Guideline Fifteen | Sustain

15. Develop strategies to ensure sustainability of project outcomes into the future.

We all know of projects in learning and teaching in our universities that, driven by an innovative enthusiast, blossomed briefly but ultimately withered and had no lasting impact. Increasingly, sustainability of project effects is a formal criterion for evaluating success (i.e. sustainability = a facet and marker of success). Funding bodies pay special attention to strategies for sustainability in project proposals.
 Conceptually it is useful to consider sustainability to be a special success indicator that can mean different things. For example:
* Having a policy, process or set of practices embedded
* Maintaining support for and progress on an initiative/cause
* Up-scaling (e.g. from course to program level).

The sustainability of project effects can rarely be guaranteed – maximizing the likelihood of sustainability is the realistic aim. 
Embedding is a key strategy for sustainability.

That is:
the engagement of the innovation in the local processes and perhaps the modifications of policies, procedures and structures to accommodate the new practice”
Southwell et al 2005

Some factors that increase the likelihood of sustainability are:

Political Will! – As is the case with so many aspects of potential project success, if those in high level leadership positions, and your key stakeholders, are not convinced of the importance of the project and maintaining its impact, it will not happen. What specific strategies have you put in place to convince them?

Necessary Resources – Project funding is almost always time limited. When the project ends the money goes. This is known from the beginning of the project and so it is a poor plan that fails to include and evolve clear strategies to ensure funding continues after the formal completion of the project (e.g. by convincing senior management to incorporate key salaries in the core Faculty/University budget).

Implementation Levers - Evidence needs to be collected that increases the likelihood of continuation, for example:

  • The existence of clear and effective policies, procedures and guidance
  • Evidence that those impacted by the project see a clear need for the project outcomes to continue and can see a clear cost to benefit advantage

  • The provision of good learning and development support for people to increase their motivation for continuation.

Key Stakeholders’ Judgments of Merit and Worth - Good outcomes/effects and processes demonstrable from project implementation need to be presented to the key stakeholders early and in ways likely to influence them to form positive judgments.

Effective Evaluation – The arguments for early and effective evaluation are made in Guideline 12. This enables stakeholders’ views and values to be respected; can be persuasive; and can demonstrate merit/worth (through evidence and good communication).