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Addressing emerging complex challenges through collaborative approaches

16 Nov 2021 | Nick Skeet Nick Skeet, Associate Director (Membership & Accreditation) at Advance HE, launches our 2021-22 round of the Collaborative Development Fund: New Challenges, New Solutions.

I know from speaking with you, our members in higher education and research institutes, that the challenges of grappling with the pandemic and learning from what was best of the innovation for a post-pandemic world, have not gone away, nor feel finished in any sense. Amazing advances in planning, response, strategic thinking, teaching practice and the use of technology have been achieved over the last two years, in every part of our membership across the globe. However, the job of learning for the future from how all of this impacted on the student experience, attainment and outcomes, as well as the impact on the staff involved, both positive and negative, goes on.

We are already seeing evidence of some of the surprising and unexpected consequences of the response to the pandemic and move to greater use of virtual teaching and student support – aspects of it having been hugely beneficial for some student groups and their retention, for example. Other consequences point to the need for a whole-system, integrated approach to developing our understanding of the most impactful and lasting changes to creating truly inclusive institutions, or student experience.

These and other examples demonstrate how the crisis continues to shine a spotlight on a range of challenges and areas for learning from what we have all been through, which we believe demand swift, and well-considered, solutions. This is where the targeted funding and collaborative projects that Advance HE provides as part of your membership with us offers the perfect opportunity for us to respond and help generate the kind of joint learning and knowledge sharing that leads to creative, applied solutions being achieved in a matter of months.

Last year we focused our Collaborative Development Fund on working with members to address three large scale strategic areas of challenge in Board diversity, flexible ecosystems to support student success, and commencing work to develop a global survey and future framework for leadership in our sector. These calls of between £20,000 and £35,000 have seen our project partners working with a whole range of our members to create new levels of understanding of what works whilst generating resources and practical solutions for members, such as our recently launched Board diversity and inclusion toolkit.

We know from your feedback that the collaborative and iterative approach taken to creating deeper knowledge with practical solutions that can deliver evidence based impact is valued by our members. As the name suggests, Advance HE exists to support members in the enhancement space, and it is our access to the right expertise, our global reach spanning over 390 member institutions, as well as our networking and convening power that ensures we are perfectly positioned to help you make the most of these opportunities, whether as a successful bidder or beneficiary of the project activities, or simply the assets and resources created.

Regardless of how you choose to engage with our Collaborative Development Fund, the projects are designed to help you address the contemporary challenges being faced, often in a situation with no precedent, nor easily accessed, tested knowledge upon which to base future planning and decisions. Each institution can and often will, seek to address these challenges in isolation, however our membership and these funded projects offer a fantastic opportunity to get involved with other providers and directly influence and benefit from both the generative experience and solutions created.

This year’s focus stems from our conversations with members, strategic advisory groups and sector partners that directly influenced both our Advance HE Strategy 2021 - 2024 and Member Benefits offer for 2021-22. Through these discussions you confirmed your wish for us to target our support in sustainability, structural inequality and hybrid operating models. You have asked us to focus on helping you address these priorities:

•         helping to rethink online pedagogy and factors impacting on student success

•         creating and sustaining an inclusive institution

•         transitions, retention and progression for the ‘Covid generation’

•         maintaining and nurturing organisational wellbeing.

For our 2021-22 Collaborative Development Fund projects we have therefore identified five areas of focus and will be inviting submissions from our members to lead grant-funded solutions offering opportunities ranging from £2,500 to £50,000. We are particularly keen to support engagement with the funded awards that represents the diversity of our membership base.

The funded projects are focusing on generating solutions supporting truly inclusive institutions, providing radical thinking for the future student experience, developing the culture and practice with our College based HE network, scoping the potential for an integrated framework of equality charters, and creating powerful institutional examples of how Fellowship and use of the Professional Standards Framework has achieved strategic transformation and impact.

The Advance HE Collaborative Development Fund: New Challenges, New Solutions is launching today (16 November 2021) with the individual calls for applications all differing in focus and requirement. For each of them however, Advance HE wishes to work collaboratively with the successful teams to develop and define the project parameters and methodology, undertake the fieldwork and produce the draft outputs and recommendations. The deadline for applications and your proposals is noon on 21 December 2021, with projects commencing early in the new calendar year with final outputs being published in the summer. 

Successful bidders, be they single institutions or a set of collaborating partners, will be working with us to maximise reach and participation, we wish to see benefit for the full breadth of our membership wherever possible within the bounds of the individual projects.

By using these grant funds in this way we are aiming to help create the space within our member benefit activity to address emerging complex challenges, enabling projects that are collaborative in nature, allowing for both exploratory phases and output components that reflect this and a focus on co-creation of insight and resources.

We look forward to working with you – best of luck in your application!


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