On April 23, 2015, 80 Hive NYC members gathered at the American Museum of Natural History for State of Hive NYC. Below is a recap of the event, which highlights these ten features that are truly unique to this community: 1. Generous hosts, 2. Diverse organizations and individuals, 3. Value and opportunity, 4. Community input, 5. Alumni expertise, 6. Vision and purpose, 7. Unique assets, 8. Dance jams, 9. Collaborative vision, 10. Open mic
Every year Hive NYC HQ invites representatives from lead organizations to an annual State of Hive NYC meet-up to participate in a lively discussion about values, purpose and practice. This meet-up is designed to provide an overview of the current Hive NYC landscape and identify goals for collective impact. It is an opportunity to plant the seeds for what comes next and to practice identifying and building upon the larger concerns and commonalities within our work. As network membership and ecosystem grow, our ability to leverage community assets is also strengthened, allowing us to create more robust collaborations.
1. Generous hosts
The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) generously hosted this year’s State of Hive NYC event. They provided wonderful facilities, food and staff to assist us throughout the three hour event. To top it off they surprised us with a very special swag give-away!
AMNH has been a member of the Hive NYC Learning Network since 2009, when Hive NYC was a very new and experimental idea. As a founding member, they have seen the network evolve and grow into what a recent Forbes article calls “one of the more advanced initiatives working to provide tech education to New York City students”. We are grateful to AMNH not only for offering their facilities and time to this event, but also for their amazing contributions to Hive NYC over the last six years. Their continued involvement in the community is a compelling demonstration of what we can achieve as a learning network.
2. Diverse organizations and individuals
More than 70 individuals participated this year, representing a diverse range of youth-serving organizations in NYC. Some are small and new to the network, like Divas For Social Justice. Others are large and have been participating in Hive NYC activity for years, like Parsons The New School for Design. These differing experiences, backgrounds and sources of expertise help make events like this exciting and unique.
Early in the event Leah Gilliam, Director of Hive NYC, talked about “honoring the strength and power in our differences”. Participants were asked to use the event as an opportunity to meet new people and identify where organizational differences and strengths overlap. This set the stage for the activities, discussions and thinking that followed.
3. Value and opportunity
We started the event with an activity to get participants brainstorming on opportunities and values that members have access to through the network. They wrote ideas down on post-it notes and placed them on one of two prompts hanging on the wall. It was illuminating to see the wall fill up with a variety of responses. Here are a few samples of the results:
- Two of the things I value most about Hive NYC are:
- innovation and talent
- partnership and opportunities
- network and like minds
- Hive gives me the opportunity to:
- see what other organizations are doing and learn how I can support their work
- try new things
- broaden my perspective
4. Community input
We hired a photographer to help us document and capture community reflections and feedback. Along with these photos, we offered a video testimonial booth, where participants could leave short clips about their experiences as Hive NYC community members. 16 participants recorded a range of great ideas and perspectives, touching on topics such as networked thinking, partnerships, digital literacy and youth pathways.
5. Alumni expertise
We invited three Hive NYC Alumni to make guest appearances at the event. All three of them talked about how being a part of the network has guided their work and connected them to new opportunities.
Juan Rubio, formerly the Associate Director of Online Leadership Program at Global Kids Inc., referenced specific projects that demonstrate the opportunity Hive NYC creates for “groups of people coming together and creating really strong programs”. Kevin Miklasz, formerly the Director of Digital Learning at Iridescent, talked about another Hive NYC project highlighting “the ease and the ability in which we are able to form collaborations” and “the openness and flexibility to innovate”. Anne Greg, the Director of Community Programs at Carnegie Hall, described Hive NYC’s impact on youth and how it is “clear that the Hive Learning Network is an engaged and engaging group of leaders who care about young people and care about learning with and from each other”. “If the group can leverage this energy and potential, great things can happen.”
6. Vision and purpose
After a 10 minute refreshment break, Leah Gilliam energized participants with the opening State of Hive NYC presentation. She began by noting the growing nature of Hive NYC, recognizing the new faces and organizations in the room as proof of Hive NYC’s vibrancy and success. Noting that Hive NYC’s growth was happening in the midst of larger changes, Leah reminded community members of the importance of knowing one’s vision and purpose in the midst of change. Leah specifically pointed to Hive NYC’s importance as a complex and diverse environment, noting that our strength as a network lies in our abilities to learn from and build upon one another’s differences. “Today”, she said “is about vision. It’s about generating a collective and shared vision of what we as a group value in the midst of change.”
Hive NYC is a growing and evolving community. And with growth often comes change. As new organizations and individuals join the network, new priorities and possibilities arise. This affects key features of the landscape. While things like funder priorities, collaboration opportunities and network practices may shift, we don’t want to lose site of our roots, what balances us and what is important to us—the hive community.
Leah concluded with an introduction to the next activity designed to help organizations think about what they valued as well as a sense of the collective value of Hive NYC.
7. Unique assets
Following Juan Rubio’s thoughtful video and Leah Gilliam’s bird’s-eye view of Hive NYC, participants got started on an activity to identify and map organizational assets to a modified Success Weakness Opportunities Threats (SWOT) Hand-out. A SWOT analysis (alternatively called SWOT matrix) is a “structured planning method used to evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats involved in a project”. “It can be carried out for a product, place, industry or person and involves specifying the objective of the project and identifying the internal and external factors that are favorable and unfavorable to achieve that objective.” (Wikipedia)
What resulted was a large collection of assets ranging from expertise, to on-site equipment, curricular resources and much more. Documenting these assets was the first step in identifying innovations, non-negotiables and important components to each member’s work with Hive NYC going forward.
After completing the hand-out individually, participants were asked to find a partner (someone they had never worked with before) and discuss their responses. They exchanged their SWOT Matrix and learned about the similarities and differences in what was shared.
8. Dance jams
In-between activities and discussions, we enjoyed some classic hip-hop jams thanks to a playlist by Melissa Anderson. Tracks include Let the Music Play by Shannon, I’m Gonna Get You by Bizarre Inc., Everybody, Everybody by Black Box, Back to Life by Soul II Soul and more.
9. Collaborative vision
The last activity of the day was a group exercise, with ten groups of roughly seven people. Over the course of around 40 minutes, each group created a collaborative Hive NYC vision statement. Getting there was not easy.
Groups started by choosing four assets from their SWOT analysis and listing them on post-it notes. They discussed and curated their lists to determine where and how each of their organizations aligned. Through this conversation and as they mapped out their vision for Hive NYC, groups were asked to consider the overarching Mozilla Hive Learning goals to Mobilize, Create, Catalyze and Grow. Groups were given a sample sentence to work from, but encouraged to create one of their own. These guiding questions helped as they collaboratively worked:
- How can what you value in Hive NYC (refer to first activity) and your organizational assets (see SWOT Matrix) ground this vision statement?
- What can you agree on with your group members?
- What do you want to see going forward based on current Hive NYC realities and opportunities?
Each statement was hung on the wall and one person from each group presented the idea by reading it aloud. Each participant was then able to choose the statement they agreed with most. They could vote on the full statement or choose a small piece by placing a dot sticker near it.
10. Open mic
We closed the event with an open mic. Several participants stood up to announce upcoming events, opportunities, reflections and youth programs. Naomi Solomon, from MOUSE, shared details and exciting updates about Emoti-con!. Hillary Kolos, from Dreamyard, gave an update about an ongoing collaboration with Parsons the New School for Design: Digital Learning Portfolios. Aaron Lazansky (a.k.a SpazeCraft), an independant artist teaching for several organizations, announced his work on an upcoming youth produced radio show.
This type of closing is very common among Hive NYC community gatherings. It is a representation of the constant activity and unwavering commitment individuals in this network share.
The State of Hive NYC meet-up reflects the unique set of characteristics that make this community such a valuable one to be part of. Our creativity, diversity of expertise and resources, and connections to one another through the network together make our ambitious goals achievable.