Why we must collaborate, inside and out

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If it seems like I’m a little obsessed with the buzzword “collaboration,” it’s because a bunch of grant funders are, too.

Let me give you two recent examples:

1. GO Virginia

You may have heard about the GO Virginia program, which has funded some economic development projects in the Roanoke region, including the RAMP business accelerator where Virginia Western offers entrepreneurial programming.  

I attended a “how-to-apply” GO Virginia workshop in Richmond earlier this month, and my biggest takeaway was that the program is designed to encourage collaboration — “incentivized collaboration” is the term used in its mission statement. The state is carved into 9 regions (pictured above), and each region has produced its own Growth and Development Plan, which identifies specific industry clusters. We are in Region 2, which includes the New River Valley and Lynchburg. Priority clusters for Region 2 are (1) manufacturing, (2) life sciences & healthcare, (3) food & beverage processing, and (4) emerging technologies & IT. Not only are proposals for funding expected to be collaborative within our region (working with at least two localities, or another community college, for example), but GO Virginia is now promoting a separate “competitive” grant program that requires collaboration between regions. My personal take is that the VCCS could be in a strong position to convene stakeholders across two or more regions. If you’re curious what that could like like, I encourage you to read my workshop summary report ( GO Virginia Workshop Summary ), which includes a list of previously funded workforce-related projects across the state, along with a matrix of overlapping target industry clusters across the 9 statewide regions.

2. FastForward

On the horizon are a couple of grant opportunities that help fund the state’s FastForward initiative. FastForward, formerly known as the Workforce Credential Grant (WCG) program, helps pay tuition for students who enroll in our non-credit Workforce training programs, including Industrial Maintenance Technician, Machining, Welding, and a new Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) program. The purpose is to get students — especially working adults — an industry-recognized credential that will lead to better employment and higher wages. One of the capacity-building grants for FastForward has been the annual Institutes of Excellence grant program, which funded the start-up costs for Virginia Western’s CCMA program. But the IE grant has changed significant this year. Individual awards will be bigger than than years’ past; however, the VCCS only expects to fund four projects across the state in 2018-19. The expectation is that these projects will be highly collaborative — with business and industry, and with other colleges and community groups – and they must be sustainable and able to scale statewide. These proposals are due July 16.

A spirit-boosting TED video

I know collaboration is messy … it can take time, and sometimes it’s just plain hard. It requires those soft skills that even we struggle to emulate for our students. But the collaborative process is also where some of our best ideas come from. I was delighted to watch this TEDx video from the Netherlands, “Speed Up Innovation with Design Thinking.” It’s only 12 minutes long, but researcher Guido Stompff reminded me of the magic of interaction and learning by creating. As he says: “Ideas fundamentally arise in between us.” Watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZBxZC9I6xyk

(With a big thanks to Sam Steidle, who told me about the video last week.)

In the coming weeks, I plan to spotlight some of Virginia Western’s collaborative success stories, to celebrate our innovators and to help spark even more ideas. And don’t hold back … tell me about some projects that should get the attention of the entire college. Or ideas you might have for those grant opportunities I described above. 

Email sseagle@virginiawestern.edu.

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About Stephanie

Stephanie SeagleStephanie Ogilvie Seagle has served as Grant Specialist at Virginia Western since 2016, but she prefers her honorary title: “Chief Joy Officer.” Stephanie spent most of her career at The Roanoke Times, a daily newspaper, where she served in various news and features roles including “Shoptimist” shopping columnist. She earned a bachelor’s degree in integrative studies at George Mason University and a master’s of arts in liberal studies at Hollins University. Stephanie is a mom to one human daughter and multiple chihuahuas … and is obsessed with reading nonfiction, Halloween, and crafting glow necklaces inspired by the Mill Mountain Star. Glow Roanoke!