TEDx is an independently organized TED event. Over 3,000 have occurred around the globe. While each TEDx is uniquely programmed by a local community, there is one thing that successful TEDx events have in common. Their creativity comes from the ability to effectively leveraging volunteer collaboration. While the volunteers are attracted to TEDx because of the power of the TED brand, an ethos of collaboration emerges in the TEDx process and, essentially, collaboration becomes the driving spirit that permits innovation as we uncover “ideas worth spreading.”
TEDxDayton 2013 pic.
Synergy is a key indicator for measuring effective and ineffective collaboration. This indicator emerged in my research that contributed to the scholarship on community partners. The research deepened our understanding of what community partners look for and expect in successful civic partnerships with higher education. The “effective” and “ineffective” descriptors provide helpful, measurable criteria to keep in mind when establishing, monitoring, and evaluating a collaborative partnership.
- Acknowledges that both partners are better off working together than separately, creating a mutuality that results in higher productivity and progress toward desired outcomes
- Recognizes the community partner adds value to student education by providing practical experience and that students receive real-world lessons in servant leadership
- Demonstrates that faculty gain more experience in the areas of practice and direct service
- Creates feeling of pleasure from collaboration
- Produces happiness with results of the partnership
- Believes parties’ constituencies mutually benefit from the relationship
- Permits patronizing attitude toward community partner on the part of faculty and administrators
- Exhibits academic arrogance on part of tenured faculty who are disconnected from direct-service providers
- Views practice as inferior to theory
- Places students in the awkward situation of brokering the relationship between faculty and community partner, making them the glue that holds the partnership together
Many other descriptors could be added to this initial list, but it does give us a place to start when entering into collaboration. The full list of indicators can be found at Community Partners Indicators of Engagement: An Action Research Study on Campus-Community Partnership.
Paul Erdős provided us with a formula for determining “collaborative distance.” If you think about it in other terms, he gave us a mathematical road for collaborative closeness. Since it through collaboration that people are brought together to work on challenges, explore opportunities, seek solutions, and, ultimately, create collective impact, as we pursue collaborative work, our potential for success increases exponentially as we increase our Erdős number. k + 1 = collaborative closeness.
Are the competencies sought by employers similar to those needed for citizens to protect and lead American democracy? Tuft University’s models of student civic learning outcomes include the following competencies: comprehension, analysis, synthesis, planning, communication, cultural competency, leadership, and evaluation. While SOCHE’s Civic Measures are:deliberation, advocacy, consensus building, awareness, voice, and critical reflection. Aren’t both of these sets the qualities you look for and find in your most talented working professionals? That is part of the question…a question being wrestled with today. I had the opportunity to participate in the launch of a national conversation on this subject held in our nation’s capital on January 21 hosted by the National Issues Forums Institute (NIFI) and several key partners. This conversation responded to concerns voiced by thousands of citizens in more than 160 local forums in which participants deliberated on how higher education maintains a rich, holistic, liberal education while, at the same time, meets growing demands for specific skillsets in our graduates by employers. The topic is ripe for discussion and NIFI has provided an issue guidebook to get us started: The Changing World of Work: What Should We Ask of Higher Education? You can also watch a recording of the January 21 event to hear what higher education, business, and government perspectives shared at the launch: Live Stream Video.
As for SOCHE’s position, we believe through deliberative conversations our region’s 120,000 students will develop the knowledge and skills that strengthen American democracy, as well as make valuable professionals for the creative economy. Hence, we will continue to partner with our members to host issue forums in the future. In the meantime, think about this last question: how best do our campuses bridge their economic and civic missions into one enriched, comprehensive education for Ohioans?
This seems like a good place to capture a few old blog posts I (and also David Miler) wrote for Richard Florida’s Creative Class Group back in 2009-10 during the height of the great recession, which is evident in a few of them in terms of the focus of the content. While the thoughts held relevance then, they still do today as higher ed continues to ponder how to innovate its way into the future. If only higher ed would spend more time pondering how to collaborate its way into the future, because the future is highly dependent on employing deliberative collaborative thinking.