In November and December 2014, the Partnership for After School Education (PASE) led a series of roundtables for Hive organizations. In October 2014, Hive Digital Media Learning Fund grants were awarded to help organizations spread and scale their programs—expanding them in the context of new ideas and partnerships and/or developing their existing content. The workshops provided a supportive environment for participants to collectively take their first steps in planning “to reach more students and educators throughout the City and beyond”, in the words of Kerry McCarthy, New York Community Trust program officer.
In alignment with Hive Learning Networks’ five-year plan to mobilize educators, creating new tools, content and practices for broad use, spread and scale represent a crucial aspect of the ambitious goal of educational transformation in which connected learning and web literacy become central to the experience of youth across the city.
These participatory sessions demonstrated Hive in its function as a peer-to-peer learning lab and ecosystem for sharing discoveries and best practice, immersing members in a variety of productive activities including group roundtable discussions, self-reflection, and resource sharing. Focusing on identifying challenges and possible solutions, meeting face-to-face in a community of practice, and linking existing knowledge to new situations, develops the bonds between participants.
Representatives of PASE and Hive NYC brought their experiences in this complex area—leading six practical, information-rich sessions, starting with an assessment of programs being prepared for spread and scale, then going on to navigate the key tasks of curriculum development, capacity, outcomes and evaluation, marketing, and action planning. Taking part in the workshops gave members an opportunity to explore shared experiences and connect with other organizations / individual practitioners with relevant specialties. Working “open” distributed learning gains across the network, with notes shared and participants reporting back on sessions through Hive NYC’s list serve.
Participants in the workshops reflected the diversity of the Hive NYC community and activity—small to large organizations, new partnerships and projects at different developmental stages were represented. A total of 23 organizations took part, individually and representing collaborative projects. Members in receipt of funding specifically for spread and scale included MOUSE, Iridescent Learning, Radio Rookies, Tribeca Film Institute, Global Action Project, Bank Street and Lamp, YMCA, and Eyebeam. Some members acting in new partnerships were also present: Wagner College and Tech Kids Unlimited; Knowledge House and The Point; Rubin Museum and Museum of Math.
Programs planned for spread and scale were equally varied, with topics including web literacy, digital media for skateboarders, teachers exploring connected learning principles, badging (for design and mobile fitness apps), and engineering/coding for fashion and tech.
Assessing Successes and Challenges in Programs Planned for Spread and Scale
The first session focused on introducing member projects, with participants sharing perceived success factors and the associated connected learning practices, from engagement through collaboration to hard and soft skill development, and stimulating youth on relevant interests. Potential pitfalls were also anticipated, from partner management and communication to maintaining vision.
Curriculum Development—Balancing Objectives with Adaptability
The second session explored curriculum development, for audiences potentially including youth and/or adults. The benefits of taking an iterative approach and arriving at a clear expression of learning objectives (along with partners) were highlighted. Participants were encouraged to ask themselves why they were developing the curriculum, who the end user would be and how it would be delivered to them. Discussions highlighted the value of being prepared for feedback and remaining mindful of the core backbone of a program.
Capacity—Opportunities and Implications
Alison Overseth, PASE’s Executive Director, launched session three with a primer on the core aspects of capacity to spread and scale. Participants were reminded to consider whether expansion would allow a project to remain consistent with their organization’s mission (in terms of geographical area, target demographic, and suitability for stakeholders). Members considered their ability to retain standards, their relevant assets, and staff skill levels. More detailed discussions touched on the fact that growth can be in terms of depth rather than breadth and that a small organization can have a big presence.
Outcomes and Evaluation through Participatory Engagement
For the fourth session Megan Demarkis, formerly of Harlem RBI, presented evaluation as being about more than justifying or attracting funding. Evaluation metrics were defined in terms of both the numbers of youth benefiting and the factors driving them to engage. How do you measure program quality? Asking how young people will change due to your service is a key indicator—but establishing whether youth have attained this type of outcome can be a challenge.
- Evaluation Checklist
- Outcomes and Evaluation/Assessment Resources
- Outcomes and Evaluation Presentation
Marketing—Aligning Goals with Identity
PASE used their experience with the Developmental Studies Center as a foundation for the fifth session on marketing—the language of which sometimes sits uncomfortably in a non-profit context. Marketing was distilled to knowing what your product is, how to sell it, and how others will know about / receive it. Strategic steps discussed included identifying your audience at an early stage and establishing a concise message using effective language (sometimes with constraints in force within an organization).
Action Planning and Overview
PASE introduced action planning with reference to their Explorers program in the sixth and final session, looking at steps, milestones, budgets and evaluation. Participants prepared to advance their plans with a storyboarding exercise outlining action steps.
This session also saw members reflecting on the workshops themselves, expressing an appreciation of the value of spread and scale, the strengths existing in members, and the inherent complexity of topic—qualified by a consensus that it is an achievable task!
- Action Plan Form
- Action Planning Presentation
- Resource Packet
- Storyboard Templates: 1 2
- Feedback Form
To find out more about this work, join Hive NYC’s April 7 Community Call where PASE will share lessons and best practices from the Spread and Scale Workshops.