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The EPIC Model

The EPIC Model and the 5 Elements

The EPIC Model is non-prescriptive, flexible, adaptable, and engages an enormous number of hours. The flexible nature of the EPIC Model is proven through adoption by a diverse range of universities and local governments (cities, counties, transit districts, tribes, etc.). There are five key elements of the EPIC Model. All programs within the EPIC-Network follow these five elements. They may look different depending on the context of each EPIC Program, but their guidance leads to successful university-community partnerships.

1  |  Education and Learning for the Public Good

Partnerships purposefully address important societal issues such as sustainability, public health, social inclusion, economic opportunity, democratic accountability, and other pressing issues. Accepting the constraint of market-readiness and finite public budgets, partnerships deliberately promote the public good and “high road” community development.

2  |  A Real Partnership

The partnership between university faculty and a participating community is an explicit and equal one. Project ideas are finalized through an iterative match-making process between faculty and community partner staff where ideas are jointly proposed and only those that meet each other’s needs go forward.

3  |  Investment by Both Sides

To ensure ongoing buy-in and professional management, both sides of the partnership need to show real investment. The community partner must invest enough financial resources to maintain program staff. The university partner must invest faculty and student time sufficient to get the work done well.

4  | Community Focused

The bottom line for any EPIC program is improvement in the partner community. Local government is the typical partner for the university, but the EPIC framework can include a range of other government, NGO, private sector, and informal stakeholders to move projects forward or to be the partner themselves.

5  |  Scaled for Impact (Seeking a Large “N”)

The program is based on courses already existing, taught by instructors already scheduled to teach those classes, and assignments or course projects already part of the course structure. This enables coordinating university engagement at scale, delivering real impact. The broader network, which now extends internationally, unabashedly aims at the same scale.


The EPIC Model is a proven, replicable, sustainable, and locally-based model. Regional workshops, limited-duration technical assistance, site visits, and sharing of materials accelerate the effective dissemination and implementation of new partnerships. More information about how we can help launch new programs can be found on our Just Start page. EPIC-N is the organization supporting the institutions adopting the model. Read more about what we do to support our members.