The pragmatics of Institutional InnovationGeorge | November 24, 2009
On 12 November the JISC Institutional Innovation Support & Synthesis project conducted an upbeat online programme meeting where over 70 participants addressed the pragmatics of institutional innovation. The aim of the day was for the 40 projects in the programme to consider the challenges and tensions of institutional innovation, to look at approaches and solutions to innovating in institutions, and to consider the sustainability of innovation.
The meeting, titled “Institutional Pragmatics” took, unsurprisingly, a pragmatic view.
We considered the strategic drivers for change. At the project level it is easy to lose sight of the big picture and stay focused on the details of implementation. This meeting was an opportunity to come up for air and consider how our projects might drive (or be driven by):
- Economic recovery and public funding
- Quality standards and reputation
- International responsiveness
- Social mobility, equality, democracy
Very quickly the event took on an optimistic change-management perspective. The opening speaker, Steve Outram observed that individuals in institutions were ready for change but that change had to be relevant as much, if not more, for the individual and work group as to the larger institution. Citing Gibbs he suggested that change starts with individual practice and thinking and builds to co-ordinated strategy having an effect on the external environment.
Throughout the day projects shared their work in breakout sessions looking at the local “techno-cultures”: their own niches, and we began to relate these to “units of change” or “innovation themes”. Broadly, in our programme change appears to be happening in five areas. There is a fuller discussion of this here.
- Portals and personal portals
- Frameworks for accreditation
- 21st century skills (digital literacy)
- New ways of knowing
- New patterns of participation.
The event was very positive about the potential for change. There was refreshingly little of the we-can’t-do-that-here which can sometimes pervade discussions about change in the higher education context. All the links to slides and the recordings of the Plenary Elluminate will be found here.
Continuity for the day was provided by a special edition of the Sounds of the Bazaar internet radio show, with important interviews with practitioners as well as music for the coffee breaks. And, in the evening we had a fun and informative online social activity using the music sharing service Blip FM and Twitter. As well as listening to each other’s picks we used tags to link content across two social media platforms: learning and playing
Looking ahead, we are taking the change theme forward into our annual face-to-face programme meeting on 28-29 January in Birmingham, where the focus of the event will be on “Acting as Change Agents in Higher Education”. The event will feature a “trade show” of project outputs emphasising usability and re-usability of the “products” of our work.