Innovate UNCG Launches Impact through Innovation Community of Practice

Posted on January 17, 2024

A student uses a computer in the esports arena.

On January 12, Innovate UNCG invited esports participants into its new Impact Through Innovation (ITI) Community of Practice Platform – a virtual space designed to connect students and faculty with one another, promote social learning, curate knowledge, manage events, and provide training opportunities.

These participants could sign up to receive badges for their past participation in esports events, engage with one by creating or responding to a discussion in the platform, and hone their entrepreneurial skills through a variety of activities, including enrolling in an Introduction to Human-Centered Design Course.

Dr. David Wyrick, director of Innovate UNCG, has previously created multiple communities of practices within UNCG’s Center for Athlete Well-being. He says the recent launch of the ITI Community of Practice, which they are licensing through Participate, is intended to build momentum and engage students and faculty in the same place.

The long-term goals of the platform are to spark cross-disciplinary collaboration and catalyze the translation of research and scholarship into productive change in the community, known as social innovation.

“Social innovation is being intentional about creative solutions to society’s problems,” Wyrick says.

While a faculty member may intend to bring their expertise into the community, Wyrick says they often encounter inevitable challenges as they navigate the unfamiliar territory of moving their work from research to social innovation.

That’s where ITI Community of Practice Platform comes in.

The virtual platform provides faculty members with training and resources to help them overcome barriers they may encounter as they translate their work. For example, faculty can engage in an interactive version of the UNCG Inventor’s Handbook, participate in an asynchronous Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant writing workshop, and earn badges as they complete modules.

A browser on a computer screen with a blue banner and the text that reads UNCG esports.
The ITI Community of Practice Platform is licensed through Participate and is designed to engage students and faculty in innovative trainings, events, and collaborations.

“It’s taking this static hard copy inventor’s guide and SBIR grant writing tips and bringing them to life,” says Abby Bass, who is the lead community facilitator for the ITI community. “It’s not just a resource on the page, but it’s now a place where people can interact.”

Another example: both faculty and students hoping to hone their entrepreneurial mindset can participate in the Ice House Training – a curriculum based upon the text, “Who Owns the Ice House? Eight Life Lessons from an Unlikely Entrepreneur,” written by Clifton Taulbert.

In addition to trainings, faculty can connect with one another and find overlapping areas of interest. For example, Dr. Jeff Milroy, associate professor in the Department of Public Health Education and the faculty fellow for the ITI Hub within the School of Human Health & Human Sciences, says he plans to funnel faculty into the platform to sign up for events and connect with like-minded scholars. 

“Cross-pollination is a fun way to think about the platform. There may be some faculty or students doing innovative and impactful things in human development that lends itself to the work being done in Public Health Education,” Milroy says. “Facilitating those connections is so important, and that’s one of the things the platform will do.”

All these cross-pollinating activities – including discussion threads, event participation, and badges – are stored on the platform. Dr. Scott Young, a professor in the Counseling and Educational Development Department and the Dean’s Fellow for Innovation within the School of Education, says the platform’s living history can accelerate learning.

“Three years from now when somebody comes onto the platform, they don’t have to start from scratch,” Young says. “You can see what everyone has been doing along the way and learn from other people’s learning. Learning is captured.”

Wyrick, who has been a faculty member at UNCG for 18 years, says that while the platform has only recently been launched, he’s energized about the potential for it to serve as a centralized hub and idea incubator for faculty, students, and community members.

“I’m excited to build upon the strengths of our university in social innovation and help faculty and students be more innovative and entrepreneurial,” Wyrick says.

Story by Rachel Damiani
Photography by Sean Norona, University Communications

A student uses a computer in the esports arena.

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