Sustaining and Embedding Innovations - wiki JISC Sustaining and Embedding Innovations / Definitions of sustainability and embedding
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Definitions of sustainability and embedding

A suggested definition for sustainability in project innovations:


A. Embedding innovation project goals and outcomes through


  • People e.g. staff and student motivation, aspiration, expertise, knowledge and know-how.


  • Strategies, Processes, Systems and services e.g. quality assurance and enhancement (QA-QE) processes, programme design, review and validation processes, learning, teaching and assessment (LT&A) strategies.


  • Tools and Resources e.g. usable and accessible tools and resources.


.... at institutional, school, faculty, department and sector levels


B. Maintaining and further enhancing the innovation project goals and outcomes


What project sustainability does not necessarily mean:


  • Maintaining all activities.
  • Being dependent upon further funding.


Essential “top-level” areas that institutions need to focus on in order to create an institutional environment for sustaining and embedding innovations include:


  • Creating appropriate organisational structures to allow innovations to be embedded and sustained.
  • Becoming more business-like and entrepreneurial in approaches to embedding innovations.
  • Embedding the capacity to innovate - which is about people, processes and expertise that develop through project work.



Highlight messages from the JIF Innovation Forum (JIF2010)

Wilbert Kran

  • A Community of Practice is the best place to sustain project outputs.
  • Sustainability does not mean forever; it can mean long enough.


Catherine Grout

  • Sustainability is about a partnership between funder and project and there is a shared role to facilitate development of the business case and maximise ROI (return on investment).
  • Not all innovation projects are about achieving a sustainable service or project - some of them are about learning, experimentation or sharing practice for example.
  • An environment of reduced funding is both a threat to sustainability and a lever in that it could inspire new degrees of creativity and collaboration.


John Burke

  • Sustainability is everyone's responsibility - therefore everyone must be convinced of the need.
  • A focus on end benefits is essential.


Sarah Fahmy

  • Five key steps for sustainability:

1.    Empower leadership to define the mission and take action.

2.    Create a strong value proposition.

3.    Creatively managing costs.

4.    Cultivate diverse sources of revenue.

5.    Establish realistic goals and a system of accountability.


Neil Chue Hong

  • Sustainability is not just about doing one thing alone but seeing the bigger picture.
  • Sustainability is not about preservation but planning for the future and continual review.
  • It is important to understand motives for software sustainability e.g. legal compliance, heritage value, continual access to data, software re-use or for managing systems and services.
  • It is important to understand the difference between sustaining an object and what it does.
  • Software sustainability is comparable to software risk management.



  • Sustainability and impact should be considered as one, although impact does not always equal value.
  • It is crucial to build capability so that people are able to think in terms of impact.
  • The biggest impact may not be what you intended, that’s innovation!
  • Sustainability is a dynamic process of continual change.
  • Sustainability may be a BAD thing (the means to an end tends to become an end in itself).
  • Sometimes projects have impact because they are sustained; sometimes projects deliver an impact allowing them to become sustained.
  • Knowing how to model and measure sustainability, and over what timescales, is crucial but difficult to achieve.
  • There is ambiguity as to who is responsible for modelling and measuring sustainability.