News / Insights

CLX: "Start-up" with an 9-Year Track Record

The Chicago Learning Exchange (CLX) may be a new name in town, but its launch builds upon more than nine years of work encouraging innovation in learning that has reached thousands of our city’s youth, engaged 500 educators, and supported 200 youth-serving organizations with more than $7 million in grants and other supports.

An independent, nonprofit organization since May, CLX integrates two partner initiatives – the Hive Chicago (Hive Chicago) Learning Network, formerly stewarded by the Mozilla Foundation, and Hive Chicago Fund for Connected Learning (Hive Fund) at The Chicago Community Trust. This work was seeded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Over the last eight years, these projects evolved from concepts aiming to reimagine learning to active initiatives that are actually remaking learning itself, with the ultimate goal of improving access to high-quality learning opportunities for Chicago’s underserved youth and connecting those experiences to real-world opportunities.

Chicago is a city of great abundance -- ways for young people to explore, develop, and broaden their interests. Yet, this abundance isn’t equitably distributed, and learning experiences aren’t necessarily connected to real-world possibilities. Technology can help us overcome these challenges. So our mission is to inspire and support the kind of innovation that closes Chicago’s opportunity gap.

Maria Hibbs, CLX Executive Director, formerly Executive Director of the Hive Fund

When we think about innovation and technology, we usually have Silicon Valley in mind. But real innovation isn’t about providing the latest tools to the best-resourced kids and classrooms. It’s about making meaningful use of those tools, and it’s about caring adults using engaging practices to ignite a passion for learning and possibility for young people who need it the most.

Sam Dyson, CLX Deputy Director, formerly Hive Network Director

To close gaps in engagement and opportunity, there have been multiple policy recommendations over the last decade calling for the meaningful use of technology to meet young people where they are, better support educators, provide safe spaces for organizational innovation and collaboration, and nurture more connected ecosystems.

To that end, CLX partners with more than 200 youth-serving organizations, cultural institutions and city agencies serving low-income youth ages 13-24, as well as technologists, foundations, and universities to remake learning in Chicago so it’s driven by learners’ interests, enhanced by technology, and connected to opportunity.


  • Networks and nurtures a peer professional learning community dedicated to equity, innovation, and collaboration -- Hive Chicago.
  • Ignites innovation and professional growth through funding to organizations and educators. This includes requests for proposals, travel stipends, and other awards.
  • Champions practices, systems, and policies that remake learning and promote educational equity, including creating learning pathways and using digital badges to recognize the skills and knowledge that young people acquire beyond the classroom.
  • Equips educators, youth, and families with skills and knowledge of connected learning, pathways, and digital badges.

CLX is rooted in more than a decade of MacArthur-supported research, demonstration initiatives and field studies exploring how young people learn in the digital age. This work has asked:

  • How might we create learning opportunities that ignite a young person's passions?
  • How do we recognize learning anytime, anywhere and across boundaries (i.e. in-school, out-of-school, workplace, and online?)
  • How can we move beyond school transcripts as the only marker of achievement in order to honor the skills and accomplishments of learners?

These questions drive CLX and its partners to explore, test, and support the use of technology to stitch together learning experiences into educational and career pathways. These pathways connect learning opportunities across organizations and in school, civic life, higher education, and careers.

“Education reform has focused on improving testing and academics. We need to think bigger than that. Research increasingly shows that we must look at the development of the whole child. That includes those 21st Century skills that are so crucial for flourishing in the future some of us can’t even envision today,” said Hibbs. “That’s why we want to see Chicago become a connected community where all learning counts.”

The CLX Board and staff invite you to join this movement.