The Educational Partnerships for Innovation in Communities – Network (EPIC-N) is a nonprofit association with members all over the world. Our organization and our members unite the human capital of universities with local governments, and communities, to improve the quality of life and social wealth for all involved.
We do so by supporting the application of The EPIC Model.
EPIC-N’s mission is to unite the human capital of universities with local governments, and communities, to improve the quality of life and social wealth for all involved.
The EPIC Model
- Respects Existing administrative structures/individual responsibilities and incentives on all sides
- Creates a genuine Partnership with local governments (or community organizations)
- Intentionally aims at improving community quality of life
- Focuses on Community-identified, -driven, and -evaluated contribution to the community
- Catalyze multi-disciplines and large Numbers (courses, students, hours)
Our Origin Story: The “Oregon Model” becomes the “EPIC Model”
For years, universities have called on faculty and students to help local governments with their community challenges, but what has become known as the EPIC Model actually began with the Sustainable City Year Program (SCYP) at the University of Oregon in 2009.
Two University of Oregon professors, Nico Larco and Marc Schlossberg, had good working relationships with the government of nearby Salem. Larco and Schlossberg asked the local government if it would be willing to underwrite the costs of coordinating interested university faculty—and their classes—in a concentrated, time-limited effort to work on many of Salem’s long list of identified problems.
Interest from both faculty and students was more than hoped for, which meant better gains for Salem. Faculty were interested in an easy opportunity to learn from colleagues about solving shared problems. Students were interested in improving the world they inherited. The combinatorial power of multidisciplinary expertise and the sheer number of students working made breakthroughs for the city. The Oregon program quickly attracted applications from other cities.
Assisted by the promotion of SCYP principals and their colleagues (notably the contributions of the late Robert Young), word of this new model spread quickly to other universities, including the University of Iowa, the University of Minnesota, San Diego State University, Texas A&M University, and St. Thomas University. Within a few years, an annual conference bringing together recent adopters of the model and potential recruits began and has continued since, to share problems and solutions, learn from others using the model, and develop materials for common use.
In the years following—and in keeping with the original SCYP emphases on utilizing existing university classes, aiming at the public good, remaining community originated and focused, and requiring that communities to be fully engaged, as is befitting of any real partnership—EPIC programs have revised the previous model in important ways: engagement with partner local governments/communities usually extends beyond one year; more than one community is often served simultaneously; non-municipal sources of financing are commonly sought after; and program commitment underscores social inclusion, fair treatment, and resilient public accountability, not solely environmental sustainability.
In the past few years, the EPIC-Network has grown rapidly. We are now more than 70 programs strong. That growth is due in part to the fact that we moved from an informal network to officially incorporating in 2017, with a formal Board of Directors and Advisory Board, and then establishing the organization as an IRS-recognized 501(c)(3) in 2018.
EPIC-N has also expanded internationally. Initially, a few universities outside of the United States were involved with the EPIC-Network. The concerted effort to move beyond the US effectively began in 2018 with the formation of a fledgling EPIC-Africa Network. We plan to continue expansion in Asia and in the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region.
Reflecting our international commitment, where the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are the universal language of public-minded development, EPIC-N uses these as a uniform measure of our contribution to communities. As we like to say, “the EPIC Model is the GSD (‘get stuff done’) of the SDG.”
EPIC-N is a membership-based organization. Operations are funded by a mixture of membership dues, grants, and fees-for-services rendered.