Published on 2012/07/05

When They Partner, Can It Work? Higher Education and Corporate Partnerships

Globalization and the changes it has impacted on local and national economies has necessitated greater relationships between corporations and higher learning institutions. Photo by the Canadian Library Archives.

In some circles partnership is considered “a leaky ship” because, more often than not, things always seem to go awry in them. But when I think of a partnership, I think of a marriage, a merger, a business arrangement, joint venture, nations coming together, consortiums and many other kinds of unions that are formed for a common purpose and even for a season. Many of these partnerships have seen successes in their engagement strategies, their people, processes, practices, plant alignment, innovative practices and future existences. These entities bring their uniqueness and share common concerns and want to use their common knowledge to enrich each other’s view of the problems they face and in so doing they are able to conceive novel ways of looking at the presenting concerns and deriving innovative resolutions.

Andrew Van de Ven, a management professor at the University of Minnesota, wrote a book called “Engaged Scholarship.” In this book, the author argues that each of us have our own unique way of sense-making based on our many socialization experiences and overall life content, but if we rely only on those experiences, the solutions derived will be less than adequate and may even take entities in reverse or keep them at a standstill. Van de Ven takes the position that through engagement, one’s view of the world can be refined, thus leading to superior solutions and innovation.

Therefore, in these uneven times of globalization and change higher education and corporation need to explore more transdisciplinarity approaches to creating learning solutions that will ground organizations, equip individuals, transform nations and grow a suitable pool of workers with innovative mindsets and with futurist thinking postures.

Globalization makes the best and the brightest among us feel very inadequate because they can’t seem to derive solutions to very simple problems, not because entities are not trying or they are not intelligent enough, but the issues are more complex, fragmented and have enormous global implications. Answers are no longer housed in one book, one lab, one academic discipline, one nation, one hospital, one university, one business, one government, or with one person. Solutions will have to be sought in many books, many labs, many academic disciplines, many nations, many hospitals, many universities, many businesses, many governments and many persons because of the involvedness of the issues and to drive innovation and create a sustainable future for persons, families, communities, organizations and nations.

This kind of collaborative engagement suggests that the days when one could have developed solutions in isolation of other issues, other nations, other organizations or persons are a thing of the past. Globalization suggests a greater need for more collaborative problem-solving, engaged scholarship and more stable unions to chart a course for a new future and suitable positioning in a global economic environment where uncertainty is the new reality. Forging partnerships seems to be a suitable antidote to combat some of the challenges posed by globalization but these relationships will have to be across-the-board and will have to be properly managed in order for them to be meaningful in softening the uncertainty posed by globalization and today’s demanding economy.

To forge further into this subject, we must determine whether “one-size-fits-all” programming is meeting the needs of today’s businesses. We must also understand how to measure our success once entered into these partnerships and, finally, higher education institutions must gain a better sense of how to go about attracting partnerships. These will make up the themes of my next three articles.

Please come back next week where I tackle the first element; the future of mass-tailoring corporate training programs.

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