This is What a P2PU Partnership Looks Like


Last week, @asbush generously invited me to see College Unbound for myself. In what felt like Six Meetings Before Lunch, the following events transpired:

  • @1L2P and I met with @asbush and his co-Founder Dennis Littkey on CU’s needs for an LMS (while preserving the design principles of their experiential learning program). Awesomely, a CU current student joined the conversation.

  • Met with Tyler Benjamin, the VISTA/Americorps fellow on how to find your calling in the social change space.

  • Temple Beth El Synagogue is a historic building that fell into disrepair in downtown providence–Adam has been a caretaker of the space, getting it fixed up and ready for use again. He took us around.

  • Next was AS 220, a community arts center that also has a cafe, performance space, and is involved with dedicated artists’ housing in downtown Providence. We ate fried chickpeas, drank cream soda and celebrated the submission of the Knight Grant.

  • I was a guest at the joint CU + Providence College course on “Generations” at the Smith Hill Community Annex. I was blown away by the thoughtfulness of the students and how this diverse crew worked to understand each other.

  • The featured presenter at the Generations course was CU grad Sokeo Ros, who is a Cambodian refugee, documentarian and started his own Arts breakdancing non-profit.

  • Then Adam took me out for Guatemalan food (my first!).

  • Then we met up with Damian Ewens, the founder of Achievery, who was also in our DML grantee cohort.

And then I napped. Because tired.


  • First off, I want to be careful about summarizing my thoughts from talking to these students. I’m not speaking for them, and their stories are all very, very different (and quite powerful). All I can share is what I noticed and asked about–and I encourage you all to engage these learners as actual people on Writing for Change’s discourse community.

  • Students at College Unbound are connected to their CU community, but also their core outside communities where they are making social change happen face-to-face. Whether it’s giving haircuts to other formerly incarcerated folks, being a first-responder to street crime through the Center for Nonviolence, speaking on behalf of local unions or compliance for the Department of Education, these folks are all community organizers in some way.

  • That said, they connect face-to-face and through phone calls. The internet is only somewhere they go to meetup with people they already know.

  • Blackboard has unlearned curiosity for online learning. Since CU folks don’t have a lot of time, Blackboard meets their “I have 5 minutes, tell me what to do” structure. Which means:

1.) We need to scaffold the messiness of the learning. Next time, step 1 is to break the site, post a link or do something silly and not scary.
2.) Discourse requires a lot of literacy up-front–the character count, line-length, etc. We also need to provide better onramps to participation.
3.) Any system designed for this audience should be built with this audience (like always!)
4.) Mobile is how they participate. If Discourse featured a “reply via text” or other mobile plug-in, that’s the ball game to participation.

Also, Adam has a baller house, makes amazing Johnny Cakes, and is on the phone a lot. :smile:
Moar College Unbound, please.


Fascinating stuff. Thanks so much for the detailed update, and photos.

Some questions:

  1. do you think the time-poor nature of the cohort puts an absolute limitation on the messiness/playfulness/disruptive parts of the learning. If not, why not? If so, what’t the right balance? I guess I’m wondering how (if at all) this design principle is enacted differently for diff audiences.

  2. Mobile. So interesting. Is mobile-preference a reflection of the time-poor / preference for fast & short interactions? Or just a tech preference in the particular cohort? At first I assumed the latter, but then thinking through some of your other comments I think the former might be stronger…

  3. Re: onboarding to Discourse: what digital spaces is this cohort already comfortable with? Am interested in what people are using now (anywhere in their digital lives - Facebook? gmail? web browsers? none of the above), in order to gauge how ‘different’ Discourse feels…