Hive Barcelona – a perspective (I)

by Alina Mierlus


Update: This blog post was started a few weeks ago, meanwhile Chris Lawrence from HiveNYC wrote a very interesting post summarising how the HiveNYC works (operations and funding): 

A few months ago I started to explore the possibility of building a Hive in Barcelona. The Hive concept has been build around the connected learning theory of change (coined by Mimi Ito and other researchers in the United States). To simplify, the idea behind the connected learning theory is that nowadays, in a digital world, learning happens everywhere: from school, to public libraries, museums, community centres or online. The question is, whether, in a long term, all those skills and competences (especially those earned online and from community participation) would sum up and help the learner unlock new opportunities.

The Hive Learning Network New York (currently, a project operated by Mozilla Foundation) has already some projects underway and a roadmap that could serve as example for other Hives. And there are people working on building hives in London, Berlin, Toronto and some cities in the United States. 

Before writing this blog-post I had the chance to chat with some of the people working on HiveNYC (learned great stories about the work some members are doing on Open Badges System and community engagement) and people building the ones in London and Berlin. And I also participated at the Pop-up events in Berlin and London, so I got some perspective from the different ways of organising events. 

While I like the whole idea of Hives (as a network of cultural and institutional organisations working together and sharing knowledge), I try to get a view on how this would work in a city as Barcelona.

Barcelona is a city that has a culture of social responsibility, collaboration, citizen participation, use of free software. It is also the city where I learned most about the power of networks (there are dozens of networks of organisations and community technology centres, most of them scaled to neighbourhoods, villages level). There is also a strong culture of “learning from generation to generation”: from the famous Castellers groups to youth associations in villages or clubs in schools and Universities. If we look closely at the non-digital world, the connected learning has been existing there for years. 

I’m not coming from the Education sector nor have any formal degree in this field, but I’m considering myself a connected learner (I spent a lot of time in youth/student associations, community basements and communities of interest in various technological fields). So I spent most of the last year talking to facilitators, teachers, organising and supporting small web maker events in some community spaces – that helped me understand this space of informal learning.

Now, there are some general, more longer term views on what a Hive in Barcelona would look like, comes to my mind this: Accelerate the inventiveness, creativity and potentiate the sharing and collaboration in the existing learning networks in the city. 

But, more importantly, identify individuals from those community organisations that are excited about learning new things, such as using tools like Popcorn or Thimble for their learning offering, develop hackable apps or organise events.

That is, start growing a community of practice of people who are interested to maximise the potential of the web as a collaboration and development platform. A group of technology stewards that want to keep the peace with current trends in web development, mobile, open standards. And, at the same time, be the stewards of those technologies and practices in their own communities or organisations.

I’ve been thinking about Hive Barcelona for a while now (almost 6 months probably) meanwhile trying to understand more and more about how the informal learning sector works. And after both great and not so great experiences with this, my vision about a Hive network in BCN has been changing for a while. 

When I first started to talk with friends (among them teachers, folks from open source community and we developers) about bringing the Hive concept to Barcelona, I was told that this is too ambitious and that I needed a very big structure. 

But my approach is quite different, as I don’t want to spend time trying to open the hard things when you simply can team-up with people already motivated who want to do things. I’m trying to imagine the Hive Barcelona more like a learning lab where people not only comes to learn but build their own web apps and configure the whole open web technology’s offering to fit their community’s needs. Just imagine how people in different villages or schools or even public libraries could build their own web apps and maybe configure their own marketplace. Or an entire generation of young web developers building products with privacy and user choice principles at their core.  

In the next post, I’m going to write a bit about my view on what I consider as a strong 3 basic concepts for an eventual Hive Barcelona: literacy, membership, engagement.