The Knowledge Commons
The Knowledge Commons at Hampshire College is a project situated within the university’s library. The Knowledge Commons (KC), started in 2016, had the goal of not only physically bringing together academic resources, but making those resources more accessible to a wider range of students and developing the KC space as a community center. Their website articulates their vision as the aspiration “to cultivate a hub within the library to revitalize a campus center, centralize resources, and build a community where we support students in confidently navigating those resources at crucial points during their time at Hampshire”. A major part of achieving this was the employment of eight alumni fellows to support students in various academic areas and disciplines, as well as to organize workshops and meetups within and across their focuses. STOKE was brought in to provide facilitation training to this group of alumni fellows, and provide workshops to them and other staff connected to the Knowledge Commons.
Our work together began in the summer of 2017, with the articulation of a major goal being to create a more relational culture within the Knowledge Commons and the library, and for this group of alumni fellows to be at the center of that work. STOKE members collaborated with the director of the Knowledge commons to create a month and a half long project that brought together professional development and capacity building on individual, collaborative, and organizational levels. This looked like a training series that combined facilitation training, workshops around meeting practices, and relational supervision, including the alumni follows as well as broader library staff. Our primary work was with the group of fellows, who we worked with weekly doing eight, two and a half hour trainings to build a foundational knowledge of facilitation, practical skills, and engaged practice of them. This intensive curricular series helped fellows think about how to successfully engage the diverse Hampshire student body through popular education and critical pedagogy. Additionally we offered two library wide workshops to help map the way that meetings and power work in their context as well as guidance around inclusive practices, goal setting and goal reaching. Finally, we held one supervisor specific workshop around developing best relational practices in the supervisory role. This project culminated with a project wide debrief, and continued with next steps and visions for movement forward. We have continued our relationship with the Knowledge Commons Director, following up after six and nine months post project to understand how our work together as manifested in their project, and what support we could provide to assist in continuing the long term goals set at the start of our collaboration.
"We partnered with the STOKE Collective to offer a set of professional development workshops, organized around the theme of developing a relational culture for academic support, for staff working with the Knowledge Commons at Hampshire College. Our work with STOKE included a six-week course in facilitation and critical pedagogy for our team of alumni fellows, a two-part workshop on meeting practices for the entire staff, and a workshop on relational supervision for managers. I was fortunate to participate in all of these workshops, and served as the liaison between STOKE and the Knowledge Commons team.
Following our work with STOKE, Knowledge Commons team members have incorporated elements of relational practice in our work. We co-facilitate team meetings, to foster a stronger culture of support in our leadership, and we employ methods from our facilitation “toolbox” to create meetings in which we learn from each other and ensure that participants feel heard and recognized for their contributions. This has been especially important as we work with a diverse team, across levels of institutional hierarchy. The Alumni Fellows and staff who participated in the critical pedagogy and facilitation workshop have incorporated values from the training into program development, as they start by learning what our community members need, meet learners where they are, and build collective knowledge with the people in the room.
I deeply appreciate the ways in which STOKE Collective members Jishava, Kristie, and Jen practiced a relational, dialogic approach in their work with us. While they took responsibility for planning all of our workshop sessions, we communicated consistently throughout the three months we worked together to adapt our plans to the specific needs of the participants, the team, and our organization, and I learned with them how to meaningfully debrief after each workshop, as part of the learning and planning cycle for the training. With their support, I came out of the process with a clearer understanding of my role as a supervisor and team coordinator, and have become a more reflective, responsible facilitator."
-Alana Kumbier, Associate Librarian for Humanities & Knowledge Commons at Hampshire College