How UC San Diego Went from Crowdsourcing to Collective Impact

About UCSD

The University of California, San Diego (UC San Diego) is recognized as one of the top 20 research universities worldwide. Established in 1960, it has grown at an exceptional pace, with a total campus enrollment of more than 42,000 students (as of Fall 2022), $7.5 billion in fiscal year 2021/22 revenues (of which over $1.64 billion is in research funding), and 16 Nobel laureates having taught on campus.

“To go from where UC San Diego was in the 1960s, to where we are today, we’ve had to be very collaborative, innovative, and entrepreneurial in nature across all facets of teaching, research, public service, and operations, but, over the course of 50+ years, state funding has decreased dramatically, walls have gone up due to our sheer size, and you begin to have problems knowing who to talk to, who is doing what. To maintain the collaborative and entrepreneurial mindset that got us where we are today, we have to find ways to break down those walls, reduce the silos, and make the right thing to do, the easy thing to do.”

– Bob Neuhard, Executive Director

The Challenge before HYPE: Linking Innovation With The Strategic Goals

In 2013, Chancellor Pradeep Khosla launched a comprehensive and inclusive strategic planning initiative to define a unifying vision and set of shared goals for the campus, at what was seen as a critical point in the university’s history. UC San Diego understood that the strategic planning process and the collaboration and communication channels it established were as important as the creation of the final strategic plan. The strategic planning process was a tremendous success and, with over 10,000 people providing input, the Chancellor was able to honor and leverage the entrepreneurial, collaborative, and innovative culture that makes UC San Diego so successful.

The 2014 Campus Strategic Plan set forth a new mission and vision, an articulation of values, five overarching goals, and 13 initial strategies. Once the plan was published, it was clear that the university needed to find a way to continue the discussions across the campus and shift from “planning” to “doing.”

Chancellor Khosla saw this as an opportunity to scale and harness the cross-campus collaborative dialogues sustainably while focusing the collective genius on key issues, opportunities, and outcomes. It was from a deeply rooted desire to reinforce and expand on these meaningful and collaborative discussions that UC San Diego decided to launch an innovation management platform for every member of campus.

Finding The Right Solution

At the request of the Chancellor, Robert (Bob) Neuhard, Executive Director for the Office of Strategic Initiatives at UC San Diego, developed a set of requirements for an idea management platform and began the search for a tool that would facilitate campus-wide collaboration.

After searching for and vetting multiple vendors, HYPE Innovation was selected for several reasons:

  • Strategic innovation areas could be mapped into the platform, to allow for targeted collaboration around UC San Diego’s strategic goals.

  • High volumes of input could be effectively managed with community evaluation of ideas.

  • The “concepts” and “projects” features allowed for the tracking of ideas from conception to development and maturation, within one single tool.

  • HYPE’s services team offered a partnership that would help UC San Diego achieve its goals.

Using HYPE to Realize The Impact of Strategic Goals 

In 2015, UC San Diego launched its HYPE Innovation platform – branded as “IdeaWave” – to over 34,000 faculty staff. When promoting the launch, the focus was not specifically on gathering ideas or innovation, but on the practical aspects of collaboration: developing high-quality dialogue and discussion around important issues that arose from the strategic planning process, and the future of the university. However, the Office of Operational Strategic Initiatives was also keen to establish an infrastructure that would spur innovation through improved collaboration and engagement across UC San Diego departments.

“The ability to have a campaign and dialogue within the construct of the strategic plan goals creates transparency with people. It also shows to managers how each idea coming through can be linked all the way up to the 5 goals of the strategic plan. Additionally, not everyone reads a strategic plan document, you can’t get 60,000 people to absorb it and if someone doesn’t see projects and specific actions that relate back to the plan, then in many people’s minds, it simply hasn’t happened. By cascading and aligning everything to the plan through IdeaWave, we are able to raise the awareness of the plan and help people understand how their input directly relates to the plan goals.”

– Bob Neuhard, Executive Director

UC San Diego's 5 Strategic Goals

  1. Deliver an educational and overall experience that develops students who are capable of solving problems, leading, and innovating in a diverse and interconnected world.

  2. Cultivate a diverse and inclusive university community that encourages respectful open dialogue and challenges itself to take bold actions that will ensure learning is accessible and affordable for all.

  3. Nurture and support a collaborative and interdisciplinary research culture that advances the frontiers of knowledge shapes new fields, and disseminates discoveries that transform lives.

  4. Support and promote just and sustainable forms of economic development, shared prosperity, and social and cultural enrichment regionally and globally.

  5. Create an agile, sustainable, and supportive infrastructure by ensuring a dedication to service, people, and financial stewardship.

The Impact of Working With HYPE

“In terms of ROI on IdeaWave, we can easily show just from the initial projects that it’s paid for itself many times over. But this is not the way we are looking at it; rather, this is about better ways of working, better ways to function operationally, and better ways to share best practices and information that just isn’t shared widely today. It’s an essential component for our goals around dialogue and collaboration.”

– Bob Neuhard, Executive Director


Idea Implementation in Action: Performance Appraisal Campaign

UC San Diego launched a campaign aimed at gathering ideas for simplifying, standardizing, and streamlining its decentralized performance appraisal process. University staff submitted around 80 ideas. Following the idea evaluation process, it was agreed that to standardize the process, an electronic tool should be adopted campus-wide to centralize the entire performance appraisal process and create one system, tool, and format to drive consistency and reduce the costs of the performance appraisal process.

As a result, a full project and process redesign began and a new electronic performance appraisal form will serve as the central system of record for all performance appraisals. The impact of this project is considerable across many areas. Perhaps most notably, the cost of the human resources team’s annual audit will fall significantly. Before this new, centralized process, it took two or three employees several weeks every year to gather the data on performance appraisal compliance from every departmental unit. Under the new process, that information will be available in a few clicks of a button.

What Does UC San Diego Value about Working With HYPE?


“What we really liked was the team was really interested in us being successful and using the platform and actually seeing the impact from the program.

Once we signed up with HYPE, they definitely exceeded all of our expectations on the partnering side of the relationship as well as their overall ecosystem of people, customers, and partners community. It was a great bonus to understand how well the customer ecosystem shares and learns from each other.”

– Bob Neuhard, Executive Director

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