In addition to the design team, states and colleges must engage a wide variety of stakeholders (e.g., faculty, staff, the governor’s office) to ensure their support throughout the design phase and to prepare them for their roles during the implementation phase. Stakeholder engagement/advocacy takes place throughout the design phase, but once you have a strategy developed you can start building broad support. We highly recommend focusing time and energy on developing a comprehensive communications and advocacy plan early on in the design phase. For more guidance on effective messaging, consult the Accelerating Opportunity Communications Toolkit.
Engaging a Broad Stakeholder Base
Tapping into the expertise of a broad stakeholder base ensures shared ownership and can create momentum for change. For example:
- At the college level: faculty, support services, and other offices (e.g., financial aid, institutional research, admissions), external stakeholders (such as community-based organizations and employers)
- At the state level: state agencies (such as the community college system office, state ABE office, and the workforce agency), legislators, and industry associations, community college trustees.
For a partnership to be effective, all parties need to see a benefit. We recommend mapping out the different types of initiatives or project that each stakeholder is involved in and its associated goals, target population, and outcome targets. This will reveal areas where working together will help both parties meet their strategic goals.
Strategic Communications Planning
Communications play a major role in the success of an initiative. A communications plan will help you promote the redesign initiative to a broad audience and gain support for proposed changes. When developing your communications plan, it's important to:
- Have a consistent message that can be used by everyone involved, whether they are policymakers or college staff. This helps build a broader understanding of what you are trying to accomplish.
- Make sure there is deep understanding of what you are trying to do and why at all levels—staff, faculty, administrators, state leaders, etc. Keep these people informed throughout the process. Engage stakeholders early and keep them engaged.
In addition, a robust communications plan should address:
- Why the initiative is needed;
- How and when professional development will be delivered across the state;
- How the initiative will engage employers and the business community, especially around policy and systems change;
- Student recruitment strategies, including ways to reach candidates not typically identified; and
- Sharing data about current conditions to build support for adopting new delivery models.