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Innovation Task Force Enters Phase Two
September 07, 2010
GW’s Innovation Task Force moves forward on implementation planning for top six proposals.
By Jamie L. Freedman
After a year of groundwork, GW’s Innovation Task Force moves into phase two this month, highlighted by the development of implementation plans for the top six innovation ideas generated by the GW community.
The first round of innovations are far-reaching--focusing on increasing the number of hybrid courses at GW, implementing an enhanced strategic sourcing initiative in procurement, reducing the amount of space leased by the university, expanding study abroad opportunities, creating a GW Temp Agency, and initiating a telecommuting program for employees.
Phase two of the innovation process caps an intensive, yearlong, university-wide effort to take GW to the next level through innovation, spearheaded by a steering committee chaired by Jeffrey Lenn, associate vice president for academic operations, and two working groups: one focusing on business processes and the other on learning/teaching. Senior Associate Vice President for Finance Dave Lawlor, who co-chaired the business processes committee last year, stepped up this fall to serve as co-chair of the ITF steering committee.
Over the past year, the committees took the lead in generating, evaluating and prioritizing more than 400 proposals aimed at enhancing GW’s academic enterprise while creating significant savings or new revenue. The elaborate vetting process yielded 15 leading proposals, which were presented to the GW community for input in April at a series of town hall-style meetings. President Steven Knapp and his council of senior administrators signed off on the final set of round one recommendations in June.
“Last fall, I charged the Innovation Task Force with a bold task,” Dr. Knapp says. “The ITF’s progress so far has been very impressive, yielding a number of transformative ideas as well as savings we have already begun to invest in our efforts to raise the university to its next level of excellence.”
During phase two of the ITF process, a “6 x 6” strategy will be utilized, featuring the development of six new leading innovation ideas every six months. “Each major innovation idea will be assigned to an “innovation team,” composed of a small group with requisite knowledge and skills to develop an implementation plan for the initiative,” Dr. Lenn says. Each team will be led by a “champion,” drawn from a pool of key university administrators with expertise on the topic; a project manager, and a member of the president’s council who will serve as executive sponsor. A staging committee will be organized to simultaneously vet the next six innovation ideas to move on, employing the comprehensive vetting process developed during phase one.
“The staging committee will focus on the remaining top ideas recommended by our working committees during phase one, as well as identify and analyze other ideas for innovation submitted by the GW community,” Dr. Lenn says. “We look forward to moving forward on many more of these excellent proposals in future years.”
Throughout phase two, new ideas for innovation will continue to be solicited from the GW community. “Our objective is to embed innovation in the university culture,” Dr. Lenn explains. As part of that goal, a cadre of innovation facilitators has been identified campus wide, who will facilitate discussions within various GW departments and divisions about areas ripe for innovation.
The first batch of ideas slated for implementation in phase two will save the university millions of dollars while strengthening the quality of the GW experience:
- By converting 35 GW courses per year into hybrid courses over the next five years, the university will cut down dramatically on rented classroom space, generating cost savings of $1 million annually. A fast-growing trend in higher education, hybrid courses combine traditional face-to-face class meetings with an online learning component. Research has shown that hybrid courses yield great academic benefits—offering the best aspects of both face-to-face and online learning
- Significant savings can be gained by consolidating GW’s purchases under a strategic sourcing program. By negotiating procurement contracts with a smaller pool of vendors and funneling the vast majority of purchasing through them, the university can leverage deep discounts, generating estimated savings of $6 million per year.
- By reducing the amount of off-campus space leased by GW for administrative and academic purposes by 50,000 square feet over the next five years, the university could save nearly $2 million per year.
- By expanding study abroad programming for undergraduates and increasing the number of GW students studying abroad during the fall semester by 243 (to produce an even distribution of study abroad participants across the fall and spring semesters), the university could save more than $1 million annually by freeing up residence hall space for additional students.
- GW currently engages a number of external agencies to fill temporary positions. Augmenting the university’s partnership with outside agencies by creating an in-house GW Temp Agency, GW can realize cost savings of $500,000 per year.
- By implementing a telecommuting policy at GW, the university could generate $1 million per year in space cost savings, while increasing employee satisfaction.
All savings and new revenues accrued toward the initiative’s $60 million goal will be banked in the university’s Innovation Fund—a separate entity from GW’s general operating budget. The fund will fuel a wide range of programs aimed at increasing academic and research excellence throughout GW.
To date, $500,000 has been earmarked toward doubling the number of undergraduate academic advisers at the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences and $200,000 will be used to implement an electronic degree audit program that will enable students to monitor their progress toward graduation.
“The various teams involved in phase one of the Innovation Task Force have done a phenomenal job,” Mr. Lawlor says. “There is a sense of urgency and a strong desire to be a part of what we are doing in ITF. Faculty, students and staff have demonstrated a passion and a strong desire to think creatively and make innovation happen. Leading with a call to invest in our future has elicited excitement and enthusiasm. Our job now is to make these ideas real. We're off to a great start and I'm delighted to be a part of such an important endeavor.”
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