As of January 1, 2018, stewardship of Hive Chicago will transition from Mozilla to a new local non-profit, the Chicago Learning Exchange (CLX). Hive Chicago will have a temporary home at the Chicago Community Trust until the transition to CLX is complete. The Hive is still the Hive. Read more here.

May 16 2016

State of the Hive: Making Progress Together from 2013 to 2016

#hivebuzz, Hive HQ

Three years after we sat down to draft them together, Hive Chicago can demonstrate real progress on our shared goals. We’ve counted some impressive accomplishments together and more than just a laundry list, our collective achievements have had direction and purpose. They represent a collective action we’ve taken together.

Hive staff make direct progress on our shared goals by empowering organizational leaders (our members) and supporting them with resources, space, and time. In turn, the way our members make progress is by naming their shared challenges – both opportunities and obstacles alike – and co-creating solutions to them. We call our shared challenge areas Moonshots.

Each of our collective achievements can be mapped as a step towards our aspirational goals; overcoming obstacles and seizing opportunities along the journey to our Moonshots.

You can find some specific examples of these steps in the numbers breakdown, interactive timeline and annotated list of projects below. If you’re interested in what what it means for a project like the Hive to assess progress on our goals, please read on to learn more about our goals and Moonshots in the following sections.

A Look at the Numbers

Real progress isn’t just a numbers game, but we’re proud to have logged some impressive stats in the last three years, so let’s start with a look at the numbers.


Before 2013, a formal Hive membership process didn’t exist, but by some counts, actively participating organizations numbered in the two dozen. That first round of membership in 2013 recognized 50 organizations. Today, Hive Chicago boasts 107 recognized organizations in the network, 79 members and 28 allies.


Since 2013 The Hive Chicago Fund for Connected Learning at the Chicago Community Trust has issued 156 grants totaling $3.7M, which has been distributed to roughly 65% of Hive Network member organizations – as lead or partners – to support 76 youth-serving projects serving 4,000 or more young learners directly.


Our website is viewed about 200 times per day and the portfolio page alone has been viewed 5,000 times since we launched it in 2014. The Social Media Working Group (1200 views), Regenerate Chicago Neighborhoods (850 views) and Chicago Teen Literary Festival (750 views) are our three most viewed portfolio pages.


We’ve had over 1.7K RSVPs from over 600 individuals to our 30 Hive peer-professional convenings since October 2014 alone; these are people participating in Meetups, Hive Dives, Hive Chicago Buzz, and Funded Project Cohort meetings to co-create and spread solutions to our shared challenges.


Since launching in 2013, our Twitter following has reached over 2K, in addition to the 800 people on our mailing list, 550 Facebook likes and almost 100 subscribers to our blog. Since it’s launch in the winter of 2015, our Slack group has grown to 220 participants.

A Timeline of Progress


One Does Not Simply Set Hive Goals

The Hive Chicago Learning Network is not your typical organization. It’s not a stand-alone non-profit; it is a project of the Mozilla Foundation and the staff who lead the network are Mozillians. It’s also not a funder; the Hive Chicago Fund for Connected Learning is a fund at the Chicago Community Trust that offers grants to Hive Network members. Most importantly, it’s not an exclusive club; anyone from the Chicagoland learning community is welcome to our meetups, to engage with us online, to challenge us and to collaborate on our projects.

Our mission and our goals are not typical and neither is how we measure success.

The Hive is a strategic alliance between community, steward and funder. Our approach is peer-to-peer, participatory and democratic. We do not delegate responsibility to each other, instead individuals and organizations step up to the task. We seek to learn from, influence and align with one another. So we do not simply set Hive goals.

We negotiate shared goals and therefore, we negotiate how we define success.

What Do Our Goals Mean?

When we use a participatory approach to define the shared goals of our diverse and extensive network of organizations and individuals, the results help us define who we are and what we aspire to, but they don’t easily lead us to specific outcomes or outputs. Consider our four goals for a moment:

Equitable Access

Enable equitable access to Hive Chicago opportunities by extending the network’s reach beyond the youth we currently serve.

Learning Pathways

Cultivate and illuminate network connections to create learning pathways.


Spark and sustain innovation in learning.


Establish value of Hive beyond the Network in support of other goals.

These are aspirational goals that define our vision for learning: equitable, interest-driven, innovative experiences that add value to the educational ecosystem of Chicago.

For Hive staff, we assign ourselves specific actions that we will take in service of each of these goals. However, how do we measure our network members’ progress on these goals? To help us better organize and guide our Network progress, we took another framing.

Naming Our Moonshots

At the December of 2013 Meetup we prompted the Network to name their shared challenges:

def. chal•lenge |ˈCHalənj| noun. a call to take part in a contest

  • opportunities to take action
  • obstacles to overcome

Write down 2-4 challenges for your work, organization, or youth that are aligned to our Network Goals and can be described as:

  • Shared: best tackled in collaboration;
  • Meaningful: connected to Hive Network goals;
  • Continuous: something that can be iterated;
  • Actionable: is this within our control and scope?

We collected nearly one hundred responses that included: providing basic care like lunches, the cost and availability of transportation, limited funding for programs, the ability to get information to youth, effective program design, and other practical obstacles and opportunities for the network to tackle. Here are all of them, sorted by early conceptions of our challenge areas and including “dot-mocracy” feedback on value from peers:

Over several months, we grouped these responses into six challenge areas we affectionately called Moonshots – challenges that were bold and ambitious, but achievable through dedicated, collaborative efforts:

With Moonshot challenge areas, we had a more systematic way to measure success: did we succeed at generating solutions (programs, projects, tools and strategies) that address our shared challenges?

By December of 2014, one year after we established the Moonshot framework, Hive members were preparing responses to a Hive Fund RFP that recognized these challenge areas. These collaborative projects would address specific challenges. They were also getting ready to lead their community in solution co-creation sessions at our inaugural Hive Chicago Buzz event.

So how did we do? Did our network make progress?

Notable Moonshot-Aligned Member Projects

Over the two years since Hive Chicago implemented the Moonshot framework, there have been several dozen projects that have attempted to address these specific challenge areas. Here are some notable examples from which we have much to learn.

Moonshot: The Ultimate Hub

Participants in Re:Imagine24

Re:Imagine Pathway Project – View Project

The Art Institute of Chicago attracts hundreds of Chicagoland student applicants for their yearly hackathon to re-imagine the museum through the eyes of a young learner. However, their signature experience only accommodate a fraction of applicants. How can AIC provide information to this captive audience of young people that will direct them to other learning opportunities they might be uniquely suited for? Their spreadsheet-based solution could be replicated by any Hive member organization.

The Internet

Hive Interoperability and Portability Coalition – View Project

The goal of HIPC-I was to bridge student experience between badging platforms in a way that respected privacy to enable learning pathways between organizations sharing badges. HIPC-II developed a truly innovative solution to support an open ecosystem for sharing learning opportunities using a time-tested internet technology. Lead and endorsed by a dozen Hive member organizations and the Chicago City of Learning, HIPC-II offers a compelling opportunity reach the most disconnected youth.

Learners at Adler

All Access Pass – View Project

The idea is simple: free, unrestricted admission to Chicago museums and cultural institutions via a shared alliance. The challenge is complex. Many young Chicagoans aren’t aware of the experience available to them at these institutions, even when they are free. How can our community best demonstrate the value of removing these barriers to student learning to decision makers at these institutions? Can badges help us to target youth and demonstrate their learning when those barriers are removed?

Moonshot: School-Hive Connections


Connected Teacher Network – View Project

How do you build a connected learning ecosystem that bridges in and out-of-school time learning? The team at NEIU’s Center for College Access and Success and the Chicago Public Library wanted to start by identifying professional development opportunities for school teachers. The big idea: teachers who connect with Hive are more likely to connect their students. They created a shared, public, open calendar for Hive member organizations to publicise PD opportunities via the web and social media.

Energy Engineers Students Presenting

Energy Engineers – View Project

How do you take a successful, problem-based, inquiry-driven student learning experience developed in a flexible out-of-school time environment and extend it into the school day? Does it belong there? The Energy Engineers team have been developing a curriculum and an kit of parts and supplies for their Smart Grid Challenge project to teach energy conservation. They’re pairing with classroom teachers to adapt these materials and create a bridge between learning spaces.

Make-Take Master-Logo-Revised Snippet

Make, Take and Teach Fair – View Project

After experimenting with a variety of strategies for teacher and school engagement in connected learning that have surfaced in the School-Hive Moonshot group, NEIU Center for College Access and Success is ready to put it all together. This Fair will be a one-day event, but the recruitment, organizational participation, target audience, and event design are adapted from Hive Network strategy but explicitly tailored to engage teachers and schools to build community that extends beyond the event.

Moonshot: Engaging and Educating Chicago Parents


Maker MOB – View Project

Chicago parents have a lot to juggle and their children have a lot of responsibilities at home. How do we demonstrate the value of our programs in light of competing priorities? Closely following the IDEO Human Centered Design method, this project is designed to demonstrate the value of Hive member activities to parents. MakerMOB brings these learning experiences to places where families already spend their time; think street festivals, community events, open markets, or even the grocery store.

STEM Ambassadors Studying Light Pollution

STEM Community Ambassadors – View Project

How can we engage, empower and support parents and enthusiastic community members to bring learning experiences straight into their neighborhoods to the lower barriers of access and create on-ramps to learning? The Adler Planetarium and Iridescent Learning reached out to local neighborhood associations to recruit community ambassadors that were trained and paid to deliver content to young people in their communities. The result was a full-time position at the Adler dedicated to those on-ramps.

Moonshot: Shining a Light on Transportation Constraints

West Town Bike Teens

Safe Passages for Teen Skaters and Bikers – View Project

Chicago’s transportation corridors are rarely designed to encourage young learners to explore their city. When public transit and ridesharing is not safe or affordable, young people rely on bikes, skateboards, or their own two feet. Safe Passages engaged youth in an urban planning opportunity to design innovative routing between three safe-spaces the Bloomingdale Trail in Humboldt Park, the Logan Square Skate Park, and The Garden in Avondale. This work is being recognized and implemented by CDOT.


RideW/Me – View Project

Connected learning is rooted in place-based experiences that physically move young people along learning pathways between spaces that are located throughout their city. However many young people are unfamiliar with transportation options available to them and feel uncomfortable traveling large distances. Travel for many can be outright dangerous. Ride With Me provides a solution that connects learners with their peers, parents and instructors to make smart and safe transportation decisions.

Moonshot: Think Tank


GeoConvos: Embodied Conversations with Teens – View Project

How can we collect data to identify, design, and support learning pathways for youth that extend into their futures and draw on their past? GeoConvos are “embodied conversations” that engage whole bodies in the learning interaction to explore connections between place, identity, and history. These tools reveal learning pathways through physical and digital spaces; develop higher levels of understanding, retention, and comprehension; and utilize mobile technologies to engage with the city.

Moonshot: Hive-Level Youth Engagement and Participation

Broadcast live from Villapalooza, late summer 2015.

Pop-Up Youth Radio – View Project

Pop-Up Youth Radio is a site-specific humanities radio show produced and hosted by youth. The PUYR team co-developed a framework based on their experience co-creating DIY radio shows with youth from their media programs. During summer 2015 youth broadcast live from community events and during late Spring & Summer 2016 the team will produce a Toolkit to help organizations, educators and young people create their own pop-up live radio shows that can be streamed online using tools on the web.


National Civics Beat – View Project

Building on the Political Pulse project, National Civic Beat is a reporting outlet for Chicago youth that looks at the elections and examines the multifaceted ways in which youth become civically activated. Youth use data they collect over the summer and trips to key primary states to produce segments on the primary elections and civic engagement among young people in general. The segments are marketed to youth, national peer organizations, and curriculum partners for use in the classroom.

IN FOCUS: Vets and Teens Talk Poppies for Peace

In Focus: Catalyst for Change – View Project

In Focus gives youth living in urban war zones and veterans of war the opportunity to dialogue with law enforcement, express themselves and voice their opinions about the social and emotional aspects of violence and how to address it. Teen inside of and on the fringes of the Hive network are empowered to use digital media, music, art, and theater arts to develop messages for their peers and the community hosted online, distributed via social media, and shared in live settings.

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