In September 2018, network members established the Hive NYC Council through a consensus vote, officially making Hive a member-led network. Formed in 2009, the network has historically been governed and facilitated by an independent steward; first the Social Science Research Council and then, from 2011 until 2017, the Mozilla Foundation. The evolution of Hive NYC into a member-led network is a testament to the work of these stewards – in concert with members, they fostered a community of organizations and educators across the city that was committed to values of open experimentation, collaboration and learning around the intersection of youth development and digital media. This work contributed to substantial advancement and embrace of community-based digital learning approaches throughout many of the city’s youth-serving institutions over the course of almost a decade.
But what this institutional narrative could easily miss is the fact that Hive NYC has a rich history of member leadership – in many ways, members were leading throughout its development. In 2011, Chris Lawrence, of the member organization NySci (then the New York Hall of Science), became the first Hive NYC Network Director under Mozilla’s stewardship. In 2012, Leah Gilliam, of network member Institute of Play, joined as Portfolio Director, and then as Network Director from 2013 to 2015. In 2013, I co-developed, with my research partner Dixie Ching, Hive Research Lab – an embedded research-practice partnership dedicated to studying and advancing network knowledge around key priorities. Both of us had been active members of the network since its founding; Dixie from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, and me from Global Kids. In 2016, Chrystian Rodriguez joined the Hive NYC team as community manager, and Meghan McDermott worked at Mozilla on Hive city strategy, both of them coming from member organization Global Action Project. Similar dynamics have been at play in Hive Chicago, our midwest ‘sister’ network.
This is more than just an exercise in charting the evolving resumés of these individuals – it shows the reality that Hive NYC has a long history of members stepping up into positions of leadership, ones where they were then able to cultivate the community through a knowledge of what it meant to be part of it. It also meant that members and leadership had a more solid foundation of trust, not just because of rich relationships cultivated through shared participation, and often collaboration, within the network, but also through having a shared understanding of what it meant to do the daily work of designing and implementing programs, mentoring youth, and building capacity in their own community-based organizations.
When Mozilla announced at the end of 2017 that it was ending its education programs, including its stewardship of Hive Networks, it very easily could have meant the end of the network actively coming together as a community of learners. But its history, and, in particular, its tradition of network leaders who came from network ranks, meant that something else was possible. The interim stewardship by the Partnership for Afterschool Education, who stepped up after what was a somewhat rapid move by Mozilla, created breathing room necessary for members to come together to deliberate on the network’s future. In forming the Hive NYC Council, the network isn’t doing sometime entirely new, but is rather building on this rich history of member-leadership, evolving what this kind of leadership means and entails, and in doing so is bringing the community into a new phase of its life.
Since it was formed at the end of September 2018, the council has actively begun to bring shape to this next phase of Hive NYC. It’s in the midst of a process of revisiting and renewing the network’s mission, which in the chaotic world of 2019 likely needs to pursue new challenges as well as reaffirm long-standing values. It’s developed a guiding structure for the council, including clearly articulated, and transparent, decision-making processes and leadership roles (you can read these here). And it’s actively doing what the network always did best – gathering educators and the organizations they’re part of to learn, collaborate and be in community. Later this week, it’s bringing back the annual State of the Hive event, a gathering of the network to both look back and look forward. I think we have a lot to look forward to.