Hive Toronto: Drafting Core Beliefs and Proposals for Funding

This was previously posted on Hive NYC by Kathryn Meisner, Director of Hive Toronto.

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Hive Toronto Learning Network (Hive Toronto) recently came together for two afternoons to accomplish two things:

  1. Continue to define Hive Toronto’s core beliefs
  2. Discuss the dispersal of funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation’s (OTF) grant to the Mozilla for Hive Toronto’s “Collaborative Community Projects.”
  3. Explore on-ramps to collaborate on Hive projects, whether funded or not

I added item number three because it was an unexpected—but very welcome—take away that was not an original goal for our eight hours together. More on this at the end of this post. Hint: Hive members can do more than they probably know.

The Why

The plan was to surface and translate Hive Toronto’s core beliefs into building blocks for the draft of the project proposals.

Why involve Hive members in this co-creation? Because in addition to reflecting the needs of our funders and our partners, we wanted the proposal process to reflect the goals of Hive Toronto and its members. And through this unique funding situation, we have been afforded the opportunity to do so.

The How

Leah Gilliam, then Hive NYC’s Portfolio Strategist, led several member organizations through a design charrette to delve deeper into these conversations. Don’t know what a design charrette is? You’re not alone—think of it as a guided brainstorming process.

Hive operates with an open ethos which means that we involve participation as much as possible. A key thing to note about working in the open—and with Hive Learning Networks in general—although we seek input and collaboration, it is not the same as consensus-based decision making.

For a glimpse into how we spent our time together and what went down, check out the agenda and notes from our two afternoon-long of conversations on this Etherpad.

Our Journey

We issued an open invitation to all Hive Toronto members to participate in this charrette process. Over the course of the two afternoons, we worked with members from eight organizations:

As is the nature of networks, not everyone could attend so we set out to document our process and outcomes so we could bring our thinking to the larger Hive.

Mapping Stakeholders

Since Hive is a system of interrelated partners and organizations, we started out by identifying Hive Toronto and its network of stakeholders. We did this by contemplating, who’s involved and how should their needs and interests be considered.

The result of that discussion? A whiteboard version of this diagram:


But something was missing. Members continued to iterate on this diagram over the course of the two days. We even had a member who confessed to only being able to draw “frogs and snakes” step up to the plate to put marker to whiteboard to illustrate his thinking.


The stakeholder diagram took on a life of its own and was transformed into a snapshot of the ever-evolving Hive Learning Network ecosystem.

These diagrams map how Hive Toronto works with the outside world. We also examined the cross-organizational structures supporting our Hive, discussing and illustrating how Hive Toronto works within itself.

Hive Learning Networks are, by design, collaborative communities of non-profits serving youth. Whether its Hive NYC or Hive Pittsburgh, the main goal of our networks are to move youth from being consumers to makers, usually through the production and use of digital media and technology.

For Hive Toronto, 2012 was a year of collaborative youth-focused Hive Pop-ups and member meetups spearheaded by Heather Payne. Last year paved the way for Hive Toronto to level up from a series of learning events and exploratory prototypes to become a growing and thriving community of practice to build capacity for both youth and organizations. Part of this growth includes the opportunity for members to have access to funds to support the production of funded collaborations between Hive member organizations.

Hive members are people and organizations who are growing connected learning opportunities for youth. Building on that foundation, we set out to explore the core beliefs and values of Hive Toronto.


Which we pared down into:


(Click to start)

  • Collaboration
  • Involves youth interest
  • A making as learning approach
  • Learning happens in an outside of school environment
  • Builds capacity and agency for youth
  • Build capacity for member organizations
  • Serving youth who do not usually have these opportunities
  • Peer learning
  • Empowering and recognizing youth and abilities
  • Open and reflective
  • Remixability/project scaling (creating something that can be used/hacked by others)

The “Hive priorities” discussion arose organically and was member-facilitated— an indicator that its details are important to members. We then shifted our attention to the funded Collaborative Community Projects with these newly surfaced values in mind.

Collaborative Community Projects: The proposal process

Although Hive Toronto HQ itself is not a funder for these projects, Hive Toronto HQ pools resources from outside sources and then plays a leadership role in the distribution of these funds.

We used our stakeholder map and Hive priorities to give us direction for establishing criteria for eligible projects.

First, we outlined “must have” criteria from our funding partner, the Ontario Trillium Foundation, and Mozilla, our design partner and steward.

  • Making: Integration of youth-driven digital media creation (either as a learning outcome, a way for youth to share what they learned etc)

  • Remixability: To benefit more members, and thus more youth, projects need to be customizable by other Hive members.

  • Collaboration: between three organizations

  • Connected Learning: Increased number of opportunities for children and youth to participate in connected learning activities

We realized we still have a few questions around these criteria, making this a list in progress, but we moved forward knowing that we had outlined our baseline concerns.

To determine the remaining criteria, we landed on using Hive Toronto’s core beliefs as the measuring stick for ideas and collaborations going forward. In order to receive support from Hive, applicants will have to explain the extent to which their project proposal reflects the core beliefs.


Drawing upon the established OTF guideline’s and Hive NYC’s several years-worth of funding cycles, we discussed some constraints for the Collaborative Community Projects.

  • Up to $12,500 will be awarded per proposal but organizations can apply for less

  • Organizations can apply to be the lead on one proposal but can be collaborators on as many proposals as they like

  • Lead organizations must be eligible for OTF funding as described on their website here (main thing to note: lead orgs must be registered as a not-for-profit)

  • Funding will not be eligible for existing projects or programs (i.e. Org ABC has run the XYZ youth program for five years and applies for funding to continue to run the program in exactly the same way)

To sum it up, if the proposal-building process we established were a recipe, the main ingredients would be:

  • Hive Toronto core beliefs
  • Funder and partner requirements
  • Constraints

Mix them up and baby, you got a proposal stew going.

Application Skeleton

Next, we were ready to take a look at RFPs (request for proposals) from Hive NYC and Pittsburgh. “What would you keep, cut, and add?” was the guiding question as members dissected the documents. The members focused on creating a clear, concise and lightweight application because they knew they were the end user.

Leah’s hacked up example:


Here are the components members came up with:

Project statement

  • How does your project encompass Hive priorities and stakeholder MUSTS

    • In its process, outcomes, and remixability
  • The 5 Ws + H (who, what, when, where, why and how)

    • Explain the logic behind your project, collaborative partners, and youth served
    • Identify the roles, responsibilities, each member is taking
    • A detailed budget
    • Timeline of the project
  • So what? Explain why what you’re doing matters


  • Goals and outcomes
  • Measures of success
  • How can this project live on?
  • How does the remixability of this project benefit the network and Toronto?

The Proposal Process

This activity and discussion also gave rise to the necessary next steps and an outline of the proposal process:

1) Kathryn (Director, Hive Toronto) drafts application

2) Members can give feedback on application for a limited time (probably 2 weeks)

3) Final application is shared. Members can now apply

4) Hivestarter – some sort of “expression of interest,” a way for members to share their ideas, find collaborators, and get feedback from other members similar to Hive NYC’s process this past January. This is an optional step that can either be done online or at a meet up.

5) Deadline for submissions

6) Decisions are made

The timeline for this is TBD based on input from from OTF and Mozilla. The people who will review applications will be representatives from our funders, design partner, as well as reps from Hive NYC and Hive Pittsburgh. Neither myself nor members will be involved in the decision-making process to ensure a fair process.


Remember in the beginning I said we started the charrette with two goals but accomplished three?

We know that Hive Toronto isn’t just about funding. We’ve been collaborating together for over a year on non-funded projects and events. This diagram begins to explore the process for members to collaborate and work together on both funded and non-funded projects. Thank you to Andy Forest from MakerKids for starting this conversation and making it visual.


The main highlights here are that ideas that don’t require funding can be initiated and brought to fruition by members. My support and involvement isn’t always necessary and, due to the fact that there are only so many hours in a day, can sometimes create a bottleneck.

One of the things I love about Hive Toronto is that every time we meet or have a call together new ideas emerge. This isn’t to say that all ideas that are suggested are ones that Hive should pursue. That is where the Hive priorities come in – as a kind of check and balance.

We are big thinkers and are committed to impacting Toronto’s youth! I alone cannot make all these things happen and that is why Hive is designed as a network. As more ideas are seeded, more people need to step forward to nurture those ideas together, and document and share what the implementation of these ideas accomplish. The network—and the youth and communities it serves—will become more robust as a result.

After our two afternoons together, I left feeling inspired. Hive Toronto is a community of practice that is working together to move youth from being consumers to being creators, using an open and reflective thought-process in order to do so.

We are learning, teaching and sharing via many different avenues:  pop-ups, meetups, community calls, professional development workshops, social media, Minigroup, and now we add the funded Collaborative Community Projects to our toolbox.

Thank you to all who made time to think with us, especially those for whom a participatory process was a new one.