Always good to know the origin of a word. The first usage of the word “collaborate” appears to be in 1871. Now, 144 years later, it is beginning to take on greater usage and significance as we search for a process and/or strategy for finding solutions to our contemporary challenges and opportunities. Collaboration is the most creative, viable answer, as well as the most abundant renewable resource we have on our planet that will lead us to an improved future.
In honor of March Madness, here is a good post on Collaboration Lessons from the Basketball Court by Beth Tenar at New Directions Collaborative. Go Flyers!
The Global Impact STEM Academy, Springfield City Schools, and Yellow Springs Schools worked together to develop waiver applications from state mandated testing in Ohio. The intention of the waiver is to use alternative assessments that are compatible with the educational programs of the applicants, while still maintaining a consistent level of rigor and accountability. While very different public schools in size and scope, these school leaders clearly indicated that the strength of their applications came from the opportunity to collaborate, as they wrestled with alternative pathways. In the spirit of collaboration, superintendent of the Springfield City, Dr. David Estrop, and superintendent of Yellow Springs Schools, Mr. Mario Basora, held a joint press conference and performed a little collaborative magic. They pulled a bunny out of a hat that held the waivers along with a promise to help state and federal bureaucrats understand and accept this innovative approach to assessment that reduces state required testing by 50-70%.
To shape and sustain its future, higher education must become deliberate about establishing new connections, building new partnerships, and evolving itself into a collaborative enterprise.
Many creative examples can be found in the publication The Innovative and Entrepreneurial University. As you will read, the Entrepreneurial University takes a pro-active stance in turning knowledge and student into economic generation. Students are not only becoming the prepared professionals in scientific disciplines, business, culture, but they are also encouraged and trained to become entrepreneurs and firm founders, contributing to economic growth and job creation.
Rather than only serving as a source of new ideas for existing firms, universities are combining their research and teaching capabilities in new formats to become a source of new business and technology development.
While not every campus is in a position to create new enterprises, at a minimum, strengthening an campus’s innovative, entrepreneurial, and/or collaborative foundation will increase its value proposition.
Simply, a campus that builds a culture of innovation and collaboration will, consequently, catalyze solutions to pressing contemporary–educational, economic, and societal–challenges.
The formal partnership between the University of Dayton and GE Aviation is a major collaborative practice and example of visionary leadership. As a result, GE Aviation built a $54 million research-and-development center on UD’s campus, creating space and opportunity for faculty and students researchers to work together with GE Aviation scientists and engineers on developing new advanced technologies. Further, the partnership created a talent pipeline from UD directly into GE Aviation and its core industries, beginning with internships and co-ops, and, ultimately will lead to full-time employment of UD graduates. These are initial good results, yet the longterm benefits will be transformative for both entities.
Creating this particular university-industry partnership requires mature, collaborative thinking. Hence, UD’s and GE Aviation’s leadership needs to be studied deeply, as this type of higher collaboration is the future.
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.