One way of making progress faster is through replicating measures that have been shown to work, that is, adopting or implementing at a larger scale inclusion initiatives that have been developed in a particular higher education institutions or country and shown to work through evaluative activities. This means time and resources do not need to be used to invent and experiment with new ways of improving access but can be used to implement measures that can be assumed to make a difference fast.
However, successfully adopting someone else’s innovation is not necessarily straightforward. Indeed, the literature on innovation spread12 shows that this depends on a range of interlocking factors / variables, most notably:
- An intervention that is: easy to understand; has shown to work; is based on a clear model and is nevertheless adaptable to local circumstances and is compatible with existing practices and values in the higher education institute, its past experiences and the needs of potential beneficiaries. This is important and helpful to foster the process of translating and implementing proven practices to a new context.
- An organization that: is supportive of the innovation, engages staff early and has a culture that values (or at least not punishes) risk taking, uses staff with the right skills to implement the innovation. This is important because innovation is a process of intentional action and investigation with the aim to improve and transform. Having a focus on change is important.
- A local context that: is compatible with the innovative idea and where relationships with key stakeholders (gatekeepers, deliverers, stakeholders, potential partners) already exist or are created in the process of intervention design / adoption. This is important because higher education institutions are part of a broader local infrastructure with more stakeholders to take into account. Also knowing the context of locally defined minorities is important to prioritize.
- A supportive national and European policy context, evidenced by policies and strategies that tie in with the widening participation intervention. This is important because improving structural and sustainable change and success is only possible with sufficient resources, infrastructure and collaboration on different levels within institutions and with different stakeholders outside the institution. Having national and European policy support the targeted change and hold countries accountable are equally important.