In higher education we use the committee model to get most things done. If you are planning a conference the first thing you do is get a committee or two together. If you are creating new policy, strategic direction, or just about anything else that requires a decision we assemble a group of people and ask them to build the recommendations. Committees are typically a good way to come to consensus around very complex issues. With that said, I feel like I have arrived at a new place with my thinking around planning — it may be time to take the next step and ask the community to be the committee.
I have been thinking about this quite a bit lately and I am having trouble figuring out why we wouldn’t want to ask the community to really interact with us as we make plans for new projects, initiatives, or approaches. I’m not coming up with anything that is an insurmountable negative and I am certainly not going to align myself with the attitude that talking openly about some of our direction is a bad thing. I know some people will get nervous about the idea of asking anyone in the PSU community to contribute ideas for what we are working on, but at the end of the day as long as we all recognize we can’t implement all the ideas we’ll be fine. So there in lies my first two questions … what are the real downsides to this approach and can it work to create stronger outcomes?
To this end, the one thing we’ve done recently is to start placing more of our planning documents in a quasi-open wiki. Quasi-open because it is limited to those who are part of the PSU community — both people with full access and to those with the Friends of Penn State account. We’ve started a wiki article on the Blogs at Penn State and will be asking the community to come in and help us think big about what we can and should do with it on our campus. Will people show up? Only time will tell … how will we manage the page editing if they do show up? Only time will tell. But if we are to address the needs of over 100,000 potential users it may be time to ask some of them what they think. So, consider yourself invited to be a part of the committee.