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 25 2015

Working Together in Hive Chicago

Hive HQ, The Hive Network Effect

One of the core principles of Hive Learning Networks is a collaborative approach to creating experiences that will transform the learning landscape of cities into connected learning ecosystems. In Hive Networks, collaboration isn’t just a novelty, it’s an essential approach to creating openly networked, interest-driven pathways for young people, a foundation of connected learning.

Connected learning ecosystems require connected networks of collaborative learning institutions.

In a successful Hive collaboration, multidisciplinary teams have shared goals, shared purpose, and shared objectives to nurture new ideas, new ways of working, new partnerships, and – as the Aspen Institute Task Force recommends – “innovations that can be shared across networks.”

That’s the goal: collaborative innovations that spread.


A Hive Theory of Change

In the Hive Learning Networks theory of change, spread of innovations created in a networked context are essential to achieve at-scale changes in the learning landscape. If we can mobilize educators in our communities to create collaborative innovations that catalyze others to extend their work, then we can grow our networks to make a scale-level impact in learning locally, nationally and internationally.

In Hive Chicago, we use our Moonshots to mobilize community members around opportunities and shared challenges. The Hive Chicago Moonshots are calls to action, developed by members of the network, that help us organize the projects, programs, tools and experiences that we create, and generate new seed solutions that can be developed collaboratively.

Hive Chicago is also very fortunate to have the Hive Chicago Fund for Connected Learning at the Chicago Community Trust as an essential ally in our work to advance mobilized educators into solutionary creators. The twice-annual Hive Fund Request for Proposals (RFP) is an invaluable tool that provides funding to motivate the creation of collaborative innovations.

The RFP features four levels of funding – ranging from $10K to $200K – that scaffold the creation of projects from an exploratory, partner-forming Glimmer grant, to an experimental prototype-development Spark grant, to a project implementation Catalyst grant, and finally to a project refinement and dissemination Lever grant. These grant levels are designed to scaffold the innovation process, starting with small grants that can inspire and spark low-risk experimentation, then building to higher dollar amounts set aside for projects that successfully identify a target audience, demonstrate their learning outcomes, and capture the attention of our community.

The mantra of innovation: fail early, fail often, is the design inspiration behind the Hive Fund RFP.


Thinking Big Picture About Sustainability

The successful growth and dissemination of innovative projects is not just a matter of good ideas and risk taking. The intentional development of a learning innovation with potential for impact at scale also requires the careful maintenance of collaborative partnerships, the strategic development of a sustainable context, and an ethic of working in the open that results in an adaptable, remix-able product. Working in the open enables others to replicate your process and customize it for their needs.

A sustainability plan is not only, or even predominantly about drawing in new investment, it’s a sustainable approach to program design: identifying the context in which new ideas can leverage existing resources and catalyze others through existing distribution channels. A single innovative programatic experiment may not have the legs to stand on it’s own in the next level of funding. A developing project may need multiple rounds of experimentation, or may need to stitch together multiple innovative experiments, in order to build an effective, sustainable strategy.

Think big picture from the outset.

How does your innovation fit into your organization’s broader programmatic agenda? What local or national partners have the geographic, digital, or professional reach that could allow an idea to spread without a large investment in communications and marketing? What are the two, three or more proofs of concept that you will need to design in order to build to something big?


Sustainability Through Effective, Evolving Partnerships

Which brings us full circle. A project is only as strong as it’s collaboration and any sustainability hinges on a successful partnership. Like any relationship, a strong collaborative partnership relies on intentional communication, explicit alignment of mission, vision and goals, and regular monitoring or re-evaluation of alignment.

Before forming a collaborative project, take some time to understand your partners.

The future success, spread, and sustainability of a project depends on the careful selection, maintenance and evolution of well established collaborative partnerships. Effective project partners will bring key assets and resources that can complement each member of the collaboration or can later be leveraged to extend the scope of a project, or provide distribution channels to new audiences and participants. The partners engaged in a project and their respective roles should evolve to suit the stage of a project, shifting as the nature or scope of the work changes.

Drawing inspiration from conversations with Hive Chicago members and partners, which include After School Matters, The Hive Research Lab, and Hive NYC, we are working towards creating a rubric that Hive Chicago members can use to have the hard conversations early and prepare for a successful collaboration.

Take a look at the infographic Prezi presentation featured below to see an illustration of these concepts and make sure to provide feedback that could help us develop this model.

Watch this live-stream of a recent Network & Fund RFP workshop to hear these ideas articulated verbally (jump to timestamp 31m40s):


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