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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

New book highlights portal project's University engagement

Historically, implementing new products at the University has been a challenge. Students, staff, and faculty worry their needs won’t be met by the new product. To address this concern early in the process, staff on ESUP’s portal project looked to innovative participatory methods highlighted in a new eBook, Cultivating Change in the Academy: Practicing the Art of Hosting Conversations that Matter within the University of Minnesota.

According to their website, Art of Hosting Conversations that Matter (AoH) is “An approach to leadership that scales up from the personal to the systemic using personal practice, dialogue, facilitation and the co-creation of innovation to address complex challenges.” This means ensuring that when groups of people get together they have meaningful and productive conversations.

From the beginning, staff incorporated many AoH techniques as they engaged stakeholders and started their work developing the new Portal. Getting everyone together to discuss a future project using AoH helped “provide a vehicle to move from idea to action,” wrote Susan Geller, portal project director. These techniques, including World Café, guided Geller and the Portal Leadership Team from the initial steps in the process through the first phase of the project.

Landscape agenda for portal kick-off event

World Café, smaller circle discussions around a specific topic where people move around to different circles to hear others’ opinions, helped participants share ideas about success, challenges, assumptions, and identify themes used in the Portal’s project charter. At the kick-off event, over 430 people simultaneously participated from all five system campuses and it was well received. According to surveys completed after the event, 75 percent of respondents said ‘Yes’ when asked “Did you feel a part of the conversation about portal and that your input was valuable?”

Feedback harvested from the AoH activities has had a direct impact on the “Rough Draft” version of the Portal currently available through the project’s website. Join the conversation by looking at the “Rough Draft”, telling us what you think, and reading the new ebook. “If we all create the Portal together, we’ll have a better chance of meeting all of our needs,” said Geller.

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