy for Technology and Science; seed and grow 12 Farm to School programs; and develop Maine’s most successful conference for innovation and creativity – TEDxDirigo. He lives in Portland, Maine, with his wife, Molly, and their two young kids.



Gil is an explorer, cross-cultural facilitator and entrepreneurial business leader. He has studied  international business and relations in Virginia/Washington, D.C. He’s lived in Russia and  attended school in Moscow and St. Petersburg. He’s designed and led cultural expeditions on the  Trans-Siberian Railway and along the ancient trade routes of the Silk Road through China,  Russia, Mongolia, Central Asia, and the Middle East. He worked in Iran before returning to the  United States after 9/11 to begin building Frontier – a destination where people gather to explore  the world through food, film, music and art. Frontier has evolved into a special kind of meeting  place reminiscent of a traveler’s crossroads – where stories, ideas and culture interact to ignite  possibility, purpose and innovation. TEDxDirigo is one such initiative born from this interaction.


Alyssa Bouthot – The Swan Agency Sotheby’s International Realty
Caitie Whelan – Lightning Notes
Kate Howe – Better Yet Design + AIGA National Board
Mark Dvorozniak – Marketing Strategy Decisions
Sally Struever – 317 Main Community Music School + Little Giant
Tracy Floyd – 451 Research


A Reflection by Adam Burk:

The name Treehouse is an homage to my childhood experiences building treehouses in the woods near my childhood home. Fueled by curiosity, problem solving, and an awe for nature, I spent countless hours up in the trees. These treehouses were my first experience building something outside of anyone’s rules. I was constantly experimenting, failing, and learning. My materials were recycled and salvaged, and it was one of my earliest experiences understanding the vital connection between my endeavors and the natural world. The treehouses were adjacent places where my friends from all over the neighborhood would gather and create together. Problems and success were shared collectively. To this day, when I see treehouses, they invoke wonder, excitement and ingenuity. And so I thought the treehouse was the perfect symbol for the kind of spaces we create – rooted in their places, adjacent to existing structures, and inviting curiosity and experimentation.