Developing supportive environments

8 Principle 9: Institutional entrepreneurship

Both capability and capacity-building are usually not self-or- ganised activities. They require leadership, top-level and con- tinuous support, vision and strategy, lobbying and reward- ing institutional improvement in order to facilitate change towards responsibilisation. A key guiding question is: Are there credible leadership capabilities and institutional con- ditions in place for change agents to help transform the status quo?

Example 9: Organisational transformation within a large US-American university

A decade ago, a new President was ap- pointed at the Abernath University, USA, a very large public university. President Stark had a strong vision of a ‘Good University’, and was critical of the insti- tutionalised model of top-league Ameri- can universities, which he believed to be exclusive and narrow in their faculty and student base, working in discipline silos, and unconcerned about social problems in regional environments. His vision of ‘responsibility’ was to demonstrate how a public university could perform success- fully in financial terms, yet be founded on the inverse normative criteria, i.e. an inclusive student base, excellent sci- ence, and inter-disciplinary approaches addressing social problems (principle 9: leadership, vision and strategy). Many senior faculty members embraced this vision and joined the management team, whilst others who shared it were recruit- ed. A new organisational structure was developed along inter-disciplinary lines of problem-oriented centres and insti- tutes. Faculty staff took on multiple iden- tities according to their problem-focused centre, their teaching host school, and
their ‘normative home’, e.g. sustainability. Networking across these identities was facilitated through meetings and events, and new inter-disciplinary centres were established (with five-year reviews) (prin- ciple 9: capability and capacity-building are not one-off activities). Middle tiers of Prin- cipal Investigators and faculty members were recruited who shared the broad vision, translated to their field, and who were entrepreneurial, forming inter-dis- ciplinary teams to bring in new grants. There were turbulent years of disruption and change and some left who were not comfortable with the new model. Ulti- mately, the grant income of the univer- sity has increased four-fold and the stu- dent body has grown dramatically, and now reflects the ethnic demographic of the State with a focus on students whose parents did not attend university. The model has been communicated through books co-authored by Stark, many You- Tube videos and Stark’s talks around the world. He entreats others not to simply replicate the model, but to adapt it to prevailing local social contexts and changing global problems.