At the State of Hive NYC 2015 Meet-up, Hive NYC members met to identify collective strengths, weaknesses, and to name opportunities. One clear strength was Hive NYC’s value as a learning network where organizations develop new ideas, experiment, and sustain programs, while the need to identify additional funders and stakeholders to support this work stood out as a real concern and opportunity. As the fundraising landscape changes and the MacArthur Foundation moves away from its Digital Media and Learning initiative, it’s crucial that Mozilla find new partners and funding approaches to sustain the collaborative knowledge production and networked innovation at the heart of Hive NYC’s collective work.
One example of seizing the opportunity to work with new funders was a recent collaboration between Mozilla Hive HQ and Capital One. In May 2014, Capital One approached Hive NYC director, Leah Gilliam, to learn more about Hive NYC-originated youth-focused technology projects serving low-moderate income communities in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens. Further conversations revealed that Capital One was interested in making a one-time $100,000 investment in Hive NYC’s work and collaborations through its Community Reinvestment Act:
Capital One was founded on the fundamental belief that innovation and technology would change banking. That spirit of innovation has transformed Capital One into one of the nation’s top banks. As part of that spirit and commitment to community needs, Capital One is thrilled to partner with the Mozilla Hive Learning Network to support four member organizations supporting digital and youth initiatives across New York City.
To help Capital One discover and support activities best suited to their priorities and goals, Mozilla Hive HQ selected a slate of projects to present to Capital One executives during an hour-long convening. With over 60 lead organizations in the network and 80+ unique technology-enabled projects funded through Hive Digital Media Learning Fund since 2011, there was no dearth of engaging projects to choose from.
Mozilla Hive HQ started the selection and curatorial process by looking at recent Hive Digital Media Learning Fund proposals—both funded and unfunded—to get a sense of some of the ideas percolating within the network. Although Gilliam admits that a targeted request for proposals is not a perfect barometer, when time is of the essence, this twice yearly request is an efficient and democratic way to identify current partnerships and new ideas percolating within the network. Explaining that these proposals have become a specific area of investigation for Hive Research Lab, Gilliam notes “Organizations put a lot of time, energy, and resources into developing project proposals and formulating ideas. Increasingly, these proposals have become a resource for new ideas and ongoing concerns.”
In determining the final list of projects, Hive HQ continued to work with Capital One Community Affairs representatives to determine the intersections between the funder’s areas of interests and the values and goals of Hive NYC. Ultimately, HQ sought to create a diverse slate of approaches that taken together would showcase Hive’s rich history of supporting cross-organizational collaborations, bridging new technologies with youth development practices, furthering intergenerational collaboration and design, and prioritizing the creation of interest-driven learning experiences for youth.
After several conversations, Hive HQ narrowed down the list to four projects. Next it turned its attention to helping the selected organizations prepare for a project pitch and group presentation to the Market Presidents Roundtable, a group of Capital One executives. Laying out guidelines, from sticking to simple language to using the same slide template to represent all the projects, ensured that key factors such as organizational mission, target audience, youth outcomes, and the potential impact of funding could be easily understood by an audience unfamiliar with Hive’s model. Adopting this shared approach allowed organizations to focus on their own messaging and left to Hive HQ the task of showing a new audience how connected learning concepts and practices support youth and adult learning and knowledge.
Networked Innovation in Context
During a lunch presentation, Gilliam presented an overview of Hive NYC Learning Network as a collaborative laboratory for educators working for and with youth. This set the stage for the four project presentations: Erica Kermani of Eyebeam on Playable Fashion; Marc Lesser of Mouse on the steering committee of Emoti-Con! NYC: Youth Digital Media and Technology Challenge; Teresa Basilio of Global Action Project on Media History Timeline; Hive Research Labon the Youth Trajectories and Pathways Study.
After the presentation, the President’s Market Roundtable took a week or so to deliberate over allocating the designated funds. Remarking that each pitch was equally strong, the roundtable invited all four organizations to submit official requests for funding. While Mozilla Hive HQ did not cast a vote in this process and did not participate in the deliberations, it saw a new approach to attracting funders, promoting member projects, and supporting its strong, compelling project portfolio.
Presenting projects at the same time, around the same table as co-developed products of the network, gave each project pitch a sense of context, highlighting the co-existence of competition and collaboration in which Hive NYC programs are developed as well as the wider community of support that acts as a key success factor in the learning network.
-Leah Gilliam, Hive NYC
We were honored to co-present with our Hive NYC peers at MOUSE, Eyebeam and Hive Research Lab and learned a great deal about the the amazing work they do.
–Teresa Basilio, GAP
In presenting to Capital One together, a situation that might have put organizations in competition instead saw the representatives of each project supporting one another, drawing links and connections between shared values and goals:
In the Hive NYC community, we all work together and partner in varying capacities so that we all can succeed, ultimately so that the young people we serve thrive. In this round table presentation, we maintained that spirit and that shared goal; I was so inspired by my fellow Hivers that we all supported one another in this process. I would like to think that that was part of the reason Capital One decided to invest in each of our respective programs and in the Hive as a whole.
–Erica Kermani, Eyebeam
Presenting alongside my Hive colleagues brought home to me how much stronger we are as a community than as solo players.
–Dixie Ching, Hive Research Lab
Impacts and Outcomes
As a result of this work with Capital One, four $25,000 grants were invested in Hive NYC programs and projects. Although Mozilla selected the projects and brokered the partnership, no funds were given to Mozilla or Hive HQ as part of this process. Noting that the network was very fortunate in this instance to be approached by an outside party for a one-time investment, Gilliam hints that the role of Mozilla and Hive HQ is one that will change in the future. “Mozilla and Hive HQ are excited to identify more short- and long-term partners, and to target more joint funding opportunities that can help to spread and sustain current projects and spark new practices that our network has in development.”
In successfully navigating this opportunity, these four initiatives demonstrated one of the Hive NYC community’s key strengths—joining together in an effort to further impact the lives of youth. Marc Lesser, Senior Director of Design at Mouse, summarized this sentiment perfectly, commenting “This was an amazing opportunity for Hive NYC to pitch a single funder together, and demonstrate the diversity of its programming and impact.” As Hive NYC Learning Network looks ahead to 2016 and beyond, this partnership remains a compelling example of how Mozilla Hive HQ can work supplement current funding mechanisms, working with and for its members to find more partners and collaborators to advance the work of both its youth and adult contributors and leaders.