Since January 1, 2018, stewardship of Hive Chicago has transitioned from Mozilla to a new local non-profit, the Chicago Learning Exchange (CLX). Please visit us at chicagolx/joinus to learn how you and your organization can join our growing community. The Hive is still the Hive.

Mar 20 2015

Working in the Open – Hive Chicago Style

Hive HQ

The Hive, a buzzing, generative space.

In the Hive Network things happen fast; new connections, new programs, new events, new tools. We are constantly creating, collaborating or sometimes building on creations of our peers and “remixing” pieces of them. Our hope is that this steady piloting helps us advance solutions toward old problems in education. However, we face a challenge. This generation of knowledge, process and work cannot serve the collective Network without a way to capture, catalog and make it visible. As discussed by the Hive Research Lab, the best way to not lose information is to become “‘a network that learns’, a community that is continually generating, circulating and accumulating knowledge relevant to accomplishing our goals around serving youth in a connected world”.

But how do we circulate and accumulate that knowledge?

We are all very familiar with the culminating presentation, workshop, or pdf. These are fantastic summations of the work done in projects and collaborations in our Network. We use them to inform our colleagues on what we did. However, they do not often tell us much about the journey. The challenges faced, the micro lessons learned along the way, the in-the-moment course corrections, the things that worked well that helped shape the ultimate direction. This information is crucial to know if someone is to repeat the process with fidelity or learn from it for their own context.

Our desire is to be iterative, where all work done serves to inform the future. To do so we must shift from sharing not only our fantastic final product, but begin to create a mechanism for pulling back the curtain and exposing what we are doing in the process.

In an effort to allow the Learning Network into our respective kitchens, we piloted Working in the Open for Hive Chicago Funded Projects in 2014. Our pilot consisted of asking these projects to document and share (actively with the Network) their process throughout the duration.


National Veterans Art Museum describing what their Funded Project will aim to do and demonstrating a digital tool they will use with teens.

How Working in the Open Works (Version 1.0):

Culture Shift – If the project space is our kitchen, each project is a proposal to create a recipe for a new dish. The Working in the Open culture, nudges projects to exist in a visible space where anyone can peek in and get a sense of what is going on. This was done by encouraging process documentation and real-time communications of the work. Both process and updates have been cataloged in one place, in our case the Hive Chicago Portfolio.

This “real-time” process documentation and sharing is the first piece of generating and circulating knowledge. The second piece is knowledge accumulation/curation. In time, we hope the Hive Portfolio will become the well-curated portal through which anyone can peek into a Hive project understand the process of work and use the information to inform their practice.

As we have learned, working openly is not second nature to projects, organizations, collaborations and even Hive Staff. It is a practice that we, as a Network, are learning to incorporate and make part of our work flow. Building it in wherever possible helps exercise our collective “muscle memory”.

Piloting – We want to note that the Working in the Open process is in itself “a work-in-progress”. We are sharing our thinking to-date for feedback and consideration while recognizing that we are still learning how best to generate, circulate and accumulate knowledge. Our process to-date consisted of the following steps:

  1. Introducing the Concept: We introduced the concept by bringing funded projects together and engaging in discussion about what it is, concerns, limitations and basic requirements for “working open”. The ultimate request was to share and document the projects in a way that others could see;
  2. Creating a Space: The Hive Portfolio would serve as the accumulation page, so we worked with Funded Projects to create a page per project and create accounts so that projects could update these on their own. We also established a practice of introducing all projects at a Meetup so that the Network would become aware of them and engage with project leads;
  3. Suggested Connection Points: While we did not want to be prescriptive, we did want to suggest a few loose requirements that all projects could meet. We shared this “Working in the Open Timeline” with the projects and have followed up with them to support and encourage where needed;
  4. Suggested Examples: We wanted to encourage a new way of sharing projects without dictating a platform or style. So we shared a few examples of how this could be done: Google Docs, Blogs, Webmaker Thimble, Hive Meetups, Twitter and Social Media. The result was many exciting innovations incorporating tools or using others that were new to us;
  5. Leading By Example and Trial and Error: Part of the Culture Shift mentioned above requires working open on a regular basis. To do this, we needed to begin incorporating the practice into our daily network language, encouraging and inviting projects to try or test things in beta at events, convenings and meetups and we needed to be good role models, pulling the curtain back ourselves, as Hive Staff and inviting feedback on our process.



The Art Institute team, play testing an app and activity that they want to use with teens in a future program.

Working in the Open Examples
As mentioned above, we had a few starter ideas for how the process might look and were/are excited to share the vast variety of methods for process documentation that are being implemented across the Network.

  • Process Blogging – The use of a blog to capture narratives, steps, reflections and media surrounding a project. These examples use the process blog in very different ways.
  • Evernote + – Using Evernote linked to this group can chose to publish certain notes and reflections from field notes directly to a process blog.
  • Public Google Documents – This group has created a Public Folder to use with their multiple collaborators, keep track of notes, documents, and planning.
  • Media Sharing on Hive Portfolio These projects have used the Hive Portfolio as a way to share narratives via media and social media. Using Twitter can be a great way to capture an event or steps of an entire project. And videos tell a great story too.

What’s Next For This Process?

The Hive Network is constantly learning and evolving from everything we do and the same is true for the practice of Working in the Open. We hope you find this process valuable, not only in funded projects, but in how we all begin to share what we learn, how we succeed and what we learn from our failures. We are committed to building an open, iterative process into convenings like Hive Meetups and Hive Community Calls, the Hive Blog and Hive Portfolio Page and the Hive RFP.

Call to Action:

  • Share Your Feedback! This is a work-in-progress and your questions, healthy skepticism, constraints, suggestions and feedback are helpful as we adjust and evolve. We will be making Working in the Open documents available on our website.
  • Share Your Stuff! Little tidbits, tweets, moments are great, don’t wait until you’re done. Sometimes the best time to share is when you come out of a challenging point in your project with an “aha!” moment. Other times it is when you’re idea-ting and want to pick the brain of Network members. If you are looking to give Working in the Open a shot, you can start by posting to Hive Minigroup, sharing at a Meetup, sharing on a Community Call, tweeting via #hivebuzz or writing a blog.



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