Oct 16 2014

Rethinking Contribution and Membership

Community, Connected Learning, Hive Learning Networks, Mozilla

hivenyc

On October 2, Hive NYC HQ hosted Hive 101, a meet-up to welcome interested individuals, organizations and start-ups from across the city to learn first-hand about our work and future directions. The two-hour session presented Hive Learning Networks as a growing and demonstrated model and addressed the specific history and the context within which we work. For Hive NYC HQ, the gathering provided an opportunity to showcase our recent thinking about community membership and contributions. Whether it was an individual practitioner or a newly formed organization, our invitation to those who joined the meet-up was the same—Hive has big ambitious goals and we want more people to explore, embrace and shape our work.

As mentioned in David Sibbet’s work (and as I noted in Unpacking Hive’s Ambitious Goals), one of the signs of a sustainability-minded organization is the shedding of practices that no longer serve the larger mission. As Hive NYC moves from a start-up to a more growth-oriented model, its approach to engaging and working with its larger community of stakeholders has changed and matured as well. Hive NYC HQ’s weekly office hour sessions have provided an open door policy to share practices and meet with people in the field. The “Indie Member” initiative led by Jeremy Berman, which specifically welcomes and supports individual stakeholders into Hive NYC, provides another example of a more expansive approach to newcomers. As more people sign-up for Hive NYC’s mailing list or reach out directly to find out how they can get involved, it has become clear that Hive NYC engages a wider community beyond the member organizations listed on our website. As a result, the old practice of determining alignment and future contribution based on invitation or application is an early Hive NYC practice that no longer serves our goals. Read Hive Research Lab on How Organizations “Interface” with Hive NYC Learning Network.

Hive NYC 101 Checklist

marksurman_open-web_drawing

As the first Hive network stewarded by Mozilla, Hive NYC is deeply inspired by both Connected Learning and the Open Web

In preparing for the Hive NYC 101 Orientation, I developed a punch list of key concepts, some of which are relevant here. First, each Hive Learning Network or Community is unique, developed in response to local needs, histories and conditions. Second, a key component of Hive NYC’s DNA is how we envision the practices across the network—we see our work as both exploratory and laboratory-like. Third, Hive NYC HQ’s role in the network is as a partner and not a funder. Fourth, Hive Learning Networks were designed to put digital media and learning research, design and learning principles to the test and into action. Fifth, Hive NYC is stewarded by Mozilla and inspired by the Open Web. The above characteristics permeate and drive Hive’s work here in NYC. As the first Hive network to be stewarded by Mozilla, we are inspired by free/open source software to work open—to create practices and tools that users have the freedom to “run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve.” See the Hive NYC 101 deck for more information. Read Hive Research Lab’s community whitepaper What Does it Mean to Work Open in Hive NYC?. Read Mark Surman’s early thinking about Mozilla’s unique role in this work, Creating a Web Literate Planet (Proposal).

Aligning Theory and Practice

When organizational priorities, local context and Hive NYC interact—contribution and collaboration is strongest

When organizational priorities, local context and Hive NYC interact—contribution and collaboration is strongest

As Hive NYC sheds practices that no longer fit our approach, we’ll seek to update the concept that participation and contribution to Hive follows one specific pattern. In November, Hive NYC will launch a community page on its website. This page will echo the Hive orientation session and carry a specific call-to-action for the adult practitioners interested in contributing to (and benefiting from) the work of Hive NYC. Using the action verbs—explore, participate, lead—the community page will seek to codify and systematize the patterns of discovery and sense-making that we see around us. Although there are many ways to get involved with Hive NYC, a phased and considered process of integration is a common and successful approach. For Hive NYC-curious organizations and individuals, it is important to emphasize the learning curve that collaborative processes and new practices sometimes demand. While our messaging to date has emphasized our most engaged collaborators, the community page modifies the current language so more people can design and find multiple points of engagement. Preview the 10 Ways to Get Involved handout or get started now.

Hive NYC’s laboratory approach signals our work as a partner and not a funder. Hive NYC’s commitment to how outcomes are reached privileges the specific discoveries and challenges community members broach when they engage in the exploratory and collaborative practices that characterize our work. As a learning network, Hive educators teach, make and learn within the context of a larger, cross-disciplinary community of practice. The invitation to explore, participate (and eventually lead) within Hive is an attempt to recognize the myriad ways that individuals contribute to and benefit from Hive outside of the funded partnerships—including brokering relationships, exchanging expertise, co-designing solutions and sharing opportunities. It also attempts to recognize the myriad paths that individuals take as they figure out their relationship to Hive and the unique processes of networked innovation. Read Hive Research Lab, What are the “Practices” of Innovation? and Innovation Practices and Hive NYC.

openhere_graphicA more dynamic and responsive approach to recognizing contribution across Hive’s community of adult stakeholders is also a recognition of New York City’s changing landscape. When Hive NYC was formed in 2009, it was easier and simpler to determine who was doing what within the relatively nascent field of digital media and learning. A stable list of member organizations was not only easier to generate but also easier to maintain. Some five years later, it’s clear that the value and benefit of Hive for organizations is based on a confluence of factors around timing and readiness. Contribution to Hive is strongest and return on investment most beneficial for everyone when there is an alignment between organizational/individual priorities, local context, funding prerogatives and Hive’s vision and goals. Going forward, we’ll work to better illustrate this dynamic. Specifically, we’ll seek to illustrate Hive NYC’s systems and supports and the range of projects and activities happening across the  nodes and hubs of the network. The updated Current Members listing on Hive’s website provides an early example of this dynamic approach. In contrast to the fixed graphic at the top of the page, the Current Members listing pulls an up-to-date accounting of all of the organizations, companies and networks currently listed in Hive NYC’s online community directory. Although the language and wording of this page is still in progress, being able to see the range of organizations aligned and involved with our work is a giant step forward. See Current Members Listing.

Hive’s ambitious goals—to mobilize, catalyze, create and grow—call upon all of us to push the boundaries of our practice to be broader and more inclusive. For Hive NYC HQ, rethinking community involvement and what it means to function in a more open and laboratory-like way is an ongoing part of this process. After taking some time to try out the above mentioned approaches, we feel confident that a more accurate and inclusive way of defining and illustrating Hive NYC participation strategies will help us to grow in a more meaningful way. Hive NYC’s recent orientation provided an opportunity to explain the support systems and structures that we have in place and to recruit new collaborators to the learning events, design charrettes, community calls and discussion forums that drive our work. Now we’re incorporating the feedback and revising the language and systems to better reflect what we’ve learned.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks for updates to Hive NYC’s website, including a contributor’s guide for those interested in leading Hive’s work to spread and scale connected learning and web literacy and a welcome packet for those interested in exploring what Hive NYC has to offer.

Leave a Comment