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From Pipelines to Platforms: Shifting the Metaphor

A little over a year ago we launched this blog as a way to provide insight and analysis into where we are, where we are heading, and how we’ll get there.  Although anyone is welcome to read, most entries have been written for collaborative partners (both current and potential), faculty, staff, administration, Board members, as well as students, alumni, and denominational partners.

One of the conversations that recently emerged in email conversation was related to shifting our primary metaphor for collaboration from pipelines to platforms. Instead of inundating staff email accounts with lengthy or multiple emails on this topic (which I am very very guilty of doing), I am writing within this forum so it is available for a wider audience.

I’ve been pondering this shift since early 2019 and, until today’s email discussion with our Executive Team, neglected to pass along a summary of what this shift means for Winebrenner Seminary. A very simple way to think about a platform is as something upon which other things can be built. Think in terms of Apples iPhone IOS operation system or Google’s Android system; each represents a platform upon which other things can be built.

Designing an educational platform provides an organizing principle that allows others to use the platform (similar to open source software). In other words, a platform initiated by Winebrenner provides the core infrastructure upon which others can build.

One current example entails our collaborative partnership with the Churches of God, General Conference (read more here or here).  Winebrenner provides the “core interaction” in the form of a class offered as part of the Institute for Christian Studies (ICS).  A platform interaction adds value to every part of the system. The CGGC benefits by having an educational discipleship experience for those preparing for pastoral ministry. The benefit to Winebrenner is that offering education in a structured format is the primary way we fulfill our mission of equipping leaders for service in God’s kingdom. Our collaborative partner shares responsibility in recruiting students, as opposed to Winebrenner carrying the burden alone.

This small example illustrates one of the immediately recognizable value shifts from pipelines to platforms: an organization built upon a traditional pipeline approach owns the entire process. In an educational setting, this could mean one school is solely responsible for identifying and recruiting students, providing the education, and making sure the students are “placed” upon their graduation. This is completely reconfigured in an ecosystem built upon a platform. An assumption I’m making is that shared responsibility and adding value to multiple organizations is the better option.

Next week I’ll dive deeper into this transition and how it is already present at Winebrenner. This shift in thinking and approach has the potential to transform how we conceive of collaboration.

– Dr. Brent Sleasman, President

– Image by Martin Adams, accessed via AdobeSpark

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