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With a keen interest in local community tech groups I was looking forward to meeting up with Hive Manchester who were holding an event that evening in Manchester Central Library. On my way there I wondered about what kind of agenda might be in store and imagined the usual format of presentations with networking towards the end.
On arriving I noticed informal groups of people both stood and sat around tables chatting. With some busy setting up and others still arriving there was a welcoming atmosphere of attendees and organisers who made themselves approachable to newbies like me. Even though Hive Manchester had established themselves in 2015 this was to be their official launch of the Hive Manchester Learning Community.
Paul from Drupal North West was kind enough to get me up to speed on Hive’s background and I was interested to learn they are part of a global network of groups developed by the Mozilla Foundation in the US. There are Hive groups in Toronto, Mombasa, New York, Bangalore, Chicago, Vancouver and now Manchester, which is the first Hive to become established in Europe.
The start of the evening was introduced by Damian Payton and Steven Flowers from Hive Manchester who explained the main aims of the group and the evening ahead. By connecting with tech advocates in Greater Manchester, Hive is creating opportunities for young people to learn about tech in ways that inspire innovation and increase their involvement with the local community through new groups and projects.
Coral Grainger from Tech North went on to explain that Tech North is supporting Hive to produce video and digital content, so that lessons and resources can be shared and used with other cities in the North and beyond. Tech North aims to bring businesses together to help shape digital skill development, so it was fantastic to meet companies such as Thales at this session.
As the attention now turned to the audience I had an inkling that things were about to become more interactive, at which point the organisers handed the event over to the rest of us. As we got into small groups to discuss how we thought Hive’s aims could be achieved I quickly realised that many of those among us were already well-connected with other tech groups and had plenty of ideas which were helped along by putting them down on large sheets of paper with markers and post-its.
This interactive collaboration of idea sharing is more commonly known as the World Café Method which generated an engaging hour of conversations about what made a good tech group for children. This included the need for more volunteers such as other group leaders and teachers with venues like libraries and schools, which together could provide opportunities to learn beyond what is currently available in our education system.
The main questions talked through were: Who should we have in our network? What cool things should we be doing to increase young people’s digital skills? What do you want from these community meetups? And what do we need to achieve Hive’s aims?
The feedback from these questions included the need for multidisciplinary volunteers; a shared platform such as Slack for groups and individuals to communicate on; a better understanding of where the educational gaps are currently; an engagement strategy for hard-to-reach groups; and collaboration with local businesses.
Hack events and app building were top of the list to drive digital practices, with suggestions for fund-raising and sharing resources such as laptops between different community events.
At the end of the World Café session I managed to find the coffee and biscuits and had the chance to talk more generally about creating community tech groups for learning. There seems to be little doubt that the demand is there, and with the help of Hive Manchester a continuity of activity can be achieved. In the same spirit of the Mozilla Foundation and other similar movements within the global tech community, Hive’s model of sharing and networking has already proven itself to be a catalyst for growth.
Businesses throughout the North are invited to collaborate with Hive Manchester by running their own groups aimed at encouraging young people with exciting tech projects, from programming to building with hardware. Tech North is delighted to support this globally recognised group to become established in Manchester, encouraging more activity to help young people learn digital skills.
Stay tuned for updates here on the blog and for more info on Hive check out the Hive Manchester website and Twitter feed. Or feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
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