Tipping systems cannot be done with siloed communities of concern. Employers, universities, and students must cultivate a fluid network for collaborative changemaking if education, innovation, and social impact are to thrive.
The Ashoka U exchange is the prominent Social Innovation Summit on higher education that mobilizes hundreds of university leaders, social entrepreneurs, companies, and education innovators from across the United States. Making More Health, a program-- led by Ashoka, Youth Venture, and Boehringer Ingelheim-- hosted an interactive session at the Ashoka U Exchange in March 2017. The goal of the Youth Venture-Boehringer Ingelheim session was to work with university partners, innovation hubs, and students to identify ways to erase the barriers for collaboration between the Corporates, Academics, and Youth.The session was co-designed and facilitated by William O’Neill from Boehringer Ingelheim, and Mohsin Mohi Ud Din and Mentor Dida from Ashoka’s Youth Venture.
More than thirty participants attended the session and collectively identified 43 barriers to collaborating changemaking. Faculty, university leaders, students, and Boehringer Ingelheim collaborated to yield 3 suggested solutions.
Barriers we face: Perspectives from Bill O’Neill (Boehringer Ingelheim) at #Exchange2017
As I was facilitating this breakout session, several themes began to emerge in terms of barriers to collaborative partnerships between Corporations, Academia, and Students. These are the themes that were uncovered in order of how often they came up:
Values - There was a sense that many organizations do not share the same values. According to some participants, corporations do not value academia or students, and students and academia do not value corporations. All stakeholders typically bring in their own stereotypes and prejudices to these opportunities, according to participants.
Efficiency - Many potential partners do not have the infrastructure to engage in collaborations. There are too many silos to break down and not enough time to devote to these opportunities, so it is easy not to engage.
Lack of Empathy - Various partners did not have empathy for each other. They spoke different ‘languages’, used different terminology, and made assumptions about each other.
Funding - Funding was identified as a barrier. Many participants agreed that collaborations require an investment. Funding challenges include: Academia competing with multiple priorities without the funding to do everything; Students feeling like there was an opportunity cost to participating that they could not afford; and Corporations needing to make smart investments with their limited resources.
Lack of Trust - This was expressed in certain anxieties. Students increasingly expressed a feeling that that they lack the skills to interact in a corporate environment. Students also expressed that academia participate with students from an “Ivory Tower” mentality, not being unified around why they should work together.
Differences in Measuring Impact - There was a perception of great difference in skill sets when it came to being able to measure the impact of these collaborations. In some instances there was a lack of leadership, at some levels people didn’t have the skill sets to measure the impacts effectively.
EGO - Several participants saw egos as a barrier to collaboration. Individuals are sometimes unable to collaborate because of greed or being too territorial to want to share their space with others. Some are unwilling to share information or having too strong opinions to work together.
Different Ideas of Outcomes - This included each partner having different ideas of the goals they wanted to meet. They used different methodologies to define success and did not come to consensus on shared goals and outcomes.
Failure from Previous Experiences - This is when various partners live too much in the past. They put too much emphasis on previous collaboration attempts that did not work out for them. They have doubt a collaboration can work and are not motivated to try again. They do not see failure as a learning experience.
Different Work Cycles - This is when you have willing partners but they can’t seem to get their calendars to work. The timing doesn’t work from an academic schedule, students can’t bridge these experience between course work, time off and working for a wage. Corporations sometimes can’t fit programs into their budget cycle.
After being able to review these barriers and take them in, I began to feel really good about the work we have done with Making More Health so far, and see some room for further innovation. In many ways we have been able to overcome some of the barriers identified in the Ashoka U session that prevent many others from attempting these collaborations. In general, we have common values. We have the required empathy to partner with others. We have excellent capabilities and skill sets with the employees we use to engage in these activities. We have trust in each other, and do not let our egos get in the way. We have made commitments to funding.
If I see an area of opportunity for Making More Health to improve and remove barriers when it comes to these kinds of collaborations it is in the area of aligning on Outcomes. This is still an opportunity for improvement. There is a challenge in finding win-win-win outcomes for everyone. However, as it was mentioned at the session, if we are committed to stay at the table with one another and continue to communicate, there is no barrier we can not overcome.
The more I am exposed to Collaborative Changemaking, the more I am convinced we need more change makers within Boehringer Ingelheim. The world is changing at an accelerated pace. The jobs of tomorrow do not even exist today. We need to bring talent into our organization that is not focused on a particular degree, instead we need human resources that can adapt and change quickly, who see the world differently and have the necessary skills to evolve as our environment changes. Where better to find these people than to grow them within our Making More Health Youth Ventures programs. Through these programs we need to train the next generation of employee. We can earmark the brightest and most flexible candidates we participate with in these programs and then make sure there is a place for them at Boehringer Ingelheim. It is a good thing we are doing with our Youth Venture programs, we need to benefit more from this work we are doing.