Where to Next, Hive?
April 2014, marks the third year of Hive NYC HQ’s work as consultant to the Hive Digital Media Learning Fund in The New York Community Trust. In that time, The Fund has awarded over $4.5 million to Hive NYC members and their colleagues, not only to seed and develop new projects through collaborative partnerships but also travel and present this work here and abroad. As Hive models and practices are being adopted and adapted across cities globally, Hive NYC HQ has been eager to examine the role of Hive NYC within the city’s current milieu. The 2014 State of the Hive meet-up provided a great opportunity to begin a larger conversation with the network about how to finetune priorities, identify allies and build effective partnerships and tools.
On March 20, representatives from 49 Hive NYC member organizations assembled at the Centre for Social Innovation NYC for the semiannual State of the Hive meet-up. Unlike most Hive NYC meet-ups, which are voluntary, this was a mandatory convening to consider Hive NYC’s future direction. The streamlined attendance list—at least one delegate from each member organization—was designed to help Hive NYC members most effectively achieve the goal of surveying their larger landscape. Specifically, we at HQ wanted the myriad Hive NYC member organizations to consider this question: What are my pressing concerns and who in Hive NYC shares them with me?
Building the Frame
Working together to identify and explore problems impacting our work has been the modus operandi of Hive NYC since its inception. It’s why Hive NYC youth, facilitators, educators and designers joined Mozilla developers to prototype X-Ray Goggles (then known as Hackasaurus) as a scalable tool to teach and learn the web. For State of the Hive 2014, Hive HQ wanted to draw on this history of knowledge work so that stakeholders could explore concerns and converge around shared goals. Specifically, we wanted Hive NYC representatives to: 1) identify larger goals and concerns; 2) recognize others with similar or complementary interests; and 3) prioritize stated goals and concerns to determine their organization’s role (and stake) in where Hive NYC goes next.
To better prepare for this work, Hive NYC HQ began exploring design-based structures to aid member organizations in thinking strategically and analytically together. I turned to Gamestorming: A Playbook for innovators, rule-breakers and changemakers, for some clear and thoughtful approaches to help groups, large and small, navigate the difficult terrain of doing knowledge work and making decisions together. One of the biggest takeaways from the gamestorming concept is that simple tools can be used to navigate “fuzzy,” complex goals. Even though the task of answering the question we posed to members—Where can Hive go next together—seemed daunting, we used the facilitation activities within Gamestorming as a guide to different approaches. For more about the specific mechanisms we used, read Programs Manager Julia Vallera‘s in-depth recap.
Connecting the Dots
As the organizations assembled at the meet-up, we at Hive NYC HQ outlined the premise and our approach to collectively building an overview of the current state of Hive NYC. We began with a few guiding questions. If Hive NYC wants to have an impact on areas that we care about, then we must identify and prioritize those goals as a group. I began the meet-up by describing some of the recent changes within the network since our last mandatory gathering and spent time outlining the goal we were working toward—converging around ideas, roadblocks and solutions in order to more precisely impact the areas that we care about. (Click here for full slide deck)
Working as a group, Hive NYC representatives distilled our current situation by identifying a range of trends, factors, concerns and needs. We remixed the Context Map framework from Gamestorming to fill in the specificities of the landscape together. First we defined what this is landscape as a large group, then participants divided into individual organizations to build a more relevant context map on their own. Next, member representatives met in groups to compare their organizational landscapes and assign specific problems, ideas and solutions to color-coded Post-it notes. Last, Hive representatives went back to their organizationally specific perspective, using colored stickers to perform a dot-vote to indicate areas of high-priority and interest. In shifting the lens from a specific organization to a network perspective, we sought to help participants hone the skills we would all need in the future—namely, prioritizing concerns, forming new allies to examine entrenched problems and synthesizing and aligning different points of view.
As recent practitioners of the gamestorming concept, we made sure to conclude the meet-up reviewing areas of convergence. Chris Lawrence, Senior Director of Mozilla’s Webmaker Community, led the group in a spirited session in which people vocalized some of the feedback and ideas that were expressed on the colored Post-it notes from the earlier session. Encouraging people to stand and identify themselves if they were particularly swayed by an issue. Finally, we invited a Hive member with a possible solution to a current vexing problem to share his idea with the group. Juan Rubio, Associate Director of Global Kids‘ Online Leadership Program, complied, presenting his idea for a series of teen meet-ups that would provide regular opportunities for Hive’s youth participants to make and learn together.
What We Heard
Since the meet-up, Hive NYC HQ has been inundated with Post-it notes and colored dots, grouping areas of affinity and matching ideas and problems to identify larger trends. These Post-it notes offer a snapshot of Hive NYC members’ concerns and provide the data and input for some of our future work together. One of the areas that received the most attention from members can be categorized as brokering new and existing relationships. Articulating desires such as “Creating frameworks to see the bigger picture and facilitate connections” and “connect with like-minded groups” made it clear that Hive members need assistance in maximizing collaborative partnerships. Another area of concern was for the investment in future professional and economic opportunities for New York City youth. Knowledge discovery and sharing was a theme that crosscut several subject areas, with Hive NYC representatives emphasizing a strong desire to draw on Hive NYC community expertise to marshal forces around common causes and address problems faced by practitioners.
In May, Hive NYC HQ will begin alternating the monthly meet-ups to focus on sharing skills, exchanging expertise, and building and creating together. And with the data we have collected from this knowledge work, we look forward to developing new mechanisms to help Hive member organizations connect more meaningfully around collective concerns. To that end, Hive Research Lab will launch two co-design charrettes with Hive members and stakeholders aligned with the topics of increasing knowledge flow and discovery and the creation of pathways and experiences for youth as evidenced by the State of the Hive meeting. Through the charrettes, Hive Research Lab will be forming “action oriented sub-groups” that will continue working on ideas and projects that serve the organizations and youth in Hive NYC. In conjunction with these sessions, Hive NYC HQ will create a more formalized structure to materially support Hive member ideas and solutions as we continue to pursue our commitment to the use of the open web, digital skills and Connected Learning.