SWOT Analysis and Follow-up
In February the University of Minnesota's Council on Public Engagement (COPE) met for a SWOT exercise to assess our internal Strengths and Weaknesses, and external Opportunities and Threats. The results of that exercise were supplemented by those from a similar workshop conducted by our Children, Youth, and Family and Consortium and the College of Education and Human Development. A small group of us met to shape the results into a more manageable ten in each category; see below. This afternoon COPE will have a follow-up exercise to propose three concrete, actionable ideas in each category. That will give us a dozen initiatives to work on in the next year.
Although this list is specific to the University of Minnesota, I suspect that a similar list could be compiled at almost any research university.
- Public engagement is being mentioned in revising the promotion and tenure standards.
- We have diverse outreach offices and a lot of U unofficial "deputies" to carry this message out into the community
- Broad-based expertise of university community
- The U’s reputation for quality
- The U's land-grant mission and our heritage in doing this kind of work
- The large amount of resources available
- The role models available
- New emphasis on interdisciplinary work
- Our ability to use our statewide network of coordinate campuses, Extension and Academic Health Center outreach.
- MN Campus Compact
- Uncertainty about how to define "public engagement" and "community"
- Disconnect between accomplishments and rewards in public engagement work, and difficulty in evaluating it
- Inadequate infrastructure (staff support, direct and ICR funding) and fragmentation of those resources that are available
- Difficulties in applying for grants (Which are the best bets? Who gets to apply? Unusual costs in community-based research? Inadequate ICR from local funders)
- Lack of understanding of time needed to develop partnerships and accomplish work, on both U and community sides
- Competition between interdisciplinary and departmental priorities (e.g., TA-ships, NRC disciplinary rankings)
- Inadequate valuing of public engagement work by professional societies
- Sometime lack of quality control and protection of communities in public engagement work
- Difficulties in faculty appointments, promotion, and duties, esp. for junior faculty
- Complexities in getting public engagement messages out to the public
- Growing opportunities for collaboration with specific cultural groups, international NGO’s and other organization
- New opportunities presented by the growing diverse population in MN
- The U's ability to be perceived as a convener and a place for learning where everyone is a teacher and everyone is a learner
- Long--term public engagement models such as the Jane Addams School and the Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships.
- Potential of Imagining Minnesota to provide external connections and additional resources for engaged arts, humanities, and design work
- Potential for national leadership in addressing achievement gap in K-12 education
- Potential of issue-driven initiatives such as the Institute on the Environment
- Geographic location in a large urban area where economic, cultural, educational, and political power is concentrated
- The University’s participation and leadership in national higher education networks
- Opportunities for dialog and personal engagement suggested by the Front Porch movement of SCOPE, the Student Council on Public Engagement
- Little or no ICR recovery from foundation and state grants
- The University is viewed as monolithic, inaccessible, difficult to navigate, and overwhelming
- Inadequate state money and changes in the legislative attitude towards higher education
- Change from a culture of cooperation to an individualistic culture (shift from We to Me) means faculty work too much in isolation
- Unrealistic public expectations of the U by the public
- Cultural shift from a relationship model to an expert model
- External benchmarks, such as higher education ranking systems, that may not value public engagement