Innovation Networks / Alliances


Innovation networks/alliances are individuals, organizations, or companies working outside an institution—although they can come from within—that convene to help solve problems and identify growth opportunities within the institution (Knowledge at Wharton Staff, 2007). They emerge in a variety of fields and sectors, including postsecondary education. Among employers, “innovation networks are no longer an option for large companies. Today’s VUCA world (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex , Ambiguous) requires that companies form robust knowledge networks to have any real hope of delivering the innovations, especially transformational innovations, that are needed for the growth which they aspire to or to prevent disruption from new entrants.” (Inovo, n.d.)


  • The Workforce Innovation Network, led by the National Governors Association, helps states build capacity for near-term innovation and longer-term strategy to prepare their workforces for a post-COVID-19 economy. NGA WIN is a nonpartisan learning and action collaborative for state leaders who have demonstrated strong commitments to building a resilient workforce. The network is dedicated to: expanding access to essential support services; rapidly connecting job seekers to work; advancing digital access and skill development; and enhancing job quality for all workers. Examples of projects undertaken by the network include:
  • Coordinating Service Delivery for Jobseekers and Families: From March to July 2021, 10 states adopted a unique design to improve coordinated service delivery for job seekers, with a goal of improving workforce and employment outcomes. State grantees applied an innovation design framework to identify and close gaps in service delivery and connect job seekers to education, work, or training in alignment with state workforce and economic recovery goals. Themes explored include human-centered design, data governance and sharing, local workforce area capacity building, and workforce system rebranding and marketing.
  • Advancing Digital Skill Development For Equitable Economic Participation: From November 2021 to June 2022, six states in the network focused on  advancing digital skill development for equitable economic participation in alignment with state workforce and economic development goals. 
  • The University Innovation Alliance (University Innovation Alliance [UIA], n.d.) is a national coalition of 14 public universities. The alliance is designed, organized, and led by the presidents or chancellors of the institutions, spanning the spectrum of U.S. public research universities. The UIA is committed to increasing the number and diversity of college graduate, with a specific focus on graduating students across the socioeconomic spectrum, particularly low-income students, first-generation students, and students of color. The alliance develops and tests new initiatives, shares data, and scales best practices across the UIA and beyond. By piloting new interventions, sharing insights about their relative costs and effectiveness, and scaling interventions that are successful, the UIA envisions a significant increase in the number of low-income students graduating with college degrees. It also expects its  collaborative work to  catalyze systemic changes in higher education. Ultimately, the UIA wants other institutions to adopt, adapt, and refine ts members’ innovations or develop solutions of their own that can be shared. 

The UIA offers a variety of resources to universities, including a blog and monthly newsletter; playbooks for those working in higher education and those seeking funding to advance initiatives; a YouTube channel, where individuals can learn about UIA, listen to UIA podcast episodes, and video presentations and keynote addresses; and about a calendar of upcoming events.

The T3 Innovation Network of more than 500 organizations is working to change the way educational and workforce data are provided, accessed, and used. The focus is on the use of  advanced technologies such as AI and blockchain to create an open and decentralized public-private data ecosystem. The network lists several goals:

  • Job seekers will be able to display the breadth of their experience in a single, comprehensive learning record. 
  • A competency-based lifelong learner record will be clearly defined so that all learning counts, no matter where it takes place.
  • Technology and data standards will be advanced so that data can be shared seamlessly throughout a person’s education and career pathway.
  • Individuals will be empowered with a validated record of their skills and competencies in a way that all employers can understand.

Another of the T3 Network’s projects is Aligning Innovations for Employers and Candidates. This project provides a framework and forum for aligning and scaling innovative employer practices and worker-centered initiatives that can to create significant value for both employers and learners-workers. Skills-Based Hiring and Advancement (SBHA) is the process by which employers and their HR service providers identify, recruit, hire, and advance candidates based on the match between a work opportunity’s skill requirements and a candidate’s skills.

The many projects on the T3 Network’s agenda are described in a one-page summary.

Ecosystem Relationship

Innovation networks help to solve problems and find new ideas to improve components in the learn-and-work ecosystem. They can leverage resources, share information and insights, test new approaches, and scale promising efforts.



Knowledge at Wharton Staff. (2007, November 14). Innovation networks: Looking for

ideas outside the company. Knowledge at Wharton.  

University Innovation Alliance. (n.d.). 

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. (n.d.). T3 Innovation Network.

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