SummaryInstitutional challenges require an institutional response. How the institution designs its response will in large part determine its success, and whether it is sustainable. Will it suffice to meet the challenge it faces, and then fade away? A truly adaptive, learning institution will acculturate change at a deep level so that the corrective processes continue and the challenge doesn't evolve to re-emerge yet again.
How do we learn and acculturate new technologies and processes? One way is to encourage our organization's communities of practice to adapt to challenges. By watching our communities of practice respond to challenges, we can also identify the leadership that emerges. The emergent leadership, given support, opportunity and coaching, will naturally use their passion and influence to share their knowledge within their communities, thereby speeding adoption of technology and process change, and increasing capability and capacity within the institution.
This article is a case study of Penn State's ongoing response to the complaint filed against it regarding the accessibility of its websites, applications and services. Our focus is: how communities of practice change in response to institutional challenges, the observation that the leadership to address challenges emerges from within these communities, and that the social learning processes that allow communities of practice to adapt to new challenges also support the sustainability of new technology and practice.