Hive’s First Month in Austin: What We've Learned

On July 11, Mozilla hit the ground in Austin to spin up our newest Hive Learning Network right here in the heart of Texas. You can read our last post to learn why we chose Austin from two dozen candidate cities. Our first month here has already demonstrated that we made a great investment. Austin is a city of rapidly growing tech-driven prosperity, but also a city where digital access and inclusion are urgent concerns.
That’s where we believe the Gigabit Community Fund can make a difference; by supporting entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds and by bringing the educational opportunities of the future into the classrooms of today. Learn more about the Fund here; submit a letter of intent by September 15 to get support in preparing a proposal, due October 18.

Listening To Austin

We began our work in July with a visit to Pecan Springs Elementary School, an informational breakfast for Austin supporters, a community hangout, and a stakeholder design charrette – all in our first three days! During the design charrette we engaged an intentional diversity of stakeholders to understand the Austin community context. You can find slide decks, one-pagers, and documentation of the event on our public GDrive. Thanks to the Google Fiber Austin team for hosting us!

Since then, we’ve had conversations with dozens of local educators, regional leaders, and direct service professionals; we’ve joined panel discussions at Urban Co-Lab and with the Electronic Frontier Foundation; we’ve been hanging out at the Open Austin meetups every week; and we’re looking forward to the upcoming Learn All the Time Community Meeting and the Austin Tech for Schools Summit co-hosted by our friends at EdTech Action.

Learning From Austin

There’s still so much to learn about our new home, but we think we’ve already picked up a couple of important lessons that can inform our work going ahead. Here’s four to start with:

  • Austin is the center of an evolving regional ecosystem. The whole city core has been experiencing rapid gentrifying and the target population for broadening inclusion has been migrating beyond the city limits into surrounding communities including Del Valle, Manor, Round Rock and elsewhere. That’s why we’re defining Hive ATX’s service area to be inclusive of Texas Education Agency’s (TEA) Education Service Centers (ESC) Region 13, which covers Austin Independent School District (AISD) and 59 other school districts between San Antonio and Waco.
  • Austin is doing some serious work on the digital inclusion front. Austin is now America’s fastest growing city, fueled by the economic opportunity of a regional tech boom. However, that opportunity is not equitably accessible to all of Austin’s residents. That’s why Austin’s Office of Digital Inclusion is doing essential work to and needs critical support to help bring everyone along.
  • Austin is already working to strengthen its educational ecosystem. Nationally recognized and vibrant groups like EdTech Austin have been building bridges between the tech sector and school districts for years, new players like Code/Interactive have arrived to work alongside folks at CS4TX, and collective action initiatives like Learn All the Time are aligning service agencies across Region 13.
  • Austin wants to talk about Digital Literacy. If anything, our connections over the last month have resulted in many creative, nuanced, and passionate conversations on the importance of digital literacy, what it means, and who’s in greatest need. We can see that people still have more to say and we’d love to keep the conversation going.

Working With Austin

Hive Austin has the opportunity to add fuel where communities of practice on digital literacy may already exist, like with Learn All the Time. Where they don’t, we have the opportunity to build, but our greatest potential lies in convening a cross-sector community of practice focused on defining digital literacy and inclusion for their communities.
With the The Gigabit Community Fund, we can invest in leaders who are already laying down pathways and building bridges between diverse learners and the tech sector, like e4 Youth.

We can invest in educators and educational organizations that create diverse and inclusive learning environments for learners of all backgrounds and ages, like the Thinkery.

We can invest in entrepreneurs and technologists – like the folks at Urban Co-Lab’s diversity in tech launch party – that hope to build tools and resources that help learners leapfrog the current digital divide by anticipating the high-speed, networked innovations of the future.

This is how we can support Austin to create the inclusive and equitable tech boom its community deserves.

Get Involved with Hive Austin

Save the date for our Information and Networking Meetup event on September 24 at the Google Fiber Space. Sign up for our mailing list and follow @HiveATX on Twitter to stay up to date with local opportunities to learn more. Then take a moment to vote for our Core Conversation at SXSWEdu, “Empowering educators to shape the Web…empowers youth to shape society.”