Skip to Content

Building a collective vision and strategy to promote equity in the Illinois higher education system.

PARTNER: Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE)

SERVICE AREA: ADEI & Higher Education

LOCATION: Illinois

TIMEFRAME: August 2020-May 2021

The Illinois Board of Higher Education partnered with UPD to build a collective vision and strategy to promote equity in the Illinois higher education system. To inform this plan, we engaged thousands of people across the state, from diverse backgrounds and positions, from the community to state leaders.

The Challenge

In the Spring of 2021, IBHE was ready to take Illinois higher education in a new direction, centering equity in its planning. In order to meet their vision for this work, the Board needed to figure out how they could hear from and incorporate as many voices as possible into a comprehensive, equitable vision and strategy for the Board and its partner organizations. The call for change was loud and clear as the nation looked urgently to its government institutions for real and meaningful dismantling of systemic inequities, but the path was much less certain as we executed this strategic plan during the pandemic.

Read the full plan here:

The Solution

Together we designed a process for engaging a wide variety of stakeholders as equitably as possible. The work included:

  • Two rounds of focus groups representing people with lived experience and expertise across a wide variety of higher education topics.
  • A public survey with nearly 10,000 respondents.
  • A public comment period prior to drafting the strategic plan.
  • Town Halls.
  • A feedback period to incorporate further insights into the Strategic Plan.

Given the high stakes nature of the work, we created three decision-making groups to gather input from leaders and experts at all levels.

  1. The first decision-making group was an advisory committee composed of Board members and state leaders from critical public and private institutions. This group used the community’s input to refine the work into three major goals around equity, sustainability, and growth and provided additional direction and parameters for those goals.
  2. With this direction, subject-specific working groups were formed as a second decision-making body. Composed of experts and practitioners in the higher education space, the working groups took both the advisory committee direction and the community input, as well as their own expertise, and developed refined goals and strategies in each of the subject areas, laying the roadmap for Illinois’ higher education path.
  3. The final decision-making authority was the Illinois Board of Higher Education. Engaged from start to end, the Board provided high-level direction and plan approval throughout the process.

IBHE set a vision for change with three goals for Illinois higher education:

The Core Principles adopted within the organization for driving the change are:

The Impact

At least 10,400 people were engaged throughout this process, bringing together people whose knowledge and opinions were essential to the work. The community expressed a high degree of support because they served as co-creators of the plan. And because of the many conversations held, the goals and strategies naturally became part of ongoing higher education dialogues across the state, organically setting the stage to implement the plan.

You can read the Illinois Board of Higher Education’s full strategic plan here, as well as view the many of the working documents used throughout the process.