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Working with Stakeholders: Sustaining Effective Collaboration

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Members of the ATE community devote an incredible amount of time and effort to identifying potential partners, developing contacts and relationships, and cultivating these partnerships to sustain them over the long term. Feedback from key stakeholders, collaborators, industry partners, and colleagues from across the ATE community can provide you with many benefits and perspectives. So whether you are looking for help as you revamp curriculum, cultivating partners to write a new proposal, or considering how to tie your ATE project or center goals more closely to your institution’s mission, it pays to think about how best to engage collaborators in your ATE related work. 

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ATE centers are required to have a National Visiting Committee (NVC) but any project or center can put together an advisory board or a working group. Even if informal, it's important to consider how you’ll establish and maintain these critical relationships with collaborators:

  • A National Visiting Committee (NVC) is a great way to bring together stakeholders – it provides wonderful opportunities for feedback and support as well as a group of people who will advocate for you and your work. An NVC will offer advice to center staff, assess plans and progress, and enhance the dissemination of the center's products. A great resource if you're new to ATE is the National Visiting Committee Handbook. This helpful resource will provide you with all kinds of useful information about forming and utilizing your NVC. You'll want to work closely with your program officer in setting up your NVC, so double check with them about this important center component.
     
  • Another option for getting external support and advice might be an advisory board. An advisory board allows projects and centers to receive expert opinions from those "in the know" about how to strengthen and develop their work. It may be that you are looking for very specific help — like increasing participation in faculty development activities — or it may be that you'd like general feedback on areas like outreach or sustainability planning. Either way, a well-picked advisory board might be exactly what you need. Make sure to consider issues related to the make-up of your group (people from your own institution vs. outside, diversity issues, student participation, etc.) and that the people you choose have skills or knowledge that can help you address your most critical issues. Also ,consider how often you’d like the group to meet and how you’ll stay in touch as a group between meetings. Some interesting information can be found at the Free Management Library or in this fact sheet from the Department of Education.
     
  • A working group might be just the ticket if you need advice or feedback on a very specific topic. For example you might pull together a working group to help you redesign your website or to help you examine issues of accessibility for people with disabilities. The nice thing about this approach is that you can have different working groups that focus on key issues and disband once that issue has been dealt with effectively.

Whether you chose a small working group for a specific issue or an advisory group that meets annually, imagine what new insights colleagues from outside of your area of expertise can bring to the table. Consider reaching out to a diverse array of industry representatives (include experts who aren't just in your primary area but in compatible areas as well). If appropriate, connect with K-12, as well as two- and four-year college educators along with students, staff, and administrators who may offer valuable viewpoints. Examine your project or center deliverables and goals with fresh eyes and consider the full range of stakeholders that might be able to help you as you work through project components.

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