We often talk about Hive NYC as a learning lab, where we collectively explore, test and build innovative learning experience for youth. We have numerous opportunities to come together and share our practices, our challenges and our successes. In the past week, members from Rev- have led a professional development workshop, Institute of Play has shared best practices and process templates for creating self-directed, challenge-based learning activities, Global Kids has reignited the Hive NYC youth council and Hive HQ and Global Kids has shared thinking and design principles for Hive NYC’s digital badge design. This is in addition to participating in our regular slate of meet-ups, day jobs, activities and community calls. This is Hive NYC at our busy, participatory, collaborative hive best. But we want to get even better at analyzing, understanding and applying the learnings currently being pursued within the network.
I came on board as Hive Portfolio Strategist to help foster this learning lab environment, to examine how members and projects could be aligned based on affinity and resources, and to generate a pipeline of creative collaborations and critical interactions. Most importantly, I also came on board to help assess and facilitate what the network is building in order to improve and better understand it. As a team, Hive HQ sees Hive Learning Network as a unique model for innovation, and youth and educator motivation in a distributed, openly networked environment. But as die-hard Hivers, we hold a healthy skepticism about our practice and are always eager to iterate and change to create a learning network that is participatory, nimble and connected.
One attempt to make Hive NYC’s learning lab approach more visible and tangible within the network, is a new effort to treat the latest round of Hive Digital Media Learning Fund grantees as a mini-learning lab. While grantee programs and timelines are varied, the October 2012 grantees are essentially all “passing GO” at the same time—same contracts, same receipt of funding. Given this commonality, our vision is for the newest grantees to become a hive within the Hive, a small cohort of colleagues who not only teach, learn and mentor one another but also offer Hive HQ explicit and actionable feedback.
The Mini-Lab Experiment
While Hive HQ is always here to offer support, a key concern for the sustainability and success of the network and the Hive NYC “portfolio” is concretizing the kind of support that members can offer each other. Specifically, how can Hive HQ seed and foster network members to implement their own ideas to impact and change the network?
We gathered grantees via phone and Etherpad for a 45-minute session to discuss and plan how best to approach our new mini-lab and its concerns. We set up a basic framework to share newly funded projects and ideas for the mini-lab, pre-populating an Etherpad with basic prompts.
- What would be most helpful for you as grantees?
- What hasn’t worked in the past?
- What structures do we want to formalize?
- What infrastructure do we still need?
- How can we make this successful?
It never ceases to amaze me how much you can accomplish in 10 minutes on a conference call. It’s a simple recipe—a few pointed questions, a collaborative document with chat functionality and complete silence. Our network works and thinks well together and we always appreciate their openness and willingness to share their feedback and ideas.
As former Hive NYC members, both Chris and I understand Hive NYC projects as the messy, info-packed learning experiences that they are—equally exhilarating and exhausting. We also understand that despite the best intentions one doesn’t always have time for gathering documentation and reflection and meaningful assessment. Reporting to your colleagues and sharing project outcomes is distinctly different than sending out a final report or project narrative to a group of funders you may not know. Our hope is that remixing this learning lab approach will help the network identify and solve some of these concerns and help HQ play test templates, content and mechanisms to make learning about and from the network more profitable.
Where We’ve Landed, For Now
We know members want to collaborate, learn more about and from one another, and most importantly, find ways to connect their interests and needs so they too, can experience the network effect as a learning opportunity.
After reviewing the Etherpad comments with a fine-tooth comb, here are the next steps we’ve outlined for Hive HQ and the mini-learning lab:
- A schedule that combines face-to-face meetings and virtual hangouts, approximately every six weeks.
- A Hive Youth Council planned event to bring youth together to share their work and build community.
- A communications boot camp to help serve the a pressing need to tell project narratives and integrate Hive NYC experiences while they are happening.
- PDs to focus on digital and webmaking skills beginning with a Popcorn workshop on January 17.
- More resources and structures around communications needs and sharing work (final reports, blog posts, presentations at meet-ups, PDs, community calls, etc.)
- Determine affinity groups within Hive NYC to support members as they pursue their projects and interests.