|Stakeholder Engagement at CPUT|
|Wednesday, 15 June 2016 09:57|
At the recent Benchmarking Conference Prof Shaun Pather presented a paper on Stakeholder Engagement, providing both the context for stakeholder engagement at CPUT, as well as good practices in Stakeholder Engagement to facilitate Research Uptake.
A stakeholder is defined as “a person or organisation who has something to gain or lose as a result of the outcomes of a project, programme or process”. Flowing from this, it was noted that stakeholder engagement is critical in a quadruple-helix context where the Higher Education system has been criticised for its “poor knowledge production that often does not translate into innovation” (National Development Plan 2011 p271)
Stakeholder Engagement is essential for Research Strategy
Effective stakeholder management is seen as critical for the effective implementation of the CPUT 10 Year Research and Technology-Innovation (RTI) StrategyBlue Print which places CPUT on a firm development trajectory. A key action in advancing this strategic pillar an institutional stakeholder mapping exercise commenced in 2015.
CPUT key stakeholders comprise a quadruple helix, viz. the academic, industry, government and civil society sectors. The university’s stakeholder engagement orientation straddles across the academic spheres of teaching, research and community engagement. The placement of students in industry is a formal requirement of most under-graduate programmes and research is generally applied oriented. This augers for a richer environment to advance technology-innovation. CPUT’s policies and internal processes is constantly cognisant that successful innovation cannot occur without focussed engagement with key stakeholders.
Cycle of engagement
Another strategic pillar of the long-term RTI plan relates to Research Uptake (RU). The underpinning value proposition of CPUT’s Research Uptake strategy is to shift attitudes beyond current incentives prevalent in the Higher Education system, which generally focus on article outputs. CPUT’s strategy promotes an enabling environment such that Research Uptake practice increase the visibility of research outcomes, which leads to an improved citation rate, enhances the university’s image and brand, and eventually supports the attraction of more funding.
Stakeholder engagement is one of three key elements in the RU strategy (the other two being full cycle research project planning and Science Communication) and a critical element in many of the RU mechanisms that have been put in place. The university takes a “whole cycle” approach when it comes to RU, meaning that the university needs to engage more deliberately in research partnerships with stakeholders and conduct research which is either initiated by or is required by stakeholders.Thus stakeholders are involved in the design of the research questions and communication about the research results are tailored to the needs of different stakeholders.
Because Stakeholder Engagement is critical for successful Research Uptake, the university has to date held two workshops to develop the skills of researchers in this regard.
Talking the talk
There are a number of examples of stakeholder engagement that the university has been involved in. For example, in relation to government, the university is part of the Cape Higher Education Consortium (CHEC) which comprises the four Western Cape universities and provides a platform for the provincial government and the City of Cape Town to engage with the regional higher education sector. Active collaborative engagement includes thematic areas for research collaboration as well as open calls for projects that require a government partner. The university’s participation in the CHEC is just one example of engaging with stakeholders throughout the research cycle. CPUT also hosted its first innovation showcase with the aim of attracting potential partners and venture capitalists to participate in advancing innovative research to commercial outputs.
Tracking stakeholder engagement
Identifying and making contact with stakeholders is an important part of stakeholder engagement but there is more to it. One of the challenges for CPUT in relation to stakeholder management is the management of information related to partnerships across the entire institution. This presents a risk as there is the possibility that the lack of internally-produced synergies between different units or departments can result in inability to take effective strategic decisions regarding partnerships. To this end the university is developing a stakeholder management system which will provide for the recording of all types of partnerships and thereby improve the reporting thereof. In this way the University will be able to continuously monitor and track partnerships, which will feed into on-going, planning, management and support of stakeholder engagement.
Stakeholder Good Practice
Prof Pather ended his presentation by suggesting a Good Practice Statement which reflects the need for both an institutional infrastructure to facilitate stakeholder engagement as well as the management of stakeholder intelligence:
“A university wide stakeholder map, partnership strategy, and information management system is a necessary foundation to ensure successful research uptake outcomes. This map and strategy must be articulated at all levels including at the academic departmental level”
Professor Shaun Pather is Director of Research and Technology Innovation Strategic Initiatives & Partnerships at CPUT and the University’s designated DRUSSA Champion.