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The Clubhouse Network Hosts Largest Annual Conference in Organization History

a group of people talk at annual conference

Gathering provides opportunity for professional development, reflection, and celebration.

San Diego, CA – On April 9, more than 200 people gathered in San Diego for The Clubhouse Network’s 26th Annual Conference, making it the largest in the organization’s history. Youth workers, program staff, and executive directors from Clubhouse-hosting organizations across the United States as well as Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, New Zealand, Taiwan and beyond joined sponsors and collaborators to hone their skills, share best practices, and strengthen the collaborative community among the participants in this global organization.

This year’s theme was “Building a Diverse and Inclusive Community.” The opening plenary featured a conversation between Clubhouse alum and MIT Media Lab graduate student Jaleesa Trapp and Clubhouse Network Co-Founder Mitchel Resnick, entitled “Uncovering Hidden Pathways.” Jaleesa and Mitchel discussed the job, education, and career trajectories that The Clubhouse provides, with Jaleesa sharing her personal story along the way.

Jaleesa Trap and Mitch Resnick discuss Uncovering Hidden Pathways
Mitchel Resnick and Jaleesa Trap of the MIT Media Lab discuss the job, education, and career trajectories that The Clubhouse provides.

Breakout sessions on the topic included “Supporting Girls in Media in the Clubhouse,” “Navigating Non-Inclusive Spaces as a Person of Color,” “The Clubhouse Welcomes All–Understanding LGBTQI+,” and “Diversity, Inclusion, and Me,” among other sessions.

The Network is also committed to making sure Clubhouse staff are providing youth with access to the latest technology, so they’re prepared for the future of work. These sessions included “The Art and History of Music Production,” “Helping Youth Understand How Technology Will Change the Way We Work,” Augmented Reality,” “Exploring Extensions in Scratch 3.0,” “GarageBand 101,” and “Magic of Lumens: The Basis of 3D Mapping.”  Sessions that helped advance technology as a tool for self-expression and creativity included “Empowering Youth to Tell Their Personal Story,” “Designing with Purpose Using Mouse,” “Bringing a Community Organizing Approach to Creative Learning,” and “Inventing for Social Impact in the Maker Space.”

Inspired by conversations with peers as well as the workshops at the conference, Bert Gervais, Clubhouse Coordinator at The Best Buy Teen Tech Center @ Jersey City Boys & Girls Club, said, “One thing I plan to take back to my Clubhouse is the projects that really spark imagination.” He went on to reflect on how technology can be used to speak with teens about their future goals. “We get so caught up in technology when we talk to youth about future job prospects. For teens, it’s hard to think about the future. I’m going back [to my Clubhouse] with the sense that ‘hey, let’s talk about technology as a way to understand the world around you, about the things that are already happening in your community, about how you can solve problems and understand the issues in your community right now using tech.”

A large portion of participants was made up of Clubhouse staff providing direct service to youth around the world. Andrea Wood, head of social impact at Best Buy, told them, “You all are doing the hard work that is sometimes thankless, difficult work, but you’re changing lives. You’re changing lives for all of the youth that you serve every single day, and you’re making an impact whether you know it or not.”

Andrea Wood, head of social impact at Best Buy speaks to conference attendees
Andrea Wood, head of social impact at Best Buy extends her appreciation to Clubhouse staff.

A special moment at the Annual Conference is when awards are presented for the Global RE@CH Media Festival. Revolutionizing Expression @ The Clubhouse is the signature showcase of Clubhouse member-created media from around the world and a bedrock component of The Network. A record 500 projects were submitted to the 4th annual festival. Winners can be viewed at clubhousereach.org. One highlight is the “Clubhouse Collaboration” award for a project created by multiple Clubhouses. The video “Una amistad, una nación (A friendship, a nation)” was produced by members of Clubhouses from Argentina, Panama, and Costa Rica.

Clubhouse staff are presented with RE@CH Awards
Clubhouse staff from Argentina, Panama, and Costa Rica accept RE@CH awards on behalf of their members

A Year in Review

Executive Director Gail Breslow opened the conference with her annual State of the Network Address, highlighting many of The Network’s accomplishments over the year. She detailed The Flagship Clubhouse’s relocation and The Network’s separation from Boston’s Museum of Science. 12 new locations were warmly welcomed to the Network over the last year with more than a dozen openings planned in the upcoming year, thanks to Best Buy’s investment together with other partners. The Network is now reaching 18 countries with 63 Clubhouses in the U.S.A. and 40 outside. Gail said, “I get inquiries all the time from people who say they’ve visited one of our Clubhouses, have had amazing experiences, and ask how they can open one in their own cities. We have conversations going on right now with folks in Portugal, in Japan, in Costa Rica, and in South Africa just to name a few.”

The annual address was thematically tied to The Clubhouse Network’s six strategic priorities for 2019:

  1. Increase brand awareness and visibility
  2. Build on measures of youth impact and how we capture and convey that information
  3. Strengthen global Clubhouse community
  4. Expand career pathways opportunities for youth around the world
  5. Diversify funding sources for The Clubhouse Network and Clubhouses worldwide
  6. Build organizational & individual racial equity practice and learning

These priorities provide direction for the organization during the year and a means for us to hold ourselves accountable to our work.

2019 State of the Network

Gail also shared highlights from the recent Youth Impact Survey, a biannual assessment of youth perceptions of our work. We learned that 92% of Clubhouse youth feel more optimistic about their future and more confident that they have the skills to succeed. 90% told us they have learned how to use more technology and better understand how to use it to make their own projects. Gail noted that her favorite element in her entire State of the Network address was the data showing the direct impact Clubhouse staff are having on youth. “You make a difference,” she said, adding:   “Studies show that young people who have at least one adult in their life who cares about them–and that they trust–are more likely to stay in school, more likely to care about their own future, and more likely to believe in themselves.”

Chart: Clubhouse members report a high commitment to school, high interest in post-HS education, and high interest in STEM.

2019 And Beyond

In support of our goals to strengthen the global Clubhouse community, we plan to reinvigorate our alumni engagement efforts. Gail said, “not only do we want to find out what they’re up to, but we also want to build on the momentum of the Global Alumni Summit we in the fall of 2018, and focus on professional development, personal growth, peer-to-peer networking, social outings, and mentoring.” For example, Gail discussed the opportunity to help Clubhouses develop local alumni chapters or strengthen existing groups.

In 2020, The Clubhouse Network will host its next Teen Summit in Boston. The convening of youth from around the world will be an opportunity for Clubhouse members to come together and collaborate on an issue they care about. Gail said, “This summit will see an increased focus on youth leadership; it will be an event by teens and not just for teens.” The Clubhouse Network is committed to making this event accessible to all teens who are interested. “As in the past, it will be our goal for each Clubhouse to attend Teen Summit, regardless of ability to pay,” Gail emphasized.

Gail closed her State of the Network Address by extending her appreciation and gratitude for all those in the room. “I have the opportunity to visit or talk with many of you each year and I know how hard you all work to make your Clubhouse a success.  I suspect that you don’t hear the words ‘Thank You’ enough, and so I want to say them now.”

The Clubhouse Network expresses its deepest appreciation to conference presenting sponsor Best Buy, other sponsors Facebook Engineer for the Week, PwC, and partners Boys & Girls Club of San Marcos and the MIT Media Lab. The 2020 Annual Conference will be held in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, home to The Best Buy Teen Tech Center @ New Orleans Public Library.

The Clubhouse Network Annual Conference is an opportunity for the Clubhouse Community to come together, share ideas, and…

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