Developed by: The University of Texas at Arlington & University at Buffalo, State University of New York


Our networked improvement community (NIC) model was a dynamic organization where members developed campus partnerships and supportive relationships with others at different universities working on the same challenges. The goal of the NIC was to create a more inclusive environment for graduate students and postdocs in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

The NIC helped each of us build local capacity and accelerate change. The personal relationships developed along the way allowed us to more easily pivot through disruptions for continuity of the project. We learned from each other how to develop organizational structures or adapt interventions to implement on our own campus. In this module, we illustrate the process of building local capacity with cases from two universities, recommendations and insights, and self-guided instructions to guide you in developing your own network/relationship map. This module provides important insights to individuals and teams considering the use of a NIC organization model to accelerate complex change at the local institution level.

The information in this module is applicable at any point in the life of a sustained change initiative, even for those that are not organized using a NIC model. It is particularly advantageous as part of a fundamental self-study performed at a local university level before engaging in multi-year, multi-institution diversity, equity, and inclusion organizational change initiatives.

Goals & Objectives

After completing this module participants will be able to:

  1. Create a holistic relationship map of existing institutional partners and identify new partnerships to be developed (at all levels) for project success; highlighting where energy in relationship building should be invested.
  2. Discuss the degree to which your institution is ready to engage in a long term, multi-institution change project.
  3. Summarize key points necessary for sustained engagement in a multi-year, multi-institutional change project.

Preparation Activities

Recommended activities to complete this module:

  1. Study Recommendations and Insights: Considerations from the local institution perspective on various topics throughout the project lifecycle, including suggestions for heightening local community engagement in your efforts and gaining knowledge and support from a cross institutional team.
  2. Watch case study videos: Video excerpts from the Summer 2021 National AGEP Conference, providing case studies of network/relationship mapping at the institutional level. (Full-length video also available.)
  3. Complete the institutional network mapping exercise: Self-guided instructions for individuals or teams to develop a network map of institutional partners. This activity can also be expanded to the multi-institutional level
  4. Study related articles: These articles put into broader perspective the CIRTL AGEP project and the value of building and sustaining relationships across partners to further the impact of the work.

Associated Costs

The cost to engage in network mapping and relationship and capacity building will vary widely by institutional context. As with any collaboration, individuals need to be provided adequate time resources to engage with and complete these activities. We recommend that this module be completed prior to project engagement and “budget” time to revisit it periodically throughout the life of the project, especially when onboarding new project members.

Assessment Options

Continuous and dynamic reflection, assessment and improvement is a necessary part of this module. Institutional relationship and capacity building is a dynamic process based on lessons learned and local context, which must be considered in order to meet project objectives. Individuals and teams must be willing and ready to change course and be adaptive and flexible to the wide and ever changing range of institutional context presented throughout the life of the project.

Attribution Statement

For those that might adapt and adopt this program model, please provide attribution to The University of Texas at Arlington and University at Buffalo, State University of New York Network Mapping work established in part with support from the National Science Foundation funded CIRTL AGEP Project.

Contact for More Information (as of 9/30/2022)

Monica Carter (formerly of University at Buffalo, State University of New York)
Luis A. Colón (University at Buffalo, State University of New York)
Panos S. Shiakolas (The University of Texas at Arlington)