“Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
– Rick Blaine, Casablanca
Photo: Louis Maniquet, Unsplash
So you’ve just completed the series of blogs on how universities need to and can deliver great socio-economic benefits for our world. You may even have referred to my book The University Imperative – Delivering Socio-economic Benefits for our World. Hopefully most of you have had a ‘eureka’ moment.
Even better, many of you are now thinking about how you put the framework into practice. At the very least the framework is facilitating meaningful discussion across your leadership groups, and you are starting to think about how you permeate it through your organisations.
You know that your university needs to focus on the nature of significant societal needs within its fields of real influence. Only then can resources be best directed toward developing solutions that address those societal needs. But, most critically, you know that universities must include in their solutions, those partners required to reach the most people in need. This is how universities remain vital to society. This is how they garner support from society. They must deliver together with their partners great socio-economic benefits for our world. It is their reason to be.
The next stage of the journey is all about moving beyond ‘knowing’ the framework, to actually ‘integrating’ it into your university (or organisation). Because, at the end of the day, that’s what really matters.
This next stage is at the heart of my forthcoming book, The University Imperative – Partnering for Success. The book demystifies the ways universities can go about establishing the meaningful partnerships required to deliver socio-economic benefits. In a similar vein to the first book, there are fundamental matters that require universal attention, irrespective of the complicated, complex and at times chaotic environments within which universities operate.
Here is a sample of what I will be sharing.
The Nature of Exchange
For any university, there are a plethora of partnership models in play. Most are valid and important – from transaction-oriented through to relationship-oriented.
Regardless of the particular partnership model, fundamental to successfully engaging with each is an understanding of the nature of exchange. And, central to this is the interplay of three value propositions all of which are imperative: customer, partnership and organisational value propositions.
A customer value proposition to be offered by a university is based on the premise that their students or partners ('customers') seek benefits, and the benefits provided must motivate them to acquire or buy them. In all instances the benefits derived by a customer must exceed what they pay to acquire them ('price'); if not an exchange is unlikely. As universities operate in a competitive environment (facing both market and industry forces) and there always are alternatives available to customers, universities must seek to differentiate offerings; for example, by offering more benefits for the same price, or the same benefits for a lower price.
In the case of a partnership value proposition, if the revenue (or funds) to be recouped from the customer does not exceed the costs of providing the benefits, no exchange should take place. Any organisation is not sustainable unless the funds they recieve from providing benefits to customers exceed the related costs to provide those benefits. The price a university charges is directly related to the revenues it receives. The benefits a university provides a customer correlates to the costs of providing the benefits (i.e. more benefits to be provided typically means more costs). The customer value proposition and partnership value proposition are therefore inextricably linked. Consequently, market and industry forces impact not only a customer value proposition, but also a partnership value proposition.
In the case of the third value proposition – organisational – the risk to a university of the exchange itself, and also more broadly to its organisation, is considered. Unless the return on investment is greater than the risk to the organisation, no exchange should take place. A partnership value proposition, linked to a customer value proposition, provides a return on investment. Further, the nature of a customer value proposition and a partnership value proposition impacts risks. The risks can be financial (direct, indirect or consequential) or reputational (which can also heighten financial risks associated with other aspects of a university's offerings). The risks not only manifest at the entering of an exchange, but continue until the promised benefits are delivered by a university, and the agreed price recieved from a customer. An organisational value proposition must therefore not only be concerned with competitively positioning offerings and entering mutually beneficial partnerships, but also with the successful delivery of desired outcomes by the university and its partners.
Given all three value propositions are linked, market and industry forces impact all three. Given the need for all three value propositions, the importance of the requisite resources and capabilities to deliver outcomes is also highlighted.
A university must be concerned with each value proposition as it competitively positions its offerings ('curates'), establishes mutually beneficial partnerships ('shapes') and provides its offerings ('delivers').
The framework sheds light on the critical matters that universities must get right to build enduring partnerships capable of delivering great socio-economic benefits.
The Partnering Process
In The University Imperative – Delivering Socio-economic Benefits for our World, an explanation of why three critical proficiencies – ‘curate’, ‘shape’ and ‘deliver’ – are at the heart of everything a university must do to deliver great socio-economic impact.
The forthcoming book, The University Imperative – Partnering for Success expands on these proficiencies, taking readers through the associated partnering process, from curation to delivery, and from both sides of the transactions. This gives readers a real sense of what is required and why.
Heaps of Examples
The third part of the book will examine the range of partnership models, from the most rudimentary provision of a service to an external partner, to more sophisticated partnerships where universities engage with high-end public-private models, benefit sharing arrangements and social impact bonds and financial instruments. All aimed at delivering great societal benefits.
The University Imperative – Partnering for Success will give leadership and management teams of universities a sense of power and agency to reimagine and reinvent what they are doing, so they work with the best partners in the best ways to improve the world in which we live.
So if you would like to know much more about how, in a practical sense, your university can establish winning partnerships, keep an eye out for my next book.
It will also help you. A lot!
The more of us that go beyond talking and knowing, and start doing, the better our world will be.
I look forward to our continued journey.
Nick & The University Imperative team.