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ALF Calls

After the first ALF Summer, a group of us agreed to hold weekly facilitator calls to connect and support each other. As the earliest ALFs, it felt like we were constantly encountering situations that we needed to newly figure out how to navigate. On the one hand, we had years of experience of facilitators at free schools and adults in non-schooled communities to look to. On the other hand, as new facilitators many of us were practicing mindfulness of our reactions and intentionality in our responses…trying to check that we weren’t just replicating coercive or devaluing patterns of interacting that we’d been raised in. Trying to live in and create the future at the same time, we looked to the calls for appreciation, help troubleshooting, and opportunities to offer our learning to make others’ journeys smoother.

As time flowed on, our community expanded across time-zones and languages. We became more practiced, and new new ALFs arrived with different questions than we were asking. Call attendance dropped, and then the offering ceased altogether.

This past year, as part of coherence-creating efforts, I committed to restart the calls. Tomis created a Zoom room for us to use, and I put together a schedule of rotating topics and regular openings for guest facilitators. It was…overly ambitious ūüôā I’m pretty practiced at figuring out what’s in an individual learner’s ZDP, but I’m still learning how to discern that for a large and ever-expanding movement.

That’s not at all to say I’m disappointed by what the year’s calls have turned into. #notattachedtoimaginedoutcomes

They’ve been really fruitful. Attendance fluctuated a bunch at the beginning of the year, but as time went on a clearer regular cohort emerged. My role a facilitator got lighter and lighter as the group built enough relationship to facilitate itself, with new folks coming in and out as they needed. From the calls, a new duo of co-facilitators decided they have enough rapport to run a training together even though they haven’t practiced in person yet. A new working group emerged, new ALFs took on projects (Bethany set up a CRM for tracking conversations with Starter Kit downloaders, Amber started playing with the Network Instagram account, David started workshopping the wording of our 4th “root” principle). We also recorded 5 conversations with facilitators from around the network, on topics that were coming up in the Slack #support channel around the time of each recording. Those are now on a YouTube channel, free to share:

Looking into next year, I’m anticipating continuing to hold calls, new facilitators stepping up to host//co-host, sharing just the audio from recorded calls for those of us who podcast, and calls starting up (or becoming regular…for those that are just starting now) in other languages and time zones.

For those looking to facilitate calls, here’s what I’ve learned is most important:

  1. Be clear and consistent. ~ Hold the space reliably, and send people the link so it’s easy for them to join you.
  2. Be patient. ~ The calls won’t always be well attended. Those who attend will be wherever they are in their processes…as you will be too.
  3. Release expectations. ~ They’ll become whatever people need them to. They’ll be super rich. Your role is to midwife the conversation that is unique to those people in that moment…whatever that looks like.
  4. Tend the flow. ~ Do you need to remind a dominating voice to leave space for others? Is it helpful to gently cut someone off and crystalize the question under their ramble? If you invite someone slightly less experienced than you to answer a question rather than answering it yourself, can you support them and increase the learning of the group? Facilitation…it’s a verb.
  5. Tend yourself. ~ Have you eaten and gotten set up in a place where you can listen in a way folks will feel? Does this still feel like a gift you offer rather than an obligation (time to step back if not)? Are you nurturing the growth of the facilitators who will replace you, so they’re ready when you need them to be? And if you’re me, do you have a notepad with you so you can follow up sending people the resources or notes you promise them during the conversation?

LEGO Idea 2018: Day 2

So the second day started like this:

I could have watched Arvind Gupta for hours. His presence was gift enough. But then he mentioned that his project is open-source so 100s of his and others’ designs are available for free on his website. When I got to¬†http://www.arvindguptatoys.com/, I discovered he also has work on there about John Holt. Kindred spirits and teachers everywhere I look these days…

The next lecture was Rebecca Winthrop sharing her work on Leapfrogging. From the sounds of it, Brookings is naming something that individuals have done for ages–learn from others’ processes and opt to skip steps of development where possible–to help organizations and systems intentionally look for opportunities to do the same, accelerating their development. Examples of leapfrogging would be countries opting not to lay cables for landline phones and organizations opting not to build brick-and-mortar bank buildings (presuming they haven’t already done these things), focusing their resources instead on cell phone service and mobile banking. The question I wrote down was “What have we assumed is necessary but we’re actually just emotionally attached to and can release to accelerate positive change?” Our industrial model schools, perhaps? Then Rebecca went on to show a rubric for gauging where an alternative education practice/system’s teaching and learning are in relationship to our conventional models versus the “breadth of skills” (aka 21st century skills) model the research says we should be reaching for. We did an exercise where we got into groups and discussed where each of our projects would be on the rubric. I laughed…ALC was so clearly¬†it that my group was urging me to share if Rebecca called for volunteers to talk about their group’s conversation. “Leapfrogging,” a gentleman phrased it to me later, “would be a country going straight to building centers like yours and training facilitators instead of developing a school system.” Usually I’m not into men I just met telling me about my work, but in this case it was affirming and exciting. I’ll be reading the Brookings research before the summer season of trainings starts, for sure.

Next I went to a session on BRAC’s practices. I learned that they involve community members in setting up their centers from the start, asking them to help find a location they feel safe sending their children to and asking them for suggestions of which local young women to train as staff. I made a note to share that practice with some of the start-up groups in Mexico who had been asking about parent safety concerns…It makes a lot of sense to me. I learned that their training for the young women playworkers (they intentionally pick girls and young women from the community, to develop their skills, empower them, and offer them work experience) typically includes about 5 days of theory, practice, and monthly check-ins with other playworker/facilitators. Sounds familiar ūüôā Finally, I learned that they include parents and other family members by offering workshops, encouraging volunteering, and organizing space-work days where they provide materials for parents to come in and make toys together. Clearly the approach was carefully designed to empower and enrich whole communities, and I was delighted to learn how successful it’s been. It’s the kind of approach to change-making that I’d love to see way more of in the world…something I thought about when at one point I turned around to start an activity and saw that Sir Fazle Abed and his wife were both in the session with us, participating.

The afternoon kicked off with a panel discussion about global scaling. Sharath Jeevan of Stir offered an illustration of nonprofits working to influence governments as ants biting an elephant, powerful only if they’re strategic, that I’m going to save for when we get into the work of advocating for SDE-friendly policy changes as a network. My notes on this conversation are a bit fragmented, but I highlighted ’embracing complexity while seeking simplicity’ and ‘build platforms so people can do the work of applying your idea on the ground where they are’ as themes. Saku Tuominen of HundrED said near closing that one of the reason innovations don’t catch on and spread is that those doing the work don’t take time to broadcast. He’s right…It’s something that’s been on my mind in relation to ALC for a few months now. We have to share generously, and that means valuing sharing enough to intentionally protect time for doing so.

My last workshop of the conference was one I sort-of ended up at by accident. My brain was too full, and I got the numbers of the sessions I’d signed up for all mixed up. It worked out though; I ended up at the South Africa Cares session on “6 Bricks” exercises for kids and teachers. I hadn’t been looking for a session on classroom exercises, but I’m really glad I ended up at this one. First, it sounds like their organization does some really cool work, and I’m excited to now know about them so I can read more once I’m settled back home. Second, I recognized that their exercises incorporate Brain Gym movements, so I got to have some really interesting conversations about that and am back to wondering if I should find someone to teach me more about their therapy model. So cool.

We went back downstairs to hear from a panel of observers sharing harvests from the sessions they’d been in that day. Then Kiran Bir Sethi shared a framework her schools use that sounded so much like the ALC 4th root that I sent a photo to the facilitators who have been working on re-wording that root (it’s the principle about learning being a process that includes intention, exploration, iteration, reflection, and sharing). She also shared an adorable video of her kids doing their project-based-learning stuff and being awesome, remarking that once a kid experiences being a catalyst for change, the way they relate to their world changes. It’s so good to know there are people all over the world raising empowered kids. Gives me hope.


And just like that, we were at the closing session. I committed to record a video reflection, but I’m writing two blog posts instead (I’m recording a video on something else tomorrow…). Made some music with everyone to close the event out, video-called the NYC kids (just like I did from Mexico! Gotta love tech…), took a silly selfie with Liam under the giant LEGO tree, said good-bye to new friends I’ll hopefully cross paths with again someday, and prepared for the long journey home.

LEGO Idea 2018: Day 1

A few months ago, I was invited to the LEGO Idea conference. At first, I wasn’t sure if my schedule and finances would work out in a way that would let me go, but…suddenly it was April and I was off to Denmark. #WorthIt

Before I even got to the LEGO House for the conference, I’d noticed how the nearby hotel, restaurant, and park spaces were clearly designed to be accessible for children. The reception desk where I was staying had steps leading to it, which I watched a 6 or 7 year old confidently climb when he came in alone to ask directions to a specific playground, and these sculpture garden picnic tables made me smile:

Sometimes, other adults talk about “learning through play” the same way they talk about hiding broccoli in macaroni and cheese. I’ll show up to conversations excited to discuss empowering kids (and adults) to make choices in a context where we’re all learning from our experiences of being alive. I’ll show up excited, playful, intentional, eager to collaborate, clear that learning is interdisciplinary and that ‘student’ is a verb and…then someone will start talking about hiding multiplication drills in a video game. Let’s just say it’s disappointing.

Leading up to the conference, hearing the pop phrase “learning through play” coupled with the theme “Empowering Children to Shape Tomorrow” had me hopeful the LEGO Foundation folks *actually* got it. But I wasn’t sure.

As John Goodwin told the stories of the women in his family, reflecting on the relationships between their schooling paths and their career paths, my hesitation started to fall away. Then he put up this slide:

I grinned. The CEO of LEGO was speaking my language. And it got better from there.


My notes from the rest of the opening plenary are brief and enthusiastic scribbles about how Goodwin and then Jaime Saavedra were explaining to this room of 400 people–in much the same language I’ve used with much smaller groups–that our schools are expressions of education systems with outdated priorities, why that needs to change, and how the current research supports the new systems prioritizing nurturing creative and self-expressed humans. By the time they turned us loose to play for a few hours, the certainty that this was a crowd I’d find collaborators and friends in had me nearly dizzy with excitement.

I came back to earth pretty quickly. My first stop when exploring the LEGO House was an experiment group where half of us were instructed to be playful, half were told not to play, and we were all charged with making “ducks or creatures like ducks.” Being in the “playful” group, I made a well-eyebrowed hydra duck. When time was up, I was surprised to hear others in my group comment that they felt insecure about being less creative than me. When the facilitator of the experiment asked to interview someone from each side, my group nominated me “as the resident artist.” All in all, the experiment was interesting and fun. That said, rather than walking away reflecting on the difference in experience when an activity is framed as as a work assignment versus as play, I found myself reflecting on what impacts the amount of permission we give ourselves to be silly, how to re-teach adults to play, what alienates people from their creativity, and how my reaction to hearing someone else experience my play as devaluing theirs was an impulse to shrink that hasn’t felt that strong since junior high. It was fascinating…

Playing a few other games, finding adults who did want to play together, and talking to the “Play Guides” (the facilitator, play-worker staff) about their experiences pulled me out of my head, and I was re-centered pretty quickly. When I rounded a corner and saw a group of kids in the car-building space, the part of me that always protests after too many hours of adult-only sessions at ALC events and relaxes when the kids show up sent appreciation and thanks to whatever conference-planner thought to invite them.

The afternoon started with Sir Fazle Abed receiving an award and sharing about his journey growing BRAC. Hearing him cite Freire as inspiration and discuss how intentional he’d been about keeping BRAC’s operations community-based, I was reminded that ALC is part of a movement with a very long, rich, and encouraging history. I made a mental note to sign up for the session on BRAC’s parent and playworker education approach for the next day.

Chernor Bah spoke next. He shared about how his school teachers had complained about his playfulness, how his mom had encouraged him to keep playing, and how his ability to connect with others through play served him through war, displacements, and language barriers. He also talked about becoming aware that he’d been encouraged and able to develop his playfulness more than his sisters, which motivated him to think about and then found an organization to address gender inequality. Chernor didn’t really speak about his experiences as a youth activist, advocate, and organizer–which makes sense, I guess, since the topic was ‘play’ and learning journeys–but I’d read a little bit about his work before. Pretty awe-inspiring…

After the talks, we dispersed back through the LEGO House to hear other speakers’ stories of how they came to be who they are and do what they do. I ended up with my shoes off, in a giant pool of Duplo bricks, discussing the MIT Media Lab and how to keep misogyny from discouraging our teen girl gamer-maker-creators or convincing them to shrink themselves.

My last ‘formal’ session of the day was one recommended for first time conference attendees: “What do we mean by Learning Through Play?” One of the presenters has a hand in training most of the playworker/facilitator staff in the LEGO House, so I was curious to experience his facilitation.

The LEGO foundation has pretty illustrations of their 5 characteristics of play and 5 holistic development skills developed through play on their website, but it was fun to hear a bit about their research process. *And* I learned through that session that their whitepaper is available online. Excited to read that and share it with the SDE community.

Between all this, I’d gotten to chat with a bunch of rad and inspiring people who set up libraries and children’s museums, who worldschool and free school, who run maker-spaces and national education systems, who play and who parent. AND I walked around outside a bunch. Got back to my hotel tired, grateful, and curious about what I’d learn processing all my notes.


Educambiando Visit ’17

I was invited to the Agile Learning Facilitation training that Educambiando hosted in December of 2017 in Veracruz, Mexico. After months of tending my language-barrier worries with serious study sessions and my leaving-school-for-over-a-week worries by getting ahead on paperwork while my spawn practiced running things without me, I headed off on my first international trip since 2012. The ALC I landed at looked a little different than my East Harlem homebase…

Ever since falling deep into¬†Godel, Escher, Bach¬†as a teenager, I’ve delighted in moments when it’s clear the world around me is presenting variations on a theme. Across ALCs, there’s rich diversity of people, settings, and languages informing each community’s culture. At the same time, sharing principles and frameworks means some elements feel familiar across all kinds of distances. Even though my Spanish was really basic, I recognized tools, the flow of the training, and the delightful vibrance of the local facilitator team.

The training facilitators offered classic sessions on communication, the science of learning, finite and infinite games, ALC principles, conflict, parent worries, and culture shifting. We played group coherence games, some I recognized and some I was excited to learn.

Then once the kids showed up there were also offerings like Chiquita beadwork, theater, chorus, dance, recycling tricks, shadow work, animal communication, soccer, acro-balance, and jungle walks:
















I facilitated and co-facilitated a few sessions, with a lot of help from bilingual community members. I had to bow out of facilitating Change-Up, because my understanding of Spanish was too limited for me to listen as deeply to the nuances of and feelings under the group’s conversation than I needed to in order to effectively facilitate. There were also moments where the group drew tools illustrating time differently than how I’m used to illustrating it, work-shopped how to overcome a fear of direct communication that they recognized as part of navigating a legacy of¬†colonialism, strategized applying what they were learning to make relief efforts after environmental disasters more effective, and explored how cultural norms and power dynamics impacted their attempts to build ALC communities…moments where I just listened, wondering about how our worlds are so similar and so different at the same time.¬†

Noticeably different from our ALC-NYC trainings [other than the presence of green space] was how the amount of space available meant adults often ended up congregating separate from the kids unless they intentionally moved to do otherwise I was having a lot of feelings after news of a bomb back in NYC, so I dosed myself with ample baby + toddler time.

Much of the flow of the program, facilitator team planning sessions, and participant styles of participating were similar to what I’ve seen at other trainings, which was cool. Having a different facilitator team meant folks offering different expertise, which I learned a lot and felt a lot of joy from experiencing. The gut sense I’ve had for a while that there’s a lot of value in facilitator exchanges was just affirmed again and again on this trip.

Heading home, I was really grateful for my earlier adventures in travelling and language-learning, which were full of lessons I find helpful now but didn’t even realize at the time I was learning. I felt grateful for the invitation to visit, for the kindness of everyone I’d met, for the beauty of Veracruz, and for being gifted questions I hadn’t sat with before. Moving forward, I am excited about about the possibility in some of the new relationships I nurtured with facilitators and families who were at the training. I also had a blast co-facilitating with Rub√©n, and I can’t wait to do that again soon.

Newsletters Sept-March

For the past few months, I’ve composed and sent out monthly newsletters to ALC Network members. Here are a few of them…


Hi everyone!

Back in September of 2013, I could have updated the whole¬†ALC¬†Network by just walking into the back room of the East Harlem school and talking to the 4 men there. Today, it takes coordinating lists of nearly 200 contributors across several platforms–and I know I need to request¬†ALC¬†coherence holders pass this on to co-facilitators I’m missing // polyglots translate this into the primary languages of your communities then share it–to reach¬†almost¬†everyone. It blows my mind, and this is just the beginning. Ready?
We have new calls, coherence holders, learning centers, and email lists! 
Are you ready for our Year 5 upgrade? Read on…
Calls Monday nights at 7:30 pm EST
  • First week of the month, we’ll have a call for new members and those in Start-Ups.
  • Second week, we’ll have an Hangout hosted by¬†ALC¬†staff (NYC hosts 9/11/17).
  • Third week, we’ll have a¬†recorded¬†call on a specific¬†ALC-relevant topic.
  • Fourth week, we’ll have a big-picture, network¬†updates¬†call.
Our Hangouts room is —
Check hosts/topics on our¬†—
Email me to offer to host a call/propose a topic.
  • Loren, from¬†ALC¬†Heartwood, is our current web-tech CH. He can be reached at —, or on Slack.
  • I’m still CH for weekly calls! Let me know if you want to tap me out.
  • Mercer, Tomis, Art, and I are CH for a Network-wide reboot/update this fall. We’ll be coordinating with the working groups (WG) of volunteers tending the website/tech platforms, updating the Starter Kit, managing the Network nonprofit’s finances, and organizing trainings. We’ll probably see some new working groups emerge before the year’s out…which I’m excited for. In the meantime, I’m CH for reviewing and organizing some of our data, so you’ll hear from me a bunch this year. Want to link up with or start a WG? Or help me go through our data? Just let me know ūüôā
  • Mercer and I are CH for new member support. She’s at —¬†and I’m at —
Eeeeep! There’s so many! Our InterALC support infrastructure has grown from calls and emails to blogs, incorporated Trello, shifted from email to Slack, and started to include regional retreats//trainings. We’re looking to keep that momentum going and find ways to get better and better at supporting each other.
I have a REQUEST related to this intention:¬†Please have a coherence holder from your¬†ALC¬†fill out¬†THIS FORM.¬†Or do it together like we will in NYC…whatever works for you is fine. Please have it filled out by the end of September. If you do it now, you won’t forget ūüėČ
Email Lists
Our email lists are outdated. I want to fix this, so please let me know if you’d like to be added or removed from:
  • support@alc.network ¬†— where we answer questions, like on #support on Slack
  • info@alc.network ¬†— where we answer more general questions and get¬†updates
  • editors@alc.network ¬†— this isn’t active, but it was for those managing our GDrive
  • ——@alc.network ¬†— for ALFs…and where I will someday send emails like this one
There’s no newsletter/supporter list yet. Speak up if you want to start one. Also please speak up if you want to volunteer to translate communications.¬†
That’s all! For now ūüôā¬†
Love and logistics,
Abby Oulton

Co-Director & administrator, ALC-NYC


Hi everyone!

Last month I sent an email with¬†updates…Last week I decided I’m going to do this monthly until we get a Newsletter working group up and running. Cool? Cool.¬†

I drafted this email in the

4 facilitator

4 regular volunteer

30 kid and

51 parent

diverse and vibrant

flagship of the ALC network,

connected [officially] to

37 other projects sprung of

1321 Starter-Kit downloads from our

350 user website which

149 of us discuss (among other things) on Slack and

200+ of us do work related to.

It‚Äôs fall (well…in NYC it is) and since I‚Äôm still a farm kid at heart, fall for me is a season of preparing whatever we want to have nourishing us through the winter so we can bloom in spring. I intend to cue up projects and organize working groups, so that when the holidays are over and the snow has melted here in the city I‚Äôll get to reflect with gratitude on what we’ve grown together. Stay tuned ūüôā


The information from the surveys last month has been super helpful. I’m really grateful for the time so many of you took to fill them out and send me individual emails about how you’d like to be involved in this year’s network upgrade! Thanks to what you shared, we’ve got a logo option in the works for folks using-ALC-tools, are putting together a plan for individuals to become network members, have working groups actively upgrading the Starter Kit and network website//map listings. More to come…and the survey is still live if you haven’t submitted it (if you’re a new member, don’t worry about doing this unless you’re excited to…I have your info surveys from when you registered…).


You can find our call schedule on our¬†InterALC Calendar.¬†Our call room is —…which redirects to a Zoom room that Tomis set up for us.

This coming week’s call is hosted by¬†ALC¬†Mosaic staff and will likely be the last one that Nancy Tilton (ALC¬†Mosaic founder and director) is on before her baby arrives. Want to hear about community building with parents, the house and magical play-yard they’ve been building, adapting meetings/offerings for different age groups, or how to take kids on backpacking road trips? Sign on¬†Monday at 7:30 pm est.¬†

**The following Monday’s call will be a recorded open conversation about morning and afternoon meetings. We’ll be sharing what they look like in our different communities, what we’ve found works/doesn’t work, and what challenges we’d like support troubleshooting. Topic pulled from #startup-support Slack channel**
Puerto Rico Support…
Nancy Tilton and Lacy Manship have been working hard to share ExAlt’s Amazon Wishlist for those who want to support our¬†ALC¬†family in Puerto Rico. Lacy’s most recent email reads: “I just wanted to update that the¬†Amazon wishlist¬†items include an embedded shipping address directly to Alex.¬† When I went through the checkout I was able to easily select ‘Ship to wishlist recipient, Alex [Aldarondo]’ or something like that. ¬† We have confirmation that Amazon is shipping to¬†Puerto¬†Rico.”
An Opportunity (actually two)…
Tomis Parker shared in Slack that the new owner of this camp is open to someone from¬†ALC¬†taking the director…:¬†https://www.longacre.com/
Also news from Tomis, ASDE is launching local meet-up groups. If you’re with a new program looking for local collaborators or an established program with enthusiastic parents needing a place to channel movement-growing energy, check out¬†self-directed.org. (And then let Scott Noelle know how pretty the website is…)
Our network coherence holders for Latin America–Alex Aldarondo and Rebecka Koritz–are hosting a training in¬†San Lu√≠s Potos√≠,¬†Mexico in November. Info at¬†http://exaltpr.org/capacitacion-alfs-slp/. Their bios are on the page ūüėČ
Liliana Carrillo, a new member who attended several trainings this summer and is looking to start an¬†ALC¬†in Belgium, is hosting a local event in Dutch to seed an¬†ALCcommunity in Ghent, Belgium.Her program is this month, with Ryan Shollenberger and Melody Compo of¬†ALC-NYC offering remote support/participation. Lili can be reached at —
Rub√©n Alvarado, an experienced program facilitator who was present for the inception of ALCs at Emerging Leader Labs and has recently been practicing as an¬†ALCfacilitator in Florida and Mexico, is hosting a local event in Xalapa, Mexico in December, with plans for Alex Aldarondo and I to participate as seasoned ALFs.¬†Rub√©n can be reached at¬†—
TL;DR Gushy-ness, survey, call info, PR support, opportunities, events, viola.
Whew! That’s it for this month!
Love, logistics, and small humans spelling,
Abby Oulton

Co-Director & administrator, ALC-NYC



Hi everyone!

Last month I decided I’m going to send monthly update emails across the network until we get a Newsletter working group up and running. Here’s your November note!¬†
It’s Scorpio season and I’ve been reading adrienne maree brown’s latest book, which means November here in Washington Heights has been full of boldness. Boldly dreaming about what’s possible for us to be and build. Boldly moving to engage with the invitations to grow tucked in the daily challenges I face. Boldly rejoicing over the work of far-away folks I’ve never met (your social media game is¬†so good!)¬†There’s more, but you probably get the point.
If you’re also feeling eager to move the world more than you already [fantastically, just by being a force in it] do, I’ve got some requests/project ideas in this email, near the bottom. Announcements first, though ūüôā

At this point, I’m assuming those who haven’t clicked through this won’t. The survey is still live¬†though… just in case ūüôā We got some really amazing and helpful responses, and I really appreciated the follow-up direct emails I got from some of you. I didn’t get back to some of the offers for support–it’s been a little busy tending my local¬†ALC¬†recently–but I have them all saved! I’ll be sending out requests for these in the coming months as the Network Upgrade we’re in month 3 of continues. That said, here’s a friendly reminder that you don’t have to wait for anyone’s approval/permission to start doing cool things in support of our mission! And you can always ask Mercer, Tomis, and I if you need data/docs/codes to do what you’re doing.


You can find our call schedule on our¬†InterALC Calendar.¬†Our call room is —…which redirects to a Zoom room that Tomis set up for us.

***Next Monday’s¬†call will be a recorded open conversation about supporting a diverse community of learners. We’ll be sharing what this looks like in our different communities, what we’ve found works/doesn’t work, and what challenges we’d like support troubleshooting. Topic pulled from #startup-support Slack channel, where neurodiversity and different folks’ different holidays were the specific subtopics mentioned**

Puerto Rico Support…
Puerto Rico is still reeling from Irma+Maria in September. This¬†Amazon wishlist¬†has¬†items requested by Alex and Yineza, who have been both organizing¬†ALC¬†ExAlt and relief efforts in the area around San Juan. Select the¬†Mans de Alejandrino¬†address for shipping. One of Alex’s photos is attached to this email.

An Opportunity…

Heartwood¬†ALC¬†in Atlanta, Georgia is hiring! Google their amazingness, then email —–¬†if you have someone to send their way.

The San Luís Potosí, Mexico training in November is coming up in a week! Info at http://exaltpr.org/capacitacion-alfs-slp/.

Rubén Alvarado, an experienced program facilitator who was present for the inception of ALCs at Emerging Leader Labs and has recently been practicing as an ALC facilitator in Florida and Mexico, is hosting a local event in Xalapa, Mexico in December.
ALC-NYC will be hosting a mini web-conference on December 1st! We’ll be live-streaming a mix of daily happenings and special offerings/interviews from our East Harlem school starting at 9:15 am est.¬†Link will be on our FB page.
Comings and Goings
As of mid-October, Eric Bear is no longer affiliated with the ALC Network.
As of 11/13 Arthur Brock is no longer affiliated with the ALC Network.
We appreciate the work they did for this project and wish them all the best in their future endeavors. On a related note, through February 2018, the board will be looking for individuals literate in open-source culture to include among the candidates for board membership come the already-planned transition of the board in spring.
In October we welcomed The FreedomHill Project, Free Range Education Learning Center, Denver Agile Learning Center,¬†Anna Julia Cooper Learning & Liberation Center, Bethany Lopez, and Pathfinder Community School to the¬†ALC¬†Network! There is also a plan in the works to offer individual membership by January of 2018, supported by the pro bono work Will Harris-Braun is doing designing two new logos for use by individuals, folks using our tools, and others inspired by our work who aren’t running ALCs.
InterALC Sharing
Super appreciative of all Loren and Dan have been doing to try to fix our website, which you’ve probably noticed has been struggling to handle all the attention it’s getting these days. Someday it’ll have a place for sharing our social media feeds (or be a more robust sharing platform itself!) but in the meantime I highly recommend checking out the social media feeds of other ALCs. I wouldn’t have any idea about bouldering at¬†ALC¬†Cluj, bow-making at a parent-inclusive day-of-play hosted by Heartwood¬†ALC, or the Star Wars marathon at Mont-Libre¬†ALC¬†if I didn’t do my best to be following your projects on FB and Instagram.
Slack chatter has been doing what it does–ebbing and flowing as the school year constantly rearranges our schedules. My last use report says we’re mostly using it for private communications, which is nifty. I’m also really excited to see new people jumping in on #announcements and #startup-support. More voices! Yay!
Finally, I hear there have been some InterALC offerings–Minecraft, writing, more Minecraft–springing up. Sooooo excited about this. And so are the NYC teens ūüôā
In an ALC? Email me 1-3 photos to be included in an end-of-year publication! Please include ALC name, location, and names of any staff pictured.
While you’re at it, I’m collecting 10-15 sec. video clips to edit together into a year-end montage for us.¬†Please put them here,¬†with your¬†ALC¬†name in the file name. Even better, email me if you actually know how to make a video and want to take that off my plate ūüėČ
Got translation skills or community members who do? Let me know! I’d like to get a working group together, with the intention of getting the network home page, faq page, facilitation SK, and full SK translated into at least 3 other languages (but could we do 5?!?) by the end of 2018.
Want to host an event for folks in your area? I’m going to start reaching out to starter-kit downloaders in January (email me if you want in on that fun), and I’d love to have some spring events to send them to. Interested in hosting an info session or other event for them in your region? Let me know so I can send them your way!
Worked an¬†ALC¬†event? Interested in contributing to a doc of lessons and reflections for those interested in planning/organizing/hosting/running¬†ALC¬†events in the future? That’s one of my big January-to-April projects, and I’d love to collaborate with you. Email/Slack me!
TL;DR ???✨??
That’s all, folks!
Love, mint tea, and a dance party for two,
Abby Oulton

Co-Director & Facilitator, ALC-NYC


Hi everyone!

As one of our kids likes to say these days, happy smiley-dog-in-the-sheep season! (He got it¬†here, if you’re curious.) It’s December! Eeeep we’re almost done 2017!
And woah. What a year it’s been. My intention is to send an end-of-the-month note about that…so keep a look out. In the meantime, I’m a touch late with this update. Sorry!
End-of-year in Nonprofit land has me reviewing books/budgets, and I’d like to share some of my notes with you. Currently, we offer the world our philosophy and Starter Kit for free. Membership to the¬†ALC¬†Network costs organizations $95. That price gets staff/community-builders use of our branding, a pin on our map, a website and support with it, access to the community through Slack, access to community documentation on Google Drive, invitations to weekly Zoom calls, and notice of events.¬† Almost all the work to upkeep and generate sharable value through these resources/platforms is volunteered by¬†ALC¬†community members. This means sometimes it’s messy (like when a school emergency eats up all the time I’d allocated to drafting this email two weeks ago, so here I am behind on my self-imposed deadlines…), and it also means there’s lots of space to jump in and shape our growth with your work to whatever extend you feel moved to.
What kind of work have we been up to?¬†Running schools,¬†planning events,¬†running events,¬†building webpages,¬†answering contact forms,¬†hosting calls, offering¬†coaching calls,¬†answering questions on Slack,¬†publishing photos/videos online,¬†creating logos/branding,¬†connecting with other schools,¬†researching models, conferring¬†with legal counsel,¬†giving legal counsel,¬†accounting,¬†publishing emails,¬†meeting with mentors/investors,¬†cleaning up documentation,¬†producing documentation,¬†translating documentation, working¬†on the Starter Kit, working¬†on the Facilitation Guide, drafting the¬†Events Guide,¬†translating,¬†local community organizing,¬†meetings and meetings and meetings,¬†meditating in prep and for processing of meetings…and so much more. Derrick Jensen has a definition of¬†education¬†that puts it in terms of midwifing–drawing forth and bearing witness to the birth [emergence] of–that resonates with me as a description of facilitation, both in terms of individuals and of broader social change. I hope you all see and appreciate yourselves and each other. You’re the heartbeat of a movement, and I’m so grateful for each of you. Thanks for doing the work.
In the first years of the¬†ALC¬†Network, there were [this is my personal perspective…others may disagree..] a handful of us scrambling to educate ourselves, sprout our local communities, define our broader ecosystem, generate open-source documentation of the work we were doing, and seed communities of collaborators around the world. At some point, those holding schools and those focused on consulting/documenting got out of alignment. It sort-of works for there to be a team focused on grassroots work and a team focused on supporting the spread of ideas, especially with really amazing individuals having set solid bones–in terms of personal relationships and shared resources–for newcomers to build on. We could have decided to just name that dynamic, could have accepted that we’d lose grassroots folks who burnt out and newcomers who needed more supportive onboarding until we grew to a point where the work of harbor-piloting the many wasn’t falling on the shoulders of an already-courting-burnout few. My human-nurturing server and efficiency-minded warrior selves would have been frustrated, but things would have overall been ok. Instead though, a few of us who had been tending this project since the beginning decided in the fall of 2016 to take a pause. Mercer and I specifically committed to do some intentional listening, particularly to the ALFs and community-builders on the ground, whose energy facilitated the continued growth of our ecosystem. If you’ve been in conversation with us over the past year, you’ve probably noticed the refining and resetting we’ve been working on (a ‘we’ that includes everyone growing facilitators, communities, self-directed beings, and richness in communication channels). There’s been some going-back-to-the-roots and working to break from unhelpful patterns, and it finally feels (to me at least) like we’re on a path towards more sustainable growth.
With most of its expenses related to the upkeep of infrastructure (websites, Slack, Zoom, and 501c3 status), the Network’s operations are expected to have cost¬†$12,849¬†by the end of this year. With the majority of its revenue from membership payments (around 36) and unsolicited donations (2), its projected to end the year having brought in about¬†$10,325. In previous years, that difference would have been made up by consultants’ fees and Network-hosted training events. This year, that energy went towards deepening connections between schools, supporting facilitators, visioning responsible growth, and figuring out how to support schools/facilitators in hosting events that nourish their local communities. It’s been a year where we’ve collectively generated lots of value…we just haven’t converted it to bill-paying dollars yet. But it’s cool…we’ve got enough saved from previous years to cover our expenses, plans for more financially balanced operations//fundraising in 2018, and a reaffirmed dedication to prioritize accessibility and growing well over chasing profits and growing fast. From here things feel…really good. I might even take some time over New Years to make pretty charts to illustrate all the reasons why I feel like things are looking so good. Maybe. If not, I’ll get to it by the end of February, for sure ūüėČ
Below are this month’s announcements, followed by¬†updates¬†on Network conversations and requests for your input. Ready?
There’s a Teespring campaign live for a few more days at¬†https://teespring.com/stores/agile-learning-centers¬†to support the Network work. The folks on #website are working on a tech upgrade, and I’ve been dreaming of facilitating retreats//exchanges for the generous harbor-piloting ALFs to level up each other. And who doesn’t want¬†ALC¬†socks…
From the two events in Mexico that just finished,¬†Rub√©n,¬†Rebecka Koritz, and Alex Aldarando have channeled lots of energy to gathering resources for Spanish-speaking communities. They’re hosting monthly calls, a Slack channel, a Whatsapp group, and have folks working on translating the Starter Kit. Reach out if you want to support them in keeping this momentum going. ((Not a Spanish-speaker but looking to help break the everything-is-in-English pattern? Rebecka also writes/podcasts in Swedish, and Nariman Moustafa translated lots of our web content into Arabic¬†for her community’s website! You can find projects/collaborators on Slack, and share your work on #announcements!))
Rub√©n Alvarado¬†is¬†hosting¬†a local event in Guadalajara, Mexico in January.¬†And possibly one in Colombia after that, I think… And weekend calls (in Spanish) with amazing collaborators from¬†Educambiando.
Julia Cordero and Anthony Galloway of Heartwood are offering a regional gathering in February! Reach out to them if you’re around Atlanta, GA and want more info!
Liliana Carrillo has plans for a spring event in Belgium. Stay tuned for details…
Facilitators Anthony Galloway and Mikala Streeter (of Heartwood and The LIFE School, respectively) are offering a summer program for teens! Check it out.
Comings and Goings…
Since last newsletter, we’ve welcomed CroCreo in Spain and The LIFE School of Atlanta to the network!
Puerto Rico Support…
Thanks for all the generous support you’ve sent to Alex and Yineza. Their¬†Amazon wishlist¬†is still live, if you want to help them continue relief and rebuilding efforts.¬†Select the¬†Mans de Alejandrino¬†address for shipping.

Hope Wilder has a gorgeous new space for Pathfinder Community School!
Tom and Bex are *almost* ready to launch their project in Mullumbimby!
Nancy and Tomis welcomed Huxley to the world on Halloween (photo attached to this email)!
Nariman has the Mesahat ALC up and running!
ASDE put out this awesome video that features students from [at least] 2 ALCs!
Loren’s been keeping the map updated. I haven’t broken it again.¬†‚ú®¬†THANK YOU, LOREN!


You can find our call schedule on our¬†InterALC Calendar.¬†Our call room is —–…which redirects to a Zoom room that Tomis set up for us.

Calls happen [nearly] every Monday evening, at 7:30 pm est. ***Holiday schedule: 12/18 call is an End of Year reflection at normal time, 12/25 moved to 12/28 in the morning and intended to be an ALF Check-In//Change Up, 1/1 cancelled and 1/8 hosted by ALC-NYC crew***
I got 2 responses to last month’s request for photos/videos. Too much work, huh? It’s cool. Here’s a¬†‚ŹŹ:¬†Upload a photo or video tagged #AgileLearning2017 to your project’s social media page.¬†I’ll share them to the¬†ALC¬†Network facebook page (or you can post directly there…It would save me so much work ūüėČ and you’d have all my gratitude…and doing it from your school account would be smart marketing…). The immediate intention is to paint a picture of who and how we are that’s updated from the one our website photos (mostly from 2014-2015) paint. A bonus is that we’ll accumulate a cache of photos to use when we get around to updating the website photos (‘cuz we’re still heavily concentrated in the US, but that’s changing and I’d love our public pages to reflect that reality).
If you translate¬†the¬†network¬†home page, faq page, Facilitation Guide, or Starter Kit, throw a link on Slack at #announcements! Bonus twinkles if you can build/share¬†a page of resources¬†in not-English OR Adrienne Maree Brown’s Emergent Strategy (which I already contacted her and her publisher about because I *so* want copies available in Spanish).
Tech guru? Got community members who are and would gift us some of their energy? Loren Norman and Mercer are CHing a team at #website to plan an upgrade to our web-tech offerings.¬†Let them know if you’re down to help out!
Want to host a call¬†that’s not on EST or in English or generally that’s different from what I’m offering? Anyone can edit the InterALC Calendar, use the Zoom room (though only Tomis’ account can record), and post announcements in Slack!¬†What are you waiting for?
Help me make sure this email gets to everyone!¬†I’m pulling email addresses from the membership forms that come in through the¬†ALC¬†Network site, but they don’t always have staff//community stake-holder names beyond that of the main contact. Got community members who should be getting these emails and aren’t? Let me know!
Got your hands full? That’s cool…keep being a rockstar. We’ve got a bunch of projects in the works for January-March 2018: a Network membership option for individuals, a new format for populating our “Events” listing on the website, conversations about diversifying leadership and amplifying the work of local leaders as we expand, brainstorming about how to offer retreats, aaannnndddd more.
TL;DR #AllTheThings #EndOfYearFeels #RadicalGenerosity #ShapeChange
That’s all, folks!
Love, Parable of the Sower preoccupations, and snowy streets,
Abby Oulton

Co-Director & Facilitator, ALC-NYC


Hi everyone!

How lovely to greet you from this side of the new year ✨ My ALC Network goals for 2018 include:
  • strengthen our existing community by updating the GDrive/webpages of resources we provide for orienting new folks and amplifying the 2nd/3rd gen. ALFs stepping up to lead community-building projects
  • putting out an¬†ALC¬†Events Guide as a resource for local organizers by mid-February
  • activating Starter Kit downloaders, starting by organizing the information we have, sharing that information with schools, and seeding conversations where 3+ downloaders are in a similar location
  • personally learning ways to better grow community across distance and language barriers, reaching out to 3 organizations who have a history of doing that work and are explicitly committed to grass-roots and anti-colonialist methods of doing so
  • continue working to increase the accessibility of our resources by sharing news of translation projects, regularly calling for the sharing of non-English resources, shining-up and regularly appreciating all the volunteers contributing to our ecosystem, and supporting the WebTech WG keeping our communication platforms available for us all in whatever ways they ask of me
  • take clear steps to improve the financial sustainability of the¬†ALC¬†Network, separate from increasing transparency about our finances and embarking on event-planning // fundraising efforts, so we end 2018 in the black
  • continue our practice of empowering each other to share organizing // leadership, and also invite into roles with legal leadership titles individuals whose work shows the world what kind of future we’re building together
…and then a teenager reading over my shoulder interrupts to ask about abstract vs “s.m.a.r.t.” goals¬†?
Conversations tend to have seasons in our NYC space. They show up across relationships for a few weeks, and then they rest. This season’s conversations so far, depending where folks are in their processes, have either been about how we can always start making different choices when we want to start changing our worlds¬†or¬†about how changing our worlds demands we at some point step out of our theorizing and into our experimenting. Clearly the community is itching to do some work…to make some moves. What’s coolest is hearing kids realize that being in community helps them find the resources and courage to grow. We’ve intentionally nurtured a culture of generosity, and this is one of those seasons when I see our success in everything from a kid bringing in doughnut gifts to a group of teens daring to discuss the big dreams they’re dreaming.
Of course, we also have conversations about lizard-squirrels, the nature of time, and squid-gods. You know, the usual.
I’m not near enough to everyone to hear if conversations echo each other across the network the way they do at school, but what I have been seeing feels…pretty similar. It feels like our community is itching to choose, to move, to work, to grow. For the past few months, I’d heard a lot about individual ideas or projects. Suddenly I’m getting word about all kinds of collaborations–podcasts, conferences, trips, exchanges, trainings, translations, camps, moves, working groups–and it feels like many of us have recently gotten brave, gotten generous, and gotten moving.
Fewer lizard-squirrels with you all, but aspiring to the level of improv skills that our 8-year-olds model feels pretty ok to me. Especially considering many of us have only met online…for now. My 2020 goals include doing something about that. Accomplices are always welcome!
Lots of announcements and¬†updates¬†this month. Here we go…
Rubén Alvarado and Rebecka Koritz are hosting a local event in Guadalajara, Mexico right now!
ALC Mosaic is hosting a talk with Akilah Richards this weekend!
I mentioned last month that Rub√©n,¬†Rebecka, and Alex Aldarando have channeled lots of energy to gathering resources for Spanish-speaking communities. (For a refresher, they’re hosting monthly calls, a Slack channel, a Whatsapp group, and have folks working on translating the Starter Kit. Reach out if you want to support them in keeping this momentum going.)¬†This month¬†Liliana¬†Carillo created several¬†Spanish-language Slack channels. Woot woot! Always liked that “the limits of our language are the limits of our world” quote ūüėČ
Julia Cordero and Anthony Galloway of Heartwood are offering a¬†Conference¬†in February in Atlanta, GA. Tickets available at¬†heartwoodalc.org/summit…and it sounds like there will be a few ALCs represented in the audience.
Anthony and Mikala Streeter (of Heartwood and The LIFE School, respectively) are offering a summer program for teens! Check it out.
December’s Teespring campaign brought in $138. Last email I mentioned that the Network focused on a reset rather than events in 2017 so had to dip into our savings by just over $2000 to cover our [super basic, mostly web infrastructure] expenses through the end of the year. Definitely¬†looking for¬†creative fundraising¬†ideas and donations so I get to write from January 2019 that we ended the year with income…In the meantime, though, the store will be up at¬†https://teespring.com/stores/agile-learning-centers¬†in case you want to rally your local community to help support our work that way.
***Comings and Goings***
Since last newsletter, we’ve welcomed Windsong Learning Community, Render¬†ALC, Harmony, Inc.,¬†Karina Rodr√≠guez, and Ding The Universe Canadian Learning System to the network!


You can find our call schedule on our¬†InterALC Calendar.¬†Our call room is —–..which redirects to a Zoom room that Tomis set up for us.

Calls happen [nearly] every Monday evening, at 7:30 pm est. I currently CH from New York, but you’re welcome to host calls in your language/timezone if you feel inspired to!¬†Anyone can edit the InterALC Calendar, use the Zoom room (though only Tomis’ account can record), and post announcements in Slack.¬†We’ve been having some really interesting chats. Thanks for all the enthusiastic participation!
We now offer¬†individual membership¬†to the¬†ALC¬†Network! Here’s what I wrote about it.
The¬†new logos–“Using¬†ALC¬†Tools” and “ALC¬†Inspired”–are now available in the “Branding” folder of our Google Drive (link on Newbie page below)! Thanks to Will HB for his work on those so we could offer them to Network members who aren’t running ALCs but still want a way to let people know they’re part of our community.
Speak of the Google Drive, I updated the¬†Newbie page¬†that had gotten lost in our piles of documentation-from-the-early-years.¬†It’s got some useful links.
Tomis proposed we¬†upgrade our use of Slack¬†by asking folks to step up as coherence holders for specific channels, and he¬†and¬†Mercer proposed we start archiving dormant channels at the end of the month to clear up the clutter. Let us know on #general if you have opinions on either proposal. My proposal was to start silly games and open questions (they’re coming…) on #random (and maybe a roll-call somewhere) to start community-building for the new year with all the new folks. You can weigh in on that, too, if you like ūüėČ
The WebTech Working Group is¬†planning to remove plugins¬†from the website to help it run faster. They’re going to send out a list, and they’re asking for information about which plugins you do/don’t use. Chat with Loren Norman or Liliana Carillo (or #website) about this if you have info/can help.
Tis the season when¬†summer programs and trainings¬†start getting planned. My vision of an updated¬†alf.agilelearningcenters.org¬†webpage that lets active ALFs use a form to auto-update a map (or calendar or something) with event notices is still somewhere in the future, so you still have to post announcements on Slack or email Loren/me so we know to manually update the page with your info. But…um…please do Slack/email so we can let everyone know what options are available! (NYC will probably post dates by mid-February.)
Get sharing!¬†Thanks to everyone who has been posting their projects and celebrations in Slack! (Did you know there’s a #gratitudes channel?) Please share the amazing work you’re doing there…and/or on the¬†ALC¬†Network Facebook page. Easier to build each other up if we know what folks are working on ūüėČ
Let me know if you want to¬†start reaching out to Starter Kit downloaders! There’s over 1500 of them…and if you watch #z-feed-sk-downloads in Slack you’ll see they’re all over the world. We have their regions and contact info; we just don’t have anyone connecting them to local ALCs, connecting them to each other and offering to cohort-coach, or sending them newsletters/updates¬†at the moment. This would be a great way for someone newer to the network who wants to really impact how we grow to get involved. Or we directors can reach out to the potential volunteers and facilitators among the downloaders-near-us.
If you translate the network home page, faq page, Facilitation Guide, or Starter Kit, throw a link on Slack at #announcements! Bonus twinkles if you can build/share a page of resources in not-English.
Help me make sure this email gets to everyone!¬†I’m pulling email addresses from the membership forms that come in through the¬†ALC¬†Network¬†site, but they don’t always have staff//community stake-holder names beyond that of the main contact. Got community members who should be getting these emails and aren’t? Let me know!
TL;DR¬†There’s all kinds of movement rippling through the network. Because you’re creating the worlds you want to live in. Yay!
*also* don’t you want to share your 2018¬†ALC¬†Goals? I want to hear them…
That’s all, folks!
City snow, being enough, and hallway dances,
Abby Oulton

Co-Director & Facilitator, ALC-NYC



Hi everyone!

I’m a little late this month…and the¬†updates¬†I have are big!¬†‚ú®¬†Big enough we’ll jump right in…
The WebTech Working Group has migrated our website to CloudWays and removed a bunch of plugins! They’re still working out the bugs, but the hope is that this will allow our [massive] cluster of sites to run smoother, faster, and more reliably.¬†Shout out to Javair Ratliff and Dan Ports for pulling off the migration!¬†We’re super grateful to the whole working group for all they’ve been doing to keep us online through our growth spurts over the past few years. You can find them at¬†#website if you have questions or have skills and want to help them out.
The website being all fresh and shiny means we’re ready to start sharing our summer facilitator trainings! Listed at¬†alf.agilelearningcenters.org¬†we’ve got:
  • Rub√©n Alvarado and Rebecka Kortiz’s programs in Mexico, Sweden, and Finland (where Liam Nilsen will join them!) Among them, this ALF team has extensive experience facilitating, starting/running¬†ALC¬†programs, training facilitators, and practicing self-direction/unschooling. Combined, the 3 of them also speak at least 5 languages.¬†
  • Heartwood¬†ALC‘s first facilitator training program, run by lead facilitators and co-directors Anthony Galloway and Julia Cordero
  • ALC¬†Mosaic’s¬†FIFTH¬†facilitator training program, with their rockstar team of Nancy Tilton, Lacy Arnold Manship, Akilah Richards, Tomis Parker, and Dr. Scott Speed
  • Flagship¬†ALC-NYC’s program with our #superALFteam of Ryan Shollenberger, Mel Compo, Chuck Savoy, and myself
If you have an event to add, email me the details! I know the NYC crew is co-planning a West Coast workshop tour, and I’ll post those details as they get clearer (by which I mean, as soon as I know who other than FTL would want to host them).¬†Please note that we’re currently only posting as “trainings” programs hosted or co-hosted by experienced ALFs (every team above is majority ALFs with 2+ years experience).¬†I’m glad to amplify word of any workshops, camps, or gatherings network members organize, but we don’t have a website page for such events at the moment.
On the topic of who-does-what-and-how, earlier this month I took on the projects of updating both our¬†ALC¬†Network bylaws (we’d inherited the previous set) and¬†the Ecosystem Charter¬†that Tomis Parker created in 2015 and worked on with other facilitators through 2016, pulling agreements//practices from our¬†ALF Community Mastery Board,¬†mixing them with notes from ALF Summer conversations on definitions, and putting it all into handbook form. Since I’ve been hearing requests for clarity on community agreements and definitions, I put both texts together and¬†offer the updated [and intentionally open to continued¬†updates]¬†doc here. It includes links to the Starter Kit and Facilitation Guide as well.
While we’re talking links, the¬†Newbie page

has got some useful links.

AND! We’ve got a copy of the¬†Starter Kit in Spanish¬†thanks in large part to Alicia Castillo (and her mom?!? <3)¬†Rub√©n Alvarado is translating the Facilitation Guide; I’ll share that when I can. Que chido ūüėČ
Shout out to Bethany Mikitish for putting the Starter Kit Downloaders export I send out last month into a CRM on Hubspot so we can coordinate as we play with it! Find her on Slack if you want to be added ūüôā
Whew. That’s all I got for Announcements. Well…that and awe and gratitude. Now on to other fun stuff…
Anthony and Mikala Streeter (of Heartwood and The LIFE School, respectively) are offering a summer program for teens! Check it out.
Sara Casey Taleff (of Cottonwood ALC) is also offering a summer program for kids! Check it out.
***Comings and Goings***
Since last newsletter, we’ve welcomed Sara Becker, Arrowleaf,¬†ALC¬†Philly, and Fernas¬†to the network!


You can find our call schedule on our¬†InterALC Calendar.¬†Our call room is —–..which redirects to a Zoom room that Tomis set up for us.

Calls happen [nearly] every Monday evening, at 7:30 pm est. I currently CH from New York, but you’re welcome to host calls in your language/timezone if you feel inspired to!¬†Anyone can edit the InterALC Calendar, use the Zoom room (though only Tomis’ account can record), and post announcements in Slack.¬†We’ve been having some really interesting chats. Thanks for all the enthusiastic participation!
Keep sharing!¬†Thanks to everyone who has been posting their projects and celebrations in Slack! (Did you know there’s a #gratitudes channel?) Please share the amazing work you’re doing there…and/or on the¬†ALC¬†Network Facebook page. Easier to build each other up if we know what folks are working on ūüėČ
If you translate any of our resources, throw a link on Slack at #announcements and/or share in the Member Resources drive folder! Bonus twinkles if you can build/share a page of resources in not-English.
Help me make sure this email gets to everyone!¬†I’m pulling email addresses from the membership forms that come in through the¬†ALC¬†Network¬†site, but they don’t always have staff//community stake-holder names beyond that of the main contact. Got community members who should be getting these emails and aren’t? Let me know!
TL;DR Websites, Summer, Resources!
It’s Black-Panther-Week-part-2//Year-Of-The-Dog//Kids-Getting-Organized season here in NYC. I’m reflecting on what work blocks harm, what work lets me and my relationships be the change, and what work builds new futures. Anything I can do to nurture this network feels like powerfully contributing to that building work…and it feel goooood. Filled with awe and appreciation for you all. Ready for spring?
That’s all, folks!
Starlings, Snowdrops, and Steadiness,
Abby Oulton

Co-Director & Facilitator, ALC-NYC


Hi everyone!

Equinox updates! August 2017 me scribbled ideas of *spring* 2018¬†¬†into a sketchbook¬†so my winter self would know what kinds of seeds to work on planting and tending. With the kind of gardening I prefer to practice–not crafting measured rows of topiaries but watering as needed, finding ways to invite helpful insects, and pulling weeds for compost–taking time to imagine the feeling I’m working towards is as important an aspect of intention-setting as mapping out my next few steps. They’re infinite games of course, both the imagining and the ecosystem tending, and they’ve brought me joy for years.
The spring ALC Network imagining I did included bringing back regular weekly calls, bringing more folks into conversations about the inspiring InterALC happenings, updating our guiding documents, more clearly communicating and honoring community agreements and boundaries, getting an option set up for individuals not connected to a member organization to become//remain members, starting to call in funding to compensate some of folks’ web-tech and administrative hours, changing the website photos and ALF page to more accurately reflect what our current community looks like, ensuring more regular support is available to both new folks and emerging regional coherence holders, increasing the accessibility of our resources and trainings, reconnecting with Starter Kit downloaders, laying groundwork for ALF retreats to happen more often, increasing exchange between projects, and moving into inspired preparation for spring and summer collaboration. WE’VE DONE SO MUCH! Like…we managed alllll of that. And that’s just during the sleepy fall//winter seasons.
Still trying to nudge a few more happenings along before summer takes off, but I’m feeling pretty good about where we’ll be by mid-May. Grateful to have such wonderful collaborators in movement-making <3
Here’s what’s up:
Rub√©n Alvarado translated¬†the Facilitation Guide!¬†Ahora tenemos ambas este¬†y¬†pues Alicia Castillo’s¬†Starter Kit in Spanish! #DuolingoForDays
Tomis Parker¬†updated the Starter Kit¬†version that’s available for download at¬†https://starterkit.agilelearningcenters.org/¬†then emailed all our previous downloaders with that link, information on our summer programs, and…
…an announcement that an anonymous¬†donor has offered to match up to $10,000 in donations¬†to the network between now and June. The link to share to support that campaign is¬†https://donorbox.org/grow-the-alc-ecosystem!
The website host migration led to some security certificate errors–thanks to everyone who’s been making sure the WebTech team is aware of the issue! They’ve got a temporary fix in place in place. Super grateful for their work and everyone’s patience.
Check out the¬†summer training programs¬†listed at¬†alf.agilelearningcenters.org! We’ve got details for nine so far! (*some*dates*and*hosts*have*changed*since*I*last*emailed*)
Tomis and Nancy will be presenting at the AERO conference in New York this June! The local ALFs are organizing a gathering and look forward to seeing some of you ūüôā
Sara Casey Taleff (of Cottonwood ALC) is offering a summer program for kids in Montana! Check it out.
Anthony and Mikala have changed summer plans and are no longer offering their teen program.
Rebecka Koritz has plans in the works for a 2 day¬†workshop in Finland¬†in July. Reach out to her for details ūüôā
The Adventure Play:Ground in NYC is not *technically* an ALC project, but they were co-founded in part by two of ALC-NYC’s community members… They’re currently hiring playworkers for May through September. Maybe an opportunity more than an event…
***Comings and Goings***
Since last newsletter, we’ve welcomed¬†Matthew Abarbanel,¬†Ana Marcos, Flow ALC, The History Tree, and Inspire Educamps¬†to the network!
Can I post exchanges here, too? Shouting out ALC Mosaic for hosting folks from Wildwood and from Heartwood in the past month! Shouting out Heartwood for hosting me, Mullumbimby commons for hosting an ALC-NYC ALF *right*now,* and ALC Mosaic for hosting a whole pack of our NYC kids next month! Makes me want to do a happy dance…


You can find our call schedule on our¬†InterALC Calendar.¬†Our call room is —….which redirects to a Zoom room that Tomis set up for us.

Calls happen [nearly] every Monday evening, at 7:30 pm est. I currently CH from New York, but you’re welcome to host calls in your language/timezone if you feel inspired to!¬†Anyone can edit the InterALC Calendar, use the Zoom room (though only Tomis’ account can record), and post announcements in Slack.¬†We’ve been having all kinds of fun conversations ūüôā Thanks for all the enthusiastic participation!
While we’re talking links, the¬†Newbie page

has [still] got some useful links and the updated//updating Ecosystem Charter is available here!

Shout out to Bethany Mikitish for putting the Starter Kit¬†Downloaders export into a CRM¬†on Hubspot so we can coordinate as we play with it! Find her on Slack if you want to be added ūüôā
Keep sharing!¬†Thanks to everyone who has been posting their projects and celebrations in Slack! (Did you know there’s a #gratitudes channel?) Please share the amazing work you’re doing there…and/or on the¬†ALC¬†Network Facebook page. Easier to build each other up if we know what folks are working on ūüėČ
If you translate any of our resources, throw a link on Slack at #announcements and/or share in the Member Resources drive folder! Bonus twinkles if you can build/share a page of resources in not-English.
Help me make sure this email gets to everyone!¬†I’m pulling email addresses from the membership forms that come in through the¬†ALC¬†Network¬†site, but they don’t always have staff//community stake-holder names beyond that of the main contact. Got community members who should be getting these emails and aren’t? Let me know!
TL;DR¬†more plant metaphors and trying to celebrate the futures we’re designing while celebrating the moment we’re in (ad infinitum)
That’s all, folks!
Another East Harlem snow day and teenager interjections,
Abby Oulton

co-director & facilitator, ALC-NYC
vice president, Agile Learning Centers


Questions on Repeat

One of the practices from my time in conventional classrooms that still serves me is that of listening for signs that I wasn’t clear enough in communicating. One such sign is when I’m getting the same questions repeatedly; sometimes it means our group isn’t practicing listening very well yet, but 98% of the time it means I need to pause, rewind, and get us all on the same page.
The same questions have been popping up in my email for a bit over a week now, regarding agreements and definitions across the ALC Network. This makes sense: part of the reason I got involved in the Network reset over the past year was that we’d developed processes and patterns that were out of sync. We’d also worked hard to anticipate what our growth would look like and create processes that would serve it, but the reality that emerged was (of course) slightly different than we imagined. 2017 brought an invitation to breathe, assess, sort through our clutter, and start readjusting. What I’m hearing in 2018 is that the mixed messages–some of our tools had gotten outdated and some hadn’t–and lack of guidance where tools had gone offline altogether have been disorienting for folks who are newer to these conversations.¬† We–the first and second generation ALFs who have been looking beyond our individual projects for the past few years–didn’t communicate clearly. So this blog post is my pause-rewind-realign offering. It’s intended as a conversation [re]starter for our current ALF community, a reflection of where we have been, and currently are, rather than a proclamation of any carved-in-stone Truths. I copied these wordings of the questions from @liliana.
1.¬† What is the agreement and procedure to break the agreement and deal with challenges (conflicts or so…) for new ALCs?
Organizations that identify as ALCs are expected to sign up for membership in the ALC Network via our website. We ask for an annual contribution of $95 per project, and we put their ALFs in conversation with ALFs from across the network upon receiving their sign-up form. There isn’t a specific set of agreements listed on the membership sign-up page yet, but the hope is that anyone who reads our website and pays for a membership is doing their best to root their project in our philosophy. When we were small enough that all new projects were in conversation with other projects (and how-do-we-run-this-network conversations) during the year then gathering together in North Carolina over the summer, our relationships were strong enough to orient each other. Having evolved into a more decentralized, linguistically diverse, and far-flung coalition, we clearly need to re-imagine our onboarding process. I’m hoping those folks invested in these questions can channel some inspiration and insight into making that happen in the next few months.
In terms of dealing with challenges and conflicts, new (and all) projects are encouraged to ask the community for support as needed, either on Slack or by emailing someone they trust or joining a call…whatever works for them. When someone has a concern about an ALC operating in a way that’s out of integrity with our principles, they have tended to first check-in with the community in question and then to talk to folks at more established ALCs (so ALC-NYC and Mosiac usually, so far). We haven’t needed to create a more formal process yet, but I love that the process that seems to be emerging echoes our conflict resolution process that we use at ALC-NYC and among ALFs. I imagine a more formal process would just make that echoing intentional and explicit.
Since there is no formal contract, there is no formal ‘here’s how to get out of your contract,’ but organizations that have opted not to be/become ALCs just let us know. They are taken off the map, have their access to our docs and internal communication channels changed, and are expected to stop using our branding.
2.¬† What is the agreement and procedure to break the agreement and deal with challenges (conflicts or so…) for new ALFs?
Same as above.
3.¬† What is the agreement and procedure to break the agreement and deal with challenges (conflicts or so…) to setup ALCs?
Same as above…We’re really into processes and agreements that are both light and effective enough to work across contexts ūüėČ
4.¬† What is the agreement and procedure to break the agreement and deal with challenges (conflicts or so…) to organize ALFs?
The network reflects ALCs in relationship. An ALC’s existence and relationships reflect the work of that community’s ALFs. We are responsible for supporting each other, self-organizing, and holding each other accountable. This community is ours to care for.
Agreements for ALFs, beyond the implicit work-to-facilitate-in-ways-informed-by-our-philosophy, used to get listed on our ALF Community Mastery Board (and likely will once again, someday soon). The main agreements are to be respectful of people, mindful of their time, and intentional about how you engage. We have lots of notes about what ALFing from ALC principles looks like, and individual ALCs will have their own agreements for facilitators in their spaces.
When there is a challenge or conflict with an ALF, we follow our conflict resolution process. It’s outlined on the Newbie page and matches the process we use at ALC-NYC with our school community. First, whoever is having the problem talks to the person they’re having the problem with (after taking some breaths and deciding what it is they want to communicate). If the problem persists, they ask another ALF for help talking to the person. If the problem still says a problem, the ALF having the problem convenes a Culture Committee. The parallel practice in other settings is calling for a Circle. In ALC settings, a CC is a gathering of trusted community members committed to supporting conflict resolution efforts and tending the well-being of the community. With kids at school, this usually looks like a group spending some time in a literal circle to talk through the situation; with adults across the network, there is more often an initial group call and then a series of follow-up calls. Similarly to how we practice honoring the decisions of those who attend meetings we miss, we practice honoring the decisions of those attending to CCs we’ve missed.
When an ALF no longer identifies as an ALF, they just have to say so.
5.  What is the agreement about photos? videos? 
Under the agreement to respect each other is the expectation that where individuals have a reasonable expectation of privacy they will be asked for consent before being recorded. Since by definition consent is specific, informed, and reversible, they need to know what plans there are for sharing the recordings and they need to be able to withdraw consent. Remember there may be additional legal considerations for recordings including minors.
6.  What is the agreement about contacts?
We established communication agreements for the ALF community in 2015 during a change-up meeting. These are recorded on our ALF Community Trello (a tool that fell out of use when people stopped attending the calls it held the notes from) as: “Keep posting relevant¬†to the charter of the tool, no spam (irrelevant or inappropriate messages);¬†Respect each other;¬†Email directly to individuals when reply all is not relevant;¬†During calls, default = mute mic unless you are the person speaking.” So essentially, communications should honor our principles of respecting each other and each other’s time.
Through aligning with the ALC philosophical roots, ALFs commit to trust-building, caring without controlling, and contributing to a culture of generosity…practices that shape how we show up in our relationships. Since how we communicate also impacts the nature and health of our relationships, many ALF trainings include sessions about how we talk and how we listen. ALFs will have different favorite resources and guiding reflective questions. Some of mine are on the Favorite Resources page of this blog.
7.  What is the agreement about money?
Money! It’s not the only form of wealth or the form we necessarily care most about. It’s also necessary so our ALFs can eat, pay rent, and keep sharing support with folks whose doors are too far away for us to go knock on.
ALC members are expected to contribute funds annually to keep the shared resources we use to cohere the network online and updated. Most of our resources are open-source under the Creative Commons license that asks folks not to use our work for personal profit, to share as we share, and to give attribution where due.
When we find ourselves with enough money to cover our expenses reliably, we’ll need to convene a work group to decide how to manage what’s left. It’ll be fun…but we’re not there yet.
At the moment, Tomis and I are the people watching our finances, which are managed through our 501c3 nonprofit. You can ask us for information and updates at any time.
8.  What is the agreement about the decision taken by the board?
Since ALFs are the network, we make decisions about our agreements, processes, and culture. We used to tackle big questions all together at retreat weekends, summer gatherings, and monthly calls. We also have encouraged those feeling inspired to take on the role of coherence holder for whatever project they care about and invite others to join them in forming a ‘work group.’ We’ve had work groups form to create reports, survey ALFs, and plan retreats. Our last working group ran through spring 2017, and it was open to those invested in defining-the-network kinds of questions. It fizzled out when folks schedules changed over the summer, though I host a monthly network-themed call to make sure there’s still an opening for folks who want to try to bring that work group back.
Aside from the network that is and acts, there is an organization–the ALC Network–that’s a nonprofit registered in North Carolina. Between its inception in 2014 and the start of its reset in 2017, the board of this nonprofit met a few times a year to check in on the health of the organization, make sure paperwork//roles were in order, and review finances.
The current board continues to honor the legal responsibilities of a nonprofit board, and we also have decided to give as generously as we can in the role of what I hear Quakers refer to as an ‘Oversight Committee.’ When the ALFs previously tending the network ecosystem flagged in the fall of 2016 that our culture was in need of a reset and our practices needed to be realigned with our principles, Mercer and I committed to join whoever from that original crew was ready to work on this project with us and start what would clearly be a rather involved and challenging process. By the end of 2017, the folks coherence holding for the reset were also the folks remaining on the Network board: Tomis, Mercer, and me.
The role and composition of the board is set to change through the next few months, but legally a board is responsible for ensuring the actions of an organization are aligned with its mission and making decisions that prioritize the well being of the organization. So while we practice–and are committed to practicing–decisions being made by and for ALFs, technically the board has the power (and responsibility) to block decisions that would endanger the organization or put us out of integrity with our mission.
9.  What is the agreement about drive documents?
Drive is one of our communication tools! Follow the communication agreements outlined above (or updated ones, as those become available).
Access to drive is granted to member ALCs, with the expectation that they will be responsible about who they add/remove from their communities. Most work is licensed through Creative Commons. Please use shared resources mindfully and contribute to them generously.
10.  Who can be called ALF?
Who indeed…At the first ALF Summer gathering, we came up with a system of levels, the requirements of which were outlined in rubrics, which aspiring and practicing ALFs moved through using a series of forms and peer reviews. We were trying to accomplish many goals with one tool: give people guides for self reflection, set a norm of groups entitling each other based on their experiences of each other, clarify the expectations attached to different roles, protect the meaning of the title ALF through some kind of check system, and generate documentation so we could check who our ALFs were.
The rubric we made for basic “Am I an ALF?” peer reviews is still relevant as a tool for supporting ALF self-reflection and for communities or workshop groups practicing Peer Reviews. It’s here:¬†ALF Personal & Peer Review – PeerReviewForm
But, to borrow Ryan’s words, there was never going to be just one path to becoming an ALF. Not if we were truly dedicated to open-source sharing and empowering communities to grow ALCs adapted to their contexts. At our East Harlem flagship, we relate to facilitation as a practice.¬†You know you’re a facilitator when you catch yourself facilitating and others relating to you as an ALF. More interesting for me than locating the moment one “becomes” a facilitator (or an artist or equestrian or a reader or or or) is the journey that unfolds from that point on.¬†When we talk about our past and future selves, we sometimes talk about my “baby ALF” days or about Mel “levelling up.” We were just joking last week about the “next level” NYC ALF skills of knowing where there are restrooms along a field trip route and what to have in your bag when taking groups of kids on the subway…which probably are not ALF skills at all for folks most other places ūüėČ We give regular attention to our personal and team facilitator-ing, checking our well-being and looking for ways to better support each other’s growth. We can all confidently identify as ALFs at this point, trusting our depth of experience and knowing our community would gladly vouch for us, and we’re on to that fun game of “Oh! You’re an ALF, too? What kind? Where are you at in your journey?” from a place of sincere curiosity and commitment¬†to replicating in network relationships the care and support we practice here with each other.
Checking in about this blog post (I loop our crew here in on almost all of my network business, and I’m so grateful to trust their thoughtful feedback and suggestions even when our here-at-home business is already a lot), we talked about how our practice, sharing, and helping grow new ALFs gives the world modeling that we hope will both help people answer this question and develop folks’ ability to sense when someone calling themself an ALF is out of integrity in doing so. Rather than stress about what a few million strangers may choose to call themselves and how to control that, we’re focused on offering illustrations of the role that set root/principle-aligned expectations and inspire desire to come play at our level. Which you should; it’s a delightful, infinite game.
Feeling inspired to organize an ALF call to update the CMB? To craft our ALF agreements into a mini manifesto of sorts to put at the top of our ALF webpage? To gather a work group to upgrade our new-member-onboarding-process?
Do it! Message me if there’s any way I can support you <3

ALF Resource: Intergenerational Trauma

After reflecting a bit on how I’ve been voraciously consuming nonfiction without pausing to share out my learning–waiting, I think, to see the whole tapestry it’ll become once I weave the pieces together–I’ve decided to push myself to share my draft-y notes. Here’s the first attempt:

The other night, I got home and decided to Google around for a resource or two on working with Intergenerational Trauma. Sometimes I relate to facilitation as a mix of midwifery and healing work…and then I end up looking for frameworks that can inform my practice and help me better serve my relationships.

After a few *eh* articles, this video came up in my results. I saw how long it was and almost didn’t click. Then I decided to just listen to the intro while I did some dishes. Over an hour later, the talk ended and I discovered myself with two pages of doodled notes and a cup of cold tea. My head was buzzing with how affirmed my sense that ALF work is healing work was, with the impact of pausing to really look at the evolution of violences across time, and with curiosity about the learning journey of the speaker, Nene Kwasi Kafele.

Notes below the video. For¬†tl;dr¬†folks, here’s a quote:

“Nurture, cultivate, support the genius of young people…in ways that are safe, respectful, and healthy. Be with them on this journey in a way that respects their lived experiences and sees their cultures as legitimate…”

Noted that an environment for survivor youth should be safe, reassuring, supportive, effective, providing stabilization, helping them see the paths forward in terms of addressing the problem and building their own resilience

Youth agency is crucial

Opportunities to express, process, and name needed supports in groups and individually are helpful

…so to this point describing much of what our school feels like…

Notes to be aware of coping tendencies like psychic numbing, of the repeated mention of CBT as helpful in trauma response management/breathing/visualizations

Notes on how “trauma” as a term/concept is highly Western, with introduced terms¬†Mengamaazi:¬†Willful, organized, coordinated, prolonged destruction and suffering and¬†Maafa:¬†Disaster, overwhelmingly terrible catastrophe. (Kiswahili)

*just* discovered all the resources at http://youthrex.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Intergenerational-Trauma-Healing-September-27-Resources.pdf while checking my spelling

Thinking of looking more into which traumas our institutions reinforce as well as how to reckon with the dance between survivors of survivors and survivors of perpetrators generations on

Note on ALC Logos

With new variations on our logos coming out (and start-up groups showcasing their creativity all the time), I remembered this email exchange where @tomis explained a bit about what the deal is with our branding guidelines and @spence suggested he put something together to share on the topic.

In case it takes Tomis a while to get around to writing such a thing with all his being-a-new-dad happenings, I’m just going to share a snippet of that email. He wrote:

“The brand guidelines were created by Eric Friedensohn [who designed and donated our logos, is mad talented on top of being so generous, and who is definitely worth following on social media]. You can see more about his process for this project¬†here.

He gave us four colors as a starting point so we wouldn’t have to jump into picking coherent color pallets, but was clear that his design sensibilities (embedded into the guidelines) would not be disrupted by choosing different colors. You can see that the forty-ish icons he made for us a little later involve all kinds of colors.
So, the thing is that we, collectively as the ALC Network who use this¬†logo/brand, have the right to change any part of it we want or disregard the guidelines — he’s given us this as a gift. That said, it’s my opinion that Eric is good at what he does and that the guidelines serve an important purpose…”
There. Shucks, Tomis. Couldn’t have said it better (or, frankly, that well in the first place).



ALF Page Jan. 2018 Update

How does someone even end up at alf.agilelearningcenters.org? I honestly am not quite sure.

What I know is that the page used to essentially be a flyer for the ALF Summer super-programs in Charlotte, NC. As we started to see other ALCs hosting various retreats, trainings, and workshops starting in 2016, the page morphed into a listing of those programs. On the one hand, this was lovely. It was helpful to have a place where all our events were listed, and folks like me who have been around for a bit enjoyed seeing signs of our growth.

For some time, though, a few things about the page had been bothering me. First, focusing the ‚Äúagile learning facilitator‚ÄĚ page on marketing events felt way too narrow. Maybe I‚Äôm too in the work to see clearly, but for me a facilitator page should be about sharing the vibrance and brilliance of our community. It should certainly have some resources for aspiring facilitators, including events, but I also wanted it to share more of a story. Like…who are we? Especially as we‚Äôve grown past the small cohort in NYC that we once were, I wanted the page to illustrate that we‚Äôre many different people from many different backgrounds all doing this work.

The January 2018 revision of the page was a first step towards what I‚Äôm hoping will be a richer ALF page. It‚Äôs got some portraits from various ALCs‚Äô staff pages, a link to the Facilitation Guide that Mel put out for us last spring, and it‚Äôs now got a promise that links to ALF-generated content will come soon…alongside the much anticipated links to events that the page has become somewhat known for.

Almost certainly, my next edit will simply be posting those links and dates.

Eventually, though, I‚Äôd like to get snippets of ALF stories incorporated, in their own words. I asked our web-tech team about the possibility of building some kind of form+map that would let ALFs post their own events (and maybe blogs or social media accounts) rather than submitting them to me for manual posting…though they have to convince the website to stay up and running before they get to focus on optimizations and upgrades. Finally, I *think* some kind of a resource page for aspiring facilitators might be a useful thing to create and link to.

All things in time, though…;)

Network Membership Update

“What does it mean to be a member of the ALC Network?”*

This question has been following me a lot for the past few years. In the past 13 months, I’ve given it a bunch of intentional thought–often aloud and in dialogue with others similarly exploring it–and I’ve reached enough clarity that I finally edited the “membership” pages and form on the ALC Network website this week. Here’s where I’m at (and notes on the edits):

We become members of communities when we show up and contribute. I grew up in a steel town watching “moms’ clubs,” church consortiums, local farmers, and neighbors on various streets practicing community…all of which convinced me that “community” is something one practices–like love or facilitation–and that takes a combination of time and care to grow. People join our local ALC community this way, but paying $95 for access to an online community feels slightly different.

Growing up in community also taught me that sharing resources, including information, empowers us to hold and grow each other better. I felt this spending summers at the local library as a kid, and it showed up again in college when I studied museum politics (like…who got access when, and to what, decided by whom?) All this feels particularly important in this “knowledge economy” age…so it’s important to me that we’re not relating to ALC Membership as giving fees to some invisible gatekeepers for access to the wealth of knowledge they control.

This invites a separate inquiry about how to be responsible while being transparent: sharing generously, protecting folks’ privacy, and giving credit where it’s due…all at once.

Membership, though. Right now, it’s whatever we make of it. The ALC Network’s main functions are currently to facilitate connection between ALCs and the dissemination of resources about our work. I see that changing in the next few years–what we needed in our first five years will not be what we need in the next ten. Presently, though, the Network’s main source of revenue is membership fees and its main expenses are related to running our online communication platforms. So “membership” currently involves a pretty tidy exchange (that isn’t *quite* sufficient to fund Network endeavors yet, but we’re working on that).

“Members” contribute a fee annually to enable the Network to keep communication channels up and open. With those channels, they get access to resources–documents, other facilitators, call invitations, chances to collaborate on projects that shape how this movement grows–though the extent to which they use this access (and contribute back to the community’s wealth) is up to them. Lots of our resources are open-source, and most of us are Google-able, so a non-member *could* find most of the information that members get tidily packaged on their own. There’s nothing keeping someone from looking through the 40+ ALC websites and social media accounts for photos of our whiteboard notes or contact info for different facilitators. Knowing that, for me, shifts the dynamic from paying a gatekeeper to see hoarded treasures to chipping in to keep the local library (which we co-steward and staff) open.

***There’s politics of language, translation, and internet access to dance with in that metaphor, but knowing we’re already working on those topics as a five-year-old organization gives me hope we’ll make reasonable progress in this next season of our growth.***

I said “community” in the parentheses above, after just starting this whole thing by saying signing up for ALC Membership feels different than becoming a community member. There’s certainly a community of the folks who make up the ALC network…it’s more that, in my experience, “joining” a community doesn’t immediately confer recognition of membership. That takes people getting to know you…it takes relationship. So those just signing up for Membership–like those enrolling or volunteering at an ALC–get an introduction, and then the more organic process of relationship-building and getting engaged with the community begins. You follow?

All that to talk about some quick website updates… ÔāÖ

Our Membership process online wasn’t super clear before, but it was oriented towards organizations, specifically schools and start-up groups. Once an organization signed up for membership, they’re trusted to decide which team members to pull into the network conversation. They may add all staff and a founding parent to Slack. They may add one facilitator to Slack and another to Drive. Whatever…we trust them to determine who their community caretakers are and what will be most supportive to them. There’s conduct agreements, for sure, but essentially if a community says ‘yes, this person’ then those of us in the wider community start by trusting that.

We’re keeping most of this process unchanged, though planning to replace the “we request an additional $10 for every 10 kids over 20 you enroll” thing with transparent data about Network revenue-expenses and a “donate to our 501c3 here” button. The major difference is a response to requests for individuals who want to get involved with the ALC Network but don’t want to do so as representatives of their projects or schools. New to the membership page is a separate rate and benefits list that lets individuals join us…and a bonus is that while planning this we gratefully received a donation from one of our earliest ALC students of two logos for use by members who aren’t ALCs.

Long hours of conversation have gone into the question of ALC Membership, and I’m sure they’ll continue to do so as our growth challenges us to keep growing our processes and procedures. In the meantime, I’m really excited about this step and eager to see what new dimensions to the question it brings up.

*Are you a total newbie to ALC-land? That’s cool. Know that we–all of us active community members across the world–ARE the ALC network. We’re the ecosystem, the organism, the movement…whatever you want to call it. What I’m mostly talking about here is the US-based 501c3 nonprofit that’s behind agilelearningcenters.org and many of the communication channels facilitators depend heavily on to connect with staff at other schools when they want to seek or offer support. I tend to write “ALC Network” when talking about this entity as something distinct from our more organic network. Cool? Cool.