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News & Media

Operationalizing IEP: Moving From Planning to Implementation

November 16, 2020
By: Rebecca Robinson, Chief Corporate Engagement & Economic Development Officer, Kansas State University


Rebecca Robinson

This article is included as part of APLU's Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities Designation and Awards Perspectives Blog. Read other articles around strategies, programs, and impact of APLU's IEP designees at www.APLU.org/IEPBlog. Earn APLU’s IEP designation. Learn more at www.APLU.org/SeekIEP

After the celebratory fog of receiving IEP designation wears off and you have recovered after the intense, but rewarding process, there might be a time that you ask yourself how you’re going to accomplish the vision set out in your growth and improvement plan. How do you take advantage of the momentum generated during the process to pivot into implementation? At Kansas State University, we’re entering our fourth year as an IEP designated university and have learned a few lessons as we moved from the IEP designation and planning process to the implementation of our plans. 

Find Early Wins: In the months between our submission and designation decision, we began working on a solution to address a commonly heard challenge: “External stakeholders don’t know who to contact when they want to engage with the university.” We created an Industry Portal designed to be a virtual one-stop-shop for stakeholders interested in working with the university. We launched the portal at the same time as we celebrated the receipt of our IEP designation and were able to show our stakeholders we were listening and we serious about our commitment to economic engagement.  

Prepare for Leadership Transitions: Over time your early momentum may fade, and ever-changing leadership transitions may provide unique challenges to sustain progress on your growth and improvement plan. Consistent communication with broad campus stakeholders can help maintain interest and commitment. As we developed new initiatives that were products of our growth and improvement plan, we explicitly connected the activities to the plan. One example of this was the creation of our own Excellence in Innovation and Economic Engagement Award to recognize faculty and staff, centers, institutes, and units engaged in work that advances innovation and the economic prosperity of our region. Other IEP designees have maintained university leadership momentum by applying for and receiving Innovation & Economic Prosperity University awards from APLU. For example, a 2014 IEP designee, the University of Pittsburgh, was recognized this year with the Place Award for its programs and partnerships to cultivate talent, promote innovation, and foster economic prosperity in the Homewood neighborhood of Pittsburgh. 

Adjust your Plan: A lot can happen in a year, especially in one like 2020. Fortunately, most forces of change aren’t as extreme as a global pandemic, but our universities and communities are evolving entities and therefore require adaptive planning. As the institution and community change, so too must our strategies. We have learned to use our growth and improvement plan as a compass instead of a roadmap. An important element of our success in adapting our growth and improvement plan is having staff committed to stewarding the efforts. For K-State, our recently merged unit called Innovation Partners has been charged with advancing economic engagement and has integrated IEP implementation into our annual goals.  

As we’ve moved from planning to implementation over the last three years, these three takeaways have helped us to make the most of the designation process and its value for our university and communities long-term. We don’t claim to have all of the answers about operationalizing IEP in every context, but we do know of nearly 70 other designated institutions who collectively share a wealth of knowledge and experience in economic engagement. 

You can learn from other IEP Universities by participating in CECE and APLU events, reading or contributing to the IEP Perspectives Blog or IEP Case Study Library, or reaching out to any of our IEP Growth and Improvement Committee members.

This article is included as part of APLU's Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities Designation and Awards Perspectives Blog. Read other articles around strategies, programs, and impact of APLU's IEP designees at www.APLU.org/IEPBlog. Earn APLU’s IEP designation. Learn more at www.APLU.org/SeekIEP

  • IEP

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