Communicating for Change in Undergraduate Programs

Change leaders and teams can inspire, energize, and generate support for broadening participation in computing by designing and using intentional, persuasive messages for departmental and institutional colleagues throughout the organizational change process. 

As outlined in NCWIT’s Gearing Up for Change resource, change models often follow an iterative process where change leaders and teams assess what’s currently happening in their department, build momentum for change, lay the foundation for change, introduce and support the change/s, and ultimately institutionalize and stabilize the changes. When additional organizational change is needed, the cycle restarts and the change process begins anew. 

Underlying this process of change is the NCWIT Undergraduate System Model, which includes six interconnected components of Program Entry, Classroom Experience, Community and Belonging, Program Curriculum and Supports, Data and Evaluation, and Institutionalization. In order to lead successful organizational change across these system components, change leaders and teams need to think through how they will communicate with colleagues and stakeholders to collaboratively develop a strategic plan and gain buy-in for enacting interventions. 

Effective communication is a long-term process that involves the following distinct and necessary communication steps: 

Consider what matters to your colleagues and identify how the change you propose will provide tangible benefits to them and specific reasons to engage with the organizational changes. 

Identify and approach colleagues (e.g. faculty, staff, chairs, deans) and students who are ready-made allies to help with the work. Harnessing support early on in the change process can distribute the workload and add capacity, generate more and better ideas and messages that appeal to a wider range of audiences and people, and establish that systemic change has value and generates interest for more people than just the initial change leader.

Utilize and provide research-based resources with your colleagues on existing best practices to effectively broaden participation in computing. NCWIT TIJ-UP and the associated NCWIT Resource Pages point to evidence-based resources for implementable, inclusive practices that broaden participation across the six NCWIT Undergraduate System model components.

Point to free support for organizational change efforts, such as NCWIT’s Gearing Up for Change resource which talks through the change process and the ways in which departmental change leaders and teams assess and address readiness for change.

Utilize the NCWIT Tech Inclusion Journey® for Undergraduate Programs (TIJ-UP), an online decision-support tool that enables a local team to assess the practices and conditions in their computing program, connects the team to relevant resources and information, and provides the basis for strategic planning. 

Use multiple sources of data and illustrative examples, stories, analogies, and metaphors. Share compelling evidence in multiple formats, so that the data will speak to different stakeholders and their interests. For example, quantitative data and tables will engage some audiences, whereas qualitative data and quotes will resonate with other audiences.

Consider both internal and external sources of information, and various data points such as:

For more information and ideas, check out the Data & Evaluation Resource Page

Change leaders and teams should not only think about the communication process outlined above, but also the various audiences and stakeholders impacted by the organizational changes. For example, communication strategies for promoting the adoption and sustained use of inclusive pedagogical and curricular innovations in a computer science department might differ across audiences. 

When talking with different stakeholders about the use of inclusive pedagogical and curricular innovations..

For additional guidance, Julia Williams provides a helpful template for change teams to think through this process with her Lightning Talk Template (posted with author’s permission). 

Ella Ingram recommends in her blog post, that change teams should consider using Jon Wergin’s ACRE motivation model (2001) to help craft statements that will engage people in change processes by tapping into their different motivations. 

Similarly to how departmental change leaders and teams need to think about the various audiences and stakeholders impacted by the changes, they also need to tailor their communication strategies as they move through the different organizational change stages

In NCWIT’s Gearing Up for Change resource, we note that change models often follow an iterative process where leaders and teams assess what’s currently happening in their department, build momentum for change, lay the foundation for change, introduce and support the change/s, and ultimately institutionalize and stabilize the changes. 

The departmental change leaders and team may find that the messaging at the beginning of the change process when the team is building momentum might look different than the communication strategies and stories shared during institutionalization. For example, in the initial stages of the process, the communication focus might be on conveying the vision for the department’s strategic planning. When institutionalizing the changes, the team may shift the communication to center on impact stories. 

Additional Resources

Learn more about communicating for change:

Notes

Published on April 17, 2024. The information in this document has been modified and updated by S. Kiersten Ferguson using an original document developed by J. McGrath Cohoon and Lecia Barker, who referenced:
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