Archive: sustainability

Blog: Becoming a Sustainability Sleuth: Leaving and Looking for Clues of Long-Term Impact

Posted on August 1, 2018 by  in Blog ()

Director, SageFox Consulting Group

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Hello! I’m Rebecca from SageFox Consulting Group, and I’d like to start a conversation about measuring sustainability. Many of us work on ambitious projects with long-term impacts that cannot be achieved within the grant period and require sustained grant activities. Projects are often tasked with providing evidence of sustainability but are not given the funding to assess sustainability and impact after grant funding. In five, 10, or 15 years, if someone were to pick up your final report, would they be able to use it to get a baseline understanding of what occurred during the grant, and would they know where to look for evidence of impact and sustainability? Below are some suggestions for documenting “clues” for sustainability:

Relationships are examples of how projects are sustained. You may want to consider documenting evidence of the depth of relationships: are they person-dependent, or has it become a true partnership between entities? Evidence of the depth of relationships is often revealed when a key supporter leaves their position, but the relationship continues. You might also try to distinguish a person from a role. For example, one project I worked on lost the support of a key contact (due to a reorganization) at a federal agency that hosted student interns during the summer. There was enough goodwill and experience, however, continued efforts from the project leadership resulted in more requests for interns than there were students available for.

Documenting how and why the innovation evolves can provide evidence of sustainability. Often the adopter, user, or customer finds their own value in relation to their unique context. Understanding how and why someone adapts the product or process gives great insight into what elements may go on and in what contexts. For example, you might ask users, “What modifications were needed for your context and why?”

In one of my projects, we began with a set of training modules for students, but we found that an online test preparation module for a certification was also valuable. Through a relationship with the testing agency, a revenue stream was developed that also allowed the project to continue classroom work with students.

Institutionalization (adoption of key products or processes by an institution)—often through a dedicated line item in a budget for a previously grant-funded student support position—reflects sustainability. For example, when a grant-funded program found a permanent home at the university by expanding its student-focused training in entrepreneurship to faculty members, it aligned itself with the mission of the department. Asking “What components of this program are critical for the host institution?” is one way to uncover institutionalization opportunities.

Revenue generation is another indicator of customer demand for the product or process. Many projects are reluctant to commercialize their innovations, but commercialization can be part of a sustainability plan. There are even National Science Foundation (NSF) programs to help plan for commercialization (e.g., NSF Innovation Corps), and seed money to get started is also available (e.g., NSF Small Business Innovation Research).

Looking for clues of sustainability often requires a qualitative approach to evaluation through capturing the story from the leadership team and participants. It also involves being on the lookout for unanticipated outcomes in addition to the deliberate avenues a project takes to ensure the longevity of the work.

Blog: Sustaining Career Pathways System Development Efforts

Posted on February 15, 2017 by , in Blog ()
Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Debbie Mills
Director
National Career Pathways Network
Steven Klein
Director
RTI International

Career pathways are complex systems that leverage education, workforce development, and social service supports to help people obtain the skills they need to find employment and advance in their careers. Coordinating people, services, and resources across multiple state agencies and training providers can be a complicated, confusing, and at times, frustrating process. Changes to longstanding organizational norms can feel threatening, which may lead some to question or actively resist proposed reforms.

To ensure lasting success, sustainability and evaluation efforts should be integrated into career pathways system development and implementation efforts at the outset to ensure new programmatic connections are robust and positioned for longevity.

To support states and local communities in evaluating and planning for sustainability, RTI International created A Tool for Sustaining Career Pathways Efforts.

This innovative paper draws upon change management theory and lessons learned from a multi-year, federally-funded initiative to support five states in integrating career and technical education into their career pathways. Hyperlinks embedded within the paper allow readers to access and download state resources developed to help evaluate and sustain career pathways efforts. A Career Pathways Sustainability Checklist, included at the end of the report, can be used to assess your state’s or local community’s progress toward building a foundation for the long-term success of its career pathways system development efforts.

This paper identified three factors that contribute to sustainability in career pathways systems.

1. Craft a Compelling Vision and Building Support for Change

Lasting system transformation begins with lowering organizational resistance to change. This requires that stakeholders build consensus around a common vision and set of goals for the change process, establish new management structures to facilitate cross-agency communications, obtain endorsements from high-level leaders willing to champion the initiative, and publicize project work through appropriate communication channels.

2. Engage Partners and Stakeholders in the Change Process

Relationships play a critical role in maintaining systems over time. Sustaining change requires actively engaging a broad range of partners in an ongoing dialogue to share information about project work, progress, and outcomes, making course corrections when needed. Employer involvement also is essential to ensure that education and training services are aligned with labor market demand.

3. Adopt New Behaviors, Practices, and Processes

Once initial objectives are achieved, system designers will want to lock down new processes and connections to prevent systems from reverting to their original form. This can be accomplished by formalizing new partner roles and expectations, creating an infrastructure for ensuring ongoing communication, formulating accountability systems to track systemic outcomes, and securing new long-term resources and making more effective use of existing funding.

For additional information contact the authors:

Steve Klein; sklein@rti.org
Debbie Mills; fdmills1@comcast.net

Blog: Creation, Dissemination, and Accessibility of ATE-Funded Resources

Posted on July 15, 2015 by , in Blog (, )
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Bouda
Kendra Bouda,
Metadata and Information Specialist – Internet Scout Research Group
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Bower
Rachael Bower,
Director/PI – Internet Scout Research Group
University of Wisconsin-Madison

As most ATE community members are aware, the National Science Foundation requires that all grant applicants provide a one- to two-page data management plan describing how the grantee’s proposal will meet NSF guidelines on the dissemination of grant-funded work. In 2014, NSF added a new requirement to the ATE solicitation mandating that newly funded grantees archive their deliverables with ATE Central.

We were curious to find out more about the materials created within the ATE community. So, when EvaluATE approached us about including questions related to data management planning and archiving in their annual survey of ATE grantees, we jumped at the chance. We had an interest in discovering not only what resources have been created, but also how those resources are disseminated to larger audiences. Additionally, we hoped to discover whether grantees are actively making their materials web accessible to users with disabilities—a practice that ensures access by the broadest possible audience.

The survey responses highlight that the most widely created materials include (not surprisingly) curriculum and professional development materials, with newsletters and journal articles taking up the rear. Other materials created by the ATE community include videos, white papers and reports, data sets, and webinars.

However, although grantees are creating a lot of valuable resources, they may not be sharing them widely and, in some cases, may be unsure of how best to make them available after funding ends. The graphs below illustrate the available of these materials, both currently and after grant funding ends.

Bouda Chart

Data from the annual survey shows that 65 percent of respondents are aware of accessibility standards—specifically Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act; however, 35 percent are not. Forty-eight percent of respondents indicated that some or most of their materials are accessible, while another 22 percent reported that all materials generated by their project or center adhere to accessibility standards. Happily, only 1 percent of respondents reported that their materials do not adhere to standards; however, 29 percent are unsure whether their materials adhere to those standards or not.

For more information about accessibility, visit the official Section 508 site, the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Accessibility section or the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 area of W3C.

Many of us struggle with issues related to sustaining our resources, which is part of the reason we are all asked by NSF to create a data management plan. To help PIs plan for long-term access, ATE Central offers an assortment of free services. Specifically, ATE Central supports data management planning efforts, provides sustainability training, and archives materials created by ATE projects and centers, ensuring access to these materials beyond the life of the project or center that created them.

For more about ATE Central, check out our suite of tools, services, and publications or visit our website. If you have questions or comments, contact us at info@atecentral.net.

Report: An Exploratory Test of a Model for Enhancing the Sustainability of NSF’s Advanced Technological Education (ATE) Program

Posted on February 25, 2015 by  in Resources ()

The purpose of this research is to examine the effectiveness of a model that purports to improve the sustainability of ATE projects and centers. According to Lawrenz, Keiser, & Lavoie (2003), several models for sustainability have been proposed in the organizational change literature. However, for the most part, the models are advocacy statements based on author experience rather than on empirical studies. These authors concluded there was little research directly related to sustainability.

File: Click Here
Type: Report
Category: ATE Research & Evaluation
Author(s): Wayne Welch

Newsletter: ATE Sustainability

Posted on October 1, 2013 by  in Newsletter - ()

Sustainability is about ensuring that at least some aspects of a project or center’s work—such as faculty positions, partnerships, or curricula—have “a life beyond ATE funding” (nsf.gov/ate). By definition, sustainability “happens” after NSF funding ends—and thus, after the project or center’s evaluation has concluded. So how can sustainability be addressed in an evaluation? There are three sources of information that can help with a prospective assessment of sustainability, whether for external evaluation purposes or to support project planning and implementation:

(1) Every ATE proposal is supposed to include a sustainability plan that describes what aspects of the grant will be sustained beyond the funding period and how. (2) Every proposal submitted in 2012 or later required a data management plan. This plan should have described how the project’s data and other products would be preserved and made available to others. Both the sustainability and data management plans should be reviewed to determine if the project will be able to deliver on what was promised. (3) Developed by Wayne Welch, the Checklist for Assessing the Sustainability of ATE Projects and Centers can be used to determine a project’s strengths and weaknesses in regard to sustainability. The checklist addresses diverse dimensions of sustainability related to program content and delivery, collaboration, materials, facilities, revenue, and other issues. See bit.ly/18l2Fcb.