One of the top five reasons I love my job* is the chance to learn from, get to know and develop relationships with the talented professionals that make up the Hive Learning Network(s). It is truly an honor to work with all of you. Not only does this bring me joy, it also deeply improves how I do my job and grow as an educator, manager, thinker and evangelist. So yesterday I had an illuminating conversation with one of you. One that suggested that I am not communicating some key aspects of Hive NYC with enough clarity. So let me see if I can shed some light.
Hive Learning Network NYC is not a funder. To some of you this may be a puzzling statement, but keep reading. Do we help spread resources throughout the network? Yes. Do we advise the New York Community Trust (NYCT) on how to distribute funds? Yes. Do we help the NYCT fund-raise? Yes. Do we sometimes provide seed funding to projects from our operational budget or other funding streams? Yes. All of these tasks fall under the jurisdiction of helping to grow the network and scaffold the process of developing an ecosystem of innovative learning experiences, spaces and projects. Here at what we refer to as “Hive HQ,” we view our role primarily as horticulturalists who attempt to nurture, feed and get out of the way, so that a vibrant and diverse garden will bloom.
So, non-metaphorically this means we:
- Build a learning lab amongst and within the network where new ideas, approaches, theories, products and partnerships can be incubated and pushed out to a greater learning community
- Help construct and implement infrastructures that allow for networked collaborations, sharing, ambient awareness and resource access
- Bring our experience as educators, program designers, technologists, and communications professionals to projects, ideas, programs, events, theories of change, narrative construction and messaging
- Model and highlight Hive NYC projects and outcomes that we feel are exemplars and best practices at the intersection of digital media, youth development and learning transformation
- Are a conduit for resources (in its many definitions) to flow to and from the network and external stakeholders
- Establish spaces for discussion and reflection
- Translate and represent the larger foundational ideas—such as MacArthur’s Connected Learning principles and Mozilla’s Webmakers— that formed the network and advocate for all of us to have agency to help shape these ideas in the future.
So back to funding. Here is how it works:
The MacArthur Foundation, through their Digital Media Learning Portfolio, is the primary (but not only) funder to the Hive Learning Network project. They give two large grants to underwrite this. One grant goes to the Mozilla Foundation and is essentially the operational budget for “Hive HQ.” Leah, Lainie and I are Mozilla Foundation employees, and we project manage this work as well as become part of the larger Mozilla team working hard to remix what “learning” can look like as we proceed into a young century. Via this relationship Mozilla helps support the Hive NYC work through financial support, expanding our team, presenting opportunities to share our work and learning from Hive NYC how best to meet their global learning goals.
A second grant is made from MacArthur to the New York Community Trust. This was the foundation for the “Hive Digital Media Learning Fund in the New York Community Trust” (or Hive Fund) and is where the project funds come that are activated through the RFP. It is the primary (although not only) way in which Hive NYC projects are funded. The Hive Fund is what they call a Collaborative Donor Fund. This means that while MacArthur is the largest funder, there are others who contribute to the fund. The NYCT has worked hard to develop a vibrant fund and continues to bring in new funders to support the Hive Fund and its goals. There are currently five other donors in the Hive Fund including: NYCT; Mozilla Foundation; Joan Ganz Cooney and Beth M. Uffner funds in the NYCT; Renate, Hans, and Maria Hofmann Trust; and David Rockefeller Fund.
Here are the NYCT duties as “The Funder” for Hive NYC member projects:
- Write, distribute and manage the Hive Fund RFP process
- Manage and determine the process in which proposals are selected for funding (the voting committee includes the Commissioner of Cultural Affairs, the NYCT and all donors of $25K or more to the Hive Fund)
- Distribute funds
- Oversee the proper use and reporting on released funds
- Fundraising and growing the Hive Fund by both increasing the amount and diversifying the donor base
So while our work is intertwined and deeply collaborative, there are key distinctions and boundaries between the work that drives the Hive Learning Network in NYC. The NYCT is “Hive’s Project Funder” and Hive HQ is “Hive’s Steward” both are dedicated to the ecosystem approach that the Hive Learning Network has been building since its inception.
As one funding cycle reaches its conclusion (announcements to arrive by Oct 15th) and another is set to begin with the next RFP release later this Fall, this is the perfect time to continue to refine and discuss this balance. I hope this brings some transparency.I would love to hear what you think and how we can make this work better.
* I will continue to round out my “Top Five Reasons I Love my Job” in future posts.