What’s your organizational “interface” with the Hive?

As we’re coming towards the end of our preliminary fieldwork phase to get a snapshot of Hive NYC, we’re starting to see that member organizations “interface” with the Hive in very distinct ways. For example, we’re noticing that in a number of larger organizations, the relationship to the network and its associated opportunities is managed by one individual within a specific programmatic department, with development (i.e., fund raising) folks coming into the picture when the organization responds to a Hive RFP. In some smaller ones, we’ve seen a range of set ups, from executive directors being the only one in the organization that even knows what Hive is (common with some of the newer small organizations), to others where teams that span leadership and programmatic roles attend Hive community meetings together. In still other cases, we’ve seen “hand-offs”‘- an instance where someone moves on from a position and was a “point person” to many Hive-affiliated relationships and activities, and then moves out of that role, explicitly giving it to another person in the organization.

This brings up the fact that there are so many things that we might count as an “interface” with the network (and what the network actually *is* from an analytic perspective is a whole other post). Any of the following might qualify:

  • being on monthly community calls
  • attending monthly in person Hive meet-ups
  • participating (or just lurking) on Hive’s mingroup email list
  • running an activity station at a one-day Hive-affiliated pop-up event
  • submitting an application with other Hive members to the bi-annual Hive RFP
  • running a Hive funded program or partnership
  • taking part in “learning lab” calls that occur for each cohort of funded Hive projects
  • …and probably a whole bunch of things we’re either forgetting or don’t know about yet.

So why does this all matter? Well, as a project that’s studying the way that Hive NYC can improve its ability to be an infrastructure for innovation, knowing how each member organization interfaces with the Hive becomes really important because it gives us insight into a range of related questions. Who’s bringing ideas and technologies into this community? How does organizational interface mediate who participates in the broader Hive NYC community and who doesn’t? How do innovations travel within and across organizations based on the nature of that organization’s interface? How does an organization’s knowledge and understanding of the Hive NYC community and its ethos, values and educational approaches change over time depending on how it interfaces with network activities? All of these questions are consequential to the broader goal of supporting Hive as a context for educational innovation, and so we’re paying close attention to these issues in the ground.

One of the questions we’ve asked some older Hive NYC members is if there are things they’d recommend to new Hive member organizations. One member recently spoke directly to this point of organizational interface, saying that he felt it was critical that an organization find a Hive point person (or people) who is both really interested in the network and the ideas that are associated with it and at the same time has some degree of power to capitalize on that participation and the opportunities that stem from it in a way that benefits the broader organization. Adding to that point, another member recently mentioned that while she’s the active liaison now, that’s a role that someone else (originally from their development department) used to occupy, and it gradually shifted as it became clearer to the organization that Hive NYC was not just another funding opportunity but rather largely about educational practice, and that from that perspective having a programmatic-oriented staff member engaging made good sense.

There’s plenty more than we’re finding about this issue, but I thought I’d take the opportunity to open this question up for any Hive members that might be reading (folks from other Hives aside from NYC are welcome!). How does your organization “interface” with the Hive? Are there recommendations you have for other orgs about what’s worked for you, or what hasn’t? And what are the things you consider most as you’re making these sorts of decisions?

How does Hive NYC’s Online Minigroup Nurture the Network?

Minigroup Homepage

I am very excited to be interning with Hive Research Lab remotely from Amherst, Massachusetts, where I am a rising senior in high school. With the helpful guidance of Rafi and Dixie, the Hive Research Lab Project Leads, I am conducting a study of the Hive NYC Minigroup, an online listserv through which Hive NYC members interact.

The Minigroup, which was launched in 2011, serves as a conduit for information amongst Hive members. An active list with anywhere from three to a dozen posts per day, content ranges from information on programs and events, to articles on educational programs and technologies, to job opportunities. Many members use the Minigroup to seek help regarding outreach and publicity, logistical support, and information on best practices. From a research perspective, this frequently used communication tool can both provide information on how the network interacts with itself and we think that a little data on its usage patterns might help Hive NYC amplify how effective it can be as a communication channel.

In my study, I begin by addressing broad themes of participation in the Minigroup: How has participation changed since the Hive NYC Minigroup was created? How do different types of member organizations utilize the Minigroup in different ways? How many people from a given organization tend to use the Minigroup? It’s clear from even just preliminary analysis that the frequency of posts and responses has significantly increased since the Minigroup’s creation. Still, in order to effectively nourish this trend of positive participation and change any challenging trends we might find, it is crucial to use empirical data to specify exactly what is going on so that we can foster a more participatory online community that is useful to network members.

In addition, just like in the broader studies going on in Hive Research Lab, I’m paying attention to core Connected Learning and Hive principles: spreading innovation and supporting interest-driven youth trajectories through organizational collaborations and peer sharing. By tracing trends in the content of posts and responses, I hope to uncover both how Minigroup furthers these ideals and areas where it could be better supported.

Right now, we’re about midway through the study. We’re finalizing our coding scheme, tightening our research questions, and figuring the logistics of importing data into our analytic software. After I finish collecting and coding the data, I will compare content-based data (what people are doing) with participation-based data (how frequently they’re doing it) to see if there are trends that give us some useful insight about member usage of this communication channel.

My finished study will consist of a research paper that includes various data charts, and I’ll also be sharing some of those results outside of a report form here on the HRL blog. The findings of the project will address the general nature of Minigroup participation and how it has changed over time, as well as the Minigroup’s role in supporting youth trajectories and pathways and facilitating the diffusion of innovation. I will include suggestions based on my findings and any design questions that need to be addressed further.

I am extremely grateful to Rafi and Dixie for giving me this opportunity. I have already learned an enormous amount about research resources, methodologies, and ethics. Through my work with Hive Research Lab, I have also learned about how nonprofits function and interact within a network, and about the benefits of informal, interest-driven learning. I want to thank Lainie DeCoursy, the HiveHQ Communications/Operations Manager, who has been very helpful with my study, and everyone else we have gone to—and will go to—for research advice.

In a roundabout way, I have become one of the youths benefitting from interest-driven, informal learning principles!

Rapid Research: The Hive Research Lab Method in 5 Easy Steps

There’s essentially one big question that drives our work here at Hive Research Lab: How can the Hive NYC network improve its capacity to support youth learning pathways and act as a robust innovation infrastructure for education?

As it turns out, Hive NYC members already have plenty of thoughts about how to do this!

On July 18th, during the Hive NYC meet up at the Lower Eastside Girls Club’s amazing new space, we gave a short introduction to the Hive Research Lab and then ran an activity with Hive members cheekily called “The HRL Method in Five Easy Steps,” which was somewhat of a condensed version of our design-based research approach. Instead of a multi-year timescale for the method though, we did it in about 25 minutes(!). Here are the steps we shared with Hive members:

Step 1. Form a group of three and choose a scribe.
Step 2. Decide on a question, based on the Lab’s research goals of improving Hive’s capacity to support youth pathways and trajectories and act as an infrastructure for innovation.
Step 3. Gather your data, by giving examples from your own practice related to the topic you’ve chosen.
Step 4. Analyze and synthesize your data. Based on data from step 3, come up with some broader lesson or principle that could be drawn from the examples surfaced across your group.
Step 5. Create a data-driven design. Based on results from step 4, come up with possible design changes that could be applied to a Hive NYC member program, organization or to the network writ large.

Reading through the activity sheets, we were blown away by all the great lessons and design suggestions everyone came up with in the very limited time we had. (A brief summary of the responses and the entire transcription of the sheets can be found after the jump.)

In terms of a broader lesson around supporting Youth Trajectories, we heard from a number of groups that adults can play a specific role connecting youth to learning opportunities while still allowing them to explore interests on their own. Also, members voiced that programming for youth trajectories requires not only identifying topics and activities (like gaming, fashion, or making) that are interesting and relevant to youth, but also recognizing that youth interest and relevance is a moving target and so educators much be prepared for constant rejiggering if necessary.

On the Innovation Infrastructure side, responses reflected an appreciation of the network’s collective differences and a call for more documentation and sharing of work and learnings (both practical and technical) so that members can be stronger collaborators going forward.

Our main goal for the activity was less about producing implementable designs (that’s for later!) and much more about getting Hive NYC members to both think about these network goals and what it could look like to use data (even if just from their own experiences) to drive a design process that addresses them. We think we were pretty successful in terms of giving everyone a brief preview of the kinds of collaborative analyzing and brainstorming that we’re planning on doing with Hive members as this work gets going. And even though it was meant to just be a teaser, the ideas and strategies everyone came up with for improving the network were truly insightful and demonstrate a deep and nuanced understanding of these issues and how a network infrastructure might begin to address them. We see huge potential in what’s to come and can’t wait to dig deeper into these topics with Hive members!

Check out the specifics of what each group documented after the jump.

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