In November 2023, UM-Dearborn officially purchased a three-year subscription to Collaboratory, a publicly accessible database created by higher education institutions for the purpose of tracking community engagement activities. Since then, the Office of Metropolitan Impact staff have had their noses to the grindstone preparing bulk data uploads for the system, including the 700-plus nonprofit, government and corporate partnerships OMI has built and nurtured over the past 12 years.
What is Collaboratory?
Collaboratory software enables users to understand an institution’s engagement activities from several vantage points — that of an activity, a community partner, a course, a faculty lead and more. This system does more than the one-to-one matching you’d expect from a typical CRM tool — it is truly three-dimensional.
In alignment with national best practices of community engagement, Collaboratory is a publicly searchable database, putting transparency and accountability to our greater community at the forefront.
How will Collaboratory serve faculty?
Collaboratory will create a community of practice, revolutionizing engaged projects, coursework and research. By simply searching a topic or an organization, faculty will be able to see across the entire campus the existing experts and activities relevant to the search. The ease of this search process will encourage interdisciplinary collaboration and empower faculty to take on engaged projects. We also hope this system will highlight and uplift the amazing faculty that already work deeply with the community!
How will Collaboratory serve the University?
The database will allow the university to track progress on key initiatives, like Project-Based Learning and Urban Futures. When Collaboratory is fully onboarded, it will illustrate UM-Dearborn’s engagement story and inform institutional strategy. This data will be vital as UM-Dearborn prepares to reapply for the Carnegie Engaged Campus Classification in 2026, a charge led by OMI and Student Affairs.
What to expect
Over the next few semesters, OMI will be populating the system with engagement “activities” — coursework, research, projects or initiatives. You may receive an invitation to sit for a 15-minute interview about the breadth of your work with external partners so OMI can enter activities on your behalf. Then, you’ll receive an email asking you to “approve” the engaged activities you take the lead on. While we will initially focus on research, course-based and engaged project activities led by faculty, ultimately we plan to track engaged activities by staff and students as well.
OMI’s graduate social work student intern, Breanna Rivera-Kloeppel, created a terrific Faculty Guide to Collaboratory that helps to further acclimate faculty to the system. On behalf of the Office of Metropolitan Impact, we are so excited to share this new tool with you!