A Brief Introduction to the Community College Innovation Accelerator

Managing and maturing innovation can lead to significant and lasting transformation in community colleges, resulting in agile institutions that implement multiple types of innovation in an intentional, coordinated fashion continuously over time. Higher education institutions fall within a broad spectrum of innovation maturity ranging from non-existent to transformative (see graphic), with a majority falling somewhere between non-existent and emerging. Few mature their innovation beyond the emerging point, which we refer to as the “innovation valley of death,” largely because they lack systematized innovation management and execution.

We believe innovation can be matured and even accelerated. Colleges can close the gap between innovation aspiration and execution and reach their greatest potential by:

• Pushing on key levers;

• Capitalizing on institutional priorities;

• Developing scalable tools and resources; and

• Re-thinking competency and capacity building.

Connecting change efforts to innovation acceleration can be supported by making the most of strategic insights from innovative industries such as health care, finance, and information technology, and from transformational higher education institutions and leaders.

To that end, the League for Innovation in the Community College and The Collaboratory have come together to develop and implement a multi-year Community College Innovation Accelerator (CCIA). The CCIA builds and accelerates the capacity of community college administrators, faculty, and staff to successfully manage innovation and effectively execute change to support reform efforts, create value at scale, and ultimately achieve improved, equitable student outcomes. We believe these changes can shift the institution at least one stage beyond emerging on the innovation maturity spectrum within three years.

Catalytic Levers for Accelerating Innovation

The CCIA triggers three key catalytic levers with the greatest impact for widescale, enduring change in community colleges:

• Lever I—Demonstrate. The Demonstrate lever moves institutions and leaders from being tactical to transformational, accelerating their change efforts through the “innovation valley of death.” The strategies and components in this lever build the next generation of institutions and leaders with capacities to manage and execute innovation effectively. Lever I includes activities such as appointing a Chief Innovation Architect and developing and executing an Innovation Blueprint.

• Lever II—Amplify. At the heart of the Amplify lever are strategic communications and building networks at scale. Amplify strategies include capturing and assessing the dynamics of managing and maturing innovation, and networking with like-minded community colleges to share blueprints, execution plans, and overall learnings.

• Lever III—Advocate. The Advocate lever creates enabling conditions for real and meaningful policy changes that foster and accelerate higher education innovation. To ensure innovation practices are sustained and scaled, the Advocate strategy is focused on educating the next generation of higher education policy entrepreneurs to explore higher education innovations, reform efforts, policies, barriers, and high-impact innovation opportunities.

The League, in partnership with The Collaboratory, is promoting and pushing these levers in the community college field.

Mindy Feldbaum and Marcy Drummond

CEO and Marcy Drummond is Senior Fellow, The Collaboratory, LLC


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