At the beginning of February 2018, a nine-question scaled survey “Prioritization of Affinity Group Topics” was disseminated to Chicago STEM Pathways Cooperative (STEM Co-op) members. This year, the STEM Co-op will launch and support a series of Affinity Groups, bringing members together around key areas in STEM education. The purpose of the survey was to gather voice and choice from STEM Co-op members and determine priorities and identify which topics STEM Co-op members would tackle and address through Affinity Groups this year.
What is an Affinity Group?
One strategy to activate the Co-op’s mission is to collaborate via affinity groups to build trust, drive common motivation, and develop shared language and common understanding of assets and opportunities within the ecosystem. Rather than working groups, where we were being prescriptive, Affinity Group meetings will bring together partners around themes and questions organically emerging from the current work of partners in the Chicago STEM ecosystem. During the November 30th Fall 2017 STEM Co-op Convening, attendees worked together to determine a variety of topics to address.
Affinity Groups are guided by three principles:
- Identifying best practices, in Chicago, nationally, or both;
- Understanding the pressing challenges in the field as they relate to inequity for Chicago youth; and
- Determining how collaborative work can address the equity challenges.
What kinds of Affinity Groups would STEM Co-op members like to see? Through facilitated discussion, participants identified a range of themes that could potentially develop into member-driven Affinity Groups. From these small group discussions, the notes were organized and put back out to the STEM Co-op through the electronic survey.
About the Survey
The Chicago STEM Co-op will launch and support a series of Affinity Groups, bringing us together around key areas in STEM education, like Early Childhood and Maker Education. Over 50 individuals responded with their opinions on which topics they consider high, medium and low priority topics. There was also an option to categorize a topic as more suited to addressed through a mini-symposium instead of a long-term conversation. The following chart details the responses.
Each survey also allowed for detailed explanation of responses. As seen in the graphic, the high priority topics that surfaced are ‘Engaging Family & Community’, ‘Training & Professional Development in STEM Learning’, ‘Connecting Schools to Out-of-School Learning’, and ‘Early Childhood STEM’. These four topics will be focused on moving forward this next year.
What’s next for Affinity Groups?
The STEM Co-op’s Leadership Team worked to create an Affinity Group Charter which outlines the guiding and aligning principles of all affinity groups. This document overviews Affinity Groups, describes the process, membership and operations for each group.
Each Affinity Group will have a Leadership Tier of membership including two Co-Leads. If you would like to nominate yourself or a colleague as a Co-Lead for one of the four topics, please fill out this brief survey. We are very excited to continue moving this work forward together and with intentionality.