By Sara Greller, NSF INCLUDES Coordination Hub
Wondering how you could become more actively engaged in the NSF INCLUDES National Network?
Joining an Affinity Group is a great way for NSF INCLUDES Network members to connect around similar goals, foci, interests, needs, or approaches to broadening participation in STEM.
The NSF INCLUDES Affinity Groups were created in response to the needs and requests of Network members to have a designated virtual space for discussion and sharing of resources on specific topics of interest.
Who should join an Affinity Group? Any member of the Network!
Affinity Groups are for all Network members. Affinity Groups are organized around a specific topic, so any member of the Network who is interested in talking more about a particular theme represented by an Affinity Group is invited to join. Only members of the Network have access to join an Affinity Group of their choosing.
Affinity Group members’ roles include PIs, Co-PIs, evaluators, and researchers. Some Affinity Group members are on projects funded by NSF INCLUDES, and many members are on projects that are funded through other sources. Other Affinity Group members are not currently involved in funded projects, but are interested in broadening participation in STEM. Affinity Group members come from a variety of organizations, including both for-profit and non-profit groups, and from university and college settings.
There are several ways Affinity Group members can have discussions and learn more about members of their group. Each Affinity Group has its own virtual discussion forum. Members are encouraged to participate in open dialogues and knowledge sharing by posting in the online discussion forum.
Each Affinity Group hosts their own monthly virtual Coffee and Conversations. Coffee and Conversations are informal opportunities for participants to meet and learn from each other in real-time over the phone and on video. Coffee and Conversations are organized by Affinity Group liaisons, but the participants drive the conversation. During Coffee and Conversations, Affinity Group members can dig deeper into conversation about their Affinity Group’s topic.
NSF INCLUDES National Network hosts two types of Affinity Groups: Groups led by the Coordination Hub, and peer-led Groups.
There are four Coordination Hub-led Affinity Groups Network members may join:
- Evaluation Affinity Group: Brings together evaluators and those interested in evaluation to discuss and share resources related to evaluating broadening participation in STEM projects.
- Exploring STEM Pathways, K-12 to Career: A space to discuss and collaborate with colleagues who are working along STEM pathways that are comprehensive and inclusive in an ever-expanding field.
- Models of Collaboration and Partnerships: Offers the opportunity to participate in discussions about developing, sustaining, and maintaining partnerships and share thoughts about models of collaboration like Collective Impact and Networked Improvement Communities.
- Shared Measures: Connects Network members who are working on their own internal shared measures or are interested in shared measures within the National Network.
Peer-led Affinity Groups are managed and facilitated directly by Network members. The groups are formed when a group of Network members directly express an interest in a topic and one or two members take the lead in managing and facilitating group activities and engagement. Interested Network members should contact the Coordination Hub to explore the possibility of creating new Peer-led Affinity Groups. Membership for Affinity Groups can be set up in two ways: “private,” which is invite only and the group will not be visible to others and “public,” which allows anyone in the Network to join if they are interested and is visible to everyone in the Network. There are currently three peer-led Affinity Groups which Network members can join if they align with their interests:
- Disability & Accessibility in STEM: Brings together a community interested in the inclusion of people with disabilities in STEM fields.
- INCLUSIVE Engineering: Brings together individuals from NSF-funded Engineering Research Centers (ERCs) and individuals who work to lead and support NSF-funded INCLUDES initiatives.
- Indigenous STEM: Brings together NSF INCLUDES launch pilot awardees interested in Indigenous STEM.
By engaging and sharing in Affinity Groups, members can gain new knowledge and insights. Ongoing discussions are made especially rich by the breadth of members who join in the conversation and who share their diverse perspectives.
In one recent Coffee and Conversation, a member of the Evaluation Affinity Group shared an infographic displaying data collected from a culturally responsive evaluation strategy. The member described using story mapping with a group of indigenous youth to learn more about their personal and academic experiences, and how they shared this infographic with their leadership team to help them re-think their program. In addition to sharing about this experience in the Coffee and Conversation, this member elaborated on this process for the group in the discussion forum, which you can learn more about here.
At another Evaluation Affinity Group Coffee and Conversation, participants discussed the difference between internal and external evaluators and also how external evaluation fits within the context of collaborative infrastructure.
Affinity Group members join Coffee and Conversations to ask questions of each other such as, “what is the role of a backbone organization?” Recently, a member of the Models of Collaboration and Partnerships Affinity Group asked this question during a Coffee and Conversation and because of the variety of members who were on the call (those from Alliances, working on planning grants, from DDLPs, new members to the group), the discussion around that question was rich with expertise. During another Models of Collaboration and Partnerships Affinity Group, a member asked the question, “how can I partner with corporations?” which led to a discussion about the resources available to help guide non-profits in how to initiate corporate partnerships.
Coffee and Conversations have also been spaces where members can coordinate to present at conferences. For example, a group of NSF INCLUDES evaluators coordinated to present at the 2018 American Evaluation Association. Members have connected directly with each other after Coffee and Conversations to talk more about a topic, and they often share contact information informally in the chat to follow-up after calls.
We look forward to welcoming you to any of these Affinity Groups!