Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Why Innovation Matters in International Education

Following is a guest post by Team GoAbroad:

Innovation communicates positive change — a nod towards a promising future that strives for success and growth. Innovation does not stop after fixing surface organizational problems, but digs deeper to overhaul existing procedures and strategies in order to yield a more efficient, more effective tomorrow. It reinvents the wheel, rather than just patching up the same design. The concept now thrives in every imaginable industry, from self-service kiosks in fast food chains to the development of self-driving commercial trucks, where start-ups and multinational corporate giants alike fight over the most out-of-the-box ideas.

Why Innovate?
In a globally competitive marketplace, even the most successful business models cannot hold up against the inescapable forces of change. A constant fight for relevancy, market share and consumers’ loyalty, in other words, a company’s fate, results in a scramble to stand out from the crowd and produce a better product for the consumer. Although taking a more collaborative approach, it is innovation in international education that has been challenging existing barriers and continuously propelling the field forward.

International education is a dynamic organism with change pulsing through all sectors — education, business, government and nonprofit — that work together for the overall betterment of the field. The unique interdependence of all involved parties means that innovation in international education relies on close collaboration and communicating of ideas. When innovation is implemented in one sector, the change trickles through the rest of the field.

Innovation in International Education
The Institute of International Education’s initiative, Generation Study Abroad, is one such program spurring a series of innovative practices within its partner organizations, associations, and universities. Working towards the goal to double the number of U.S. students participating in study abroad programs by the end of the decade, partners are rethinking ways to tap into underrepresented groups of students, expand funding possibilities to decrease financial barriers, and make global experiences more accessible to all. With a clear goal in mind, innovation can organically take shape where there is room for improvement, such as creating new funding options or marketing to a specific student profile.

Closely following trends in technology and social media has allowed international education administrators to adapt marketing strategies and campaigns to the modern realities in which young people and students live. Alumni engagement has also become an advantageous tool of the trade to directly appeal to students and make international programs seem like more an attainable reality. Facilitating connections between returnees and prospective participants through peer advising and mentorship programs, and building alumni communities are just the beginning to alumni engagement.

Innovation can also be seen changing the way international program participants interact with their host communities through new program creation, environmental and community sustainability, and philanthropy both domestically and internationally. Without a sustainable future in the countries and communities where international programs take place, international education would not be able to survive. Therefore, innovative practices must also be developed to create responsible programs that safeguard against negative impacts that participants might have when volunteering, studying, or traveling abroad.

Satisfying the needs of all stakeholders and facing global challenges is a complex undertaking, but innovation has become imperative for the future of international education.

The GoAbroad Innovation Awards Celebrate This
Every year, GoAbroad presents Innovation Awards to recognize and honor champions of the international education think tank that drive positive change in the field. Institutions, organizations, and individuals are nominated for distinct categories, such as Innovation in Diversity, Innovation in Marketing & Digital Media, and Innovation in Alumni Engagement, for their creativity and contributions. Winners out of the pool of finalists are carefully selected by the GoAbroad Innovations Academy, a prestigious group of international educators, and revealed at the annual NAFSA: Association of International Educators conference.

Curious about who has made the largest ripples in innovation this past year? Follow GoAbroad's annual Innovation Awards and learn about the 2017 Finalists on our Innovation Awards website. To score an invite to the reception at NAFSA announcing 2017 winners on Thursday, June 5th in Los Angeles, email Megan.Lee@GoAbroad.com.

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