Over a period of several months we’ve been digging into our Cohort Learning Lab at Hive NYC, looking at ways to remix it to better serve the projects we pilot. Following this process, the newly-renamed Project Learning Lab got started at an initial in-person Kick-Off meeting on June 4, 2015. The purpose of this meeting was to give members running projects funded by the Hive Digital Media Learning Fund (HDMLF) in The New York Community Trust both the freedom and the tools to make this group whatever they need it to be.
At Hive NYC HQ, we want the Learning Lab to be as useful as possible to HDMLF grantees in developing their projects. We had several rounds of discussion with members and engaged in a participatory remix of the group involving Hive Research Lab. The bimonthly Project Learning Lab calls are broadly aimed at knowledge sharing, documentation, and reflection on HDMLF funded projects, all to help maximize our impact on youth. Our remix focused on articulating a clearer set of outcomes for the group, then designing ways to achieve them.
We used a shared etherpad to work collaboratively on the remix, basing our approach on the Plan, Do, Study, Act improvement science toolkit. Together, we created an aggregated list of outcomes, as well as a strategy to monitor whether or not the changes are helping to meet them. Outcomes identified include building collective knowledge, generating useful shareable artifacts, fostering agency, developing social ties, enabling feedback, and cultivating an agile design orientation.
Introducing the Project Learning Lab
The redesigned Project Learning Lab has a renewed focus on projects funded by HDMLF, since the topics we explore are closely tied to the practices in developing these programs. To begin each new RFP cycle, we’ll initially meet in-person, then connect online for subsequent meetings. At the first gathering in June, participants started by introducing the funded projects they are currently working on.
Members had an opportunity to suggest and vote on topics and themes to guide share-outs and conversations, including pedagogical techniques, organizational processes, and disciplinary focal points.
Those present at the Kick-Off suggested guest experts to invite to meetings. These guests will provide feedback and suggestions on member projects, looking at specific areas of practice as well as outcomes, contextualizing the group’s learning by creating a wider conversation within the field.
The meeting also explored guidelines for creating “evergreen” presentations when documenting HDMLF projects. Manager of Digital Programming at New York Hall of Science and experienced Learning Lab participant Anthony Negron shared an example of what this might look like, exploring how he represents his projects.
A significant new addition to the Project Learning Lab is an informal “buddy” system, with participants at the Kick-Off pairing up to work together—each pair was free to define what the nature of their buddy relationship would be. The intention with this new system is to create connections between members, through which they can share expertise and support one another, without the need for micromanagement from Hive NYC HQ. Attendees worked out who they would connect with going forward and agreed on timeframes for checking in with one another.
What isn’t changing?
The Project Learning Lab will retain some of the key ingredients we used with the Cohort Learning Lab. The group will continue to meet online every six weeks for up to an hour. Although the primary purpose of the group is for HDMLF grantees to share progress and feedback, the meetings will remain open to any community member who wants to take part, and will be made available / archived through public channels as before. The funded programs our network members pilot exemplify the practices we aim to advance as a community—we are excited to see what impact our renewed approach to project development will have in improving both the quality and spread of the learning experiences we create for youth.