Introduction to Collaboratory

Man sitting at desk in front of Mac desktop with hand on keyboard.

By: Lisa Keyne, PH.D., Chief Strategy Officer, Collaboratory, Senior Scholar, the Institute for Community and Economic Engagement (ICEE) The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Welcome to the website for Collaboratory. Thank you for reviewing our site and product, and thinking about the possibilities for your institution.

As a faculty member and a vice provost, I knew first hand the importance of collecting institution-wide evidence that our goals were being reached.  Not only did the data assist us to move forward wisely, but accountability to external organizations ensured our students, our faculty and staff, our community . . . all our stakeholders received what we promised in our mission and strategic plan.

I remember, not so many years ago, when the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities was giving institutions the option to submit their report fully online.  Wow!  Same questions — are you accomplishing the goals stated in your strategic plan, departmental plans, etc., and are you doing it well — but we could organize it online.

As technology has modified how data is gathered, higher education institutions have received new and different requests allowing for innovation in collection and demonstration of work accomplished.  Institutions committed to being community-engaged are presented with the challenge of tracking community engagement for reports, for applications, and to build best and impactful practice.  Qualitative and quantitative data can help us meet the needs of and work together with the community to achieve and modify established agendas.  We can more efficiently and effectively hold ourselves accountable to our varying constituencies, and provide information to offices across the institution that can utilize it to support their tasks.

When I was Executive Director of North Carolina Campus Compact we hosted trainings and conversations to assist our member institutions to better monitor and measure their community engagement.  Invariably, they would need to create their own institutional process or system to fit with their goals and objectives.

I was excited to join the team to help build Collaboratory, the one tool that all community-committed institutions can utilize to document and assess their comprehensive community engagement and public service activities. It is an audacious goal but one that we know will help higher education institutions, support faculty and staff, and, ultimately, further higher education community engagement, contributing to common understanding as we define terms, learn from each other, and strategize about next steps.  

Collaboratory has ensured that the right team is assembled to support institutions that want to deepen and strengthen their community engagement.  You may have learned about Collaboratory from Dr. Emily Janke or Dr. Barbara Holland, two of Collaboratory’s creators who continue to work closely with Collaboratory.  We are very pleased that a third creator, Kristin Medlin, joined the team as Assistant Director of PostSecondary Initiatives in May 2015, ensuring on a daily basis that the firsthand experience with Collaboratory at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro is integrated into our design.  The four of us have vast and varied experience working with higher education institutions committed to this work.  We can help you think strategically about how to roll out a data collection process upon which you can build your community engagement plan.

Leaders from three additional institutions that tested our beta also inform our development. Their feedback has been integrated so our tool will indeed help you to understand your full engagement footprint, deepen partnerships through feedback mechanisms, and strengthen accomplishment of strategic initiatives.  We are almost there . . .

In the next few months we are going to continue to test and refine Collaboratory. We are going to host a focus group in Vancouver, WA, and continue our work with several early adopter institutions. We look forward to introducing Collaboratory to Campus Compact’s presidents and chancellors at their Summit in March.  And we anticipate starting demos this summer.

Perhaps you are a leader at one of the many institutions anxious to start the formal process of gathering information in one database to which you can confidently go, year to year, for reliable, consistent, comprehensive information about your community engagement and public service.  We want to be that tool for you, and are confident you will find Collaboratory provides you with more than you anticipate.

I hope you will review the site for the most up-to-date information.  Be sure to follow our blog (sign up for reminders below) which will provide information about what we are learning, and Collaboratory’s foundations.  You can read about the University of North Carolina at Greensboro’s needs that led to the creation of their own database which became The Collaboratory.  Over the next few weeks our blog will share more about its founding, as well as what UNCG accomplished with their data.  And review the resources page for tools that can help you get started.

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