The Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts (AICUM) published a report that examined the economic and social impact of its 59 college and university members on the Commonwealth. The focus of the report is on the economic activities of the institutions, their direct and indirect contributions to employment, and their engagement with local communities.

As a follow-up to a recent survey of 100+ procurement professionals, the Lab conducted a series of focus groups to drill deeper into the survey results. The focus groups across different types of educational institutions revealed several key findings and challenges regarding supplier diversification.

For Steve Whitney, 2023 was the right time for a reset.

As the owner of Sit. Stay. Forever, a Maine-based company that makes safe and sustainable pet products, Steve wanted to move the business to the next level of efficiency and profitability. But how? The answer was Northeastern’s Inclusive Entrepreneur Fellowship, a program funded by a 5-year Economic Development Administration grant

As part of Northeastern’s recent Global Entrepreneurship Week, the Lab co-sponsored a webinar titled Entrepreneurial Diversity in the Construction Sector. A panel of industry experts — Margarita Polanco (Regional Supplier Diversity Manager, DPR Construction), Rosanna Molinaro (Director of Procurement & Contracts Management, Northeastern University – Planning, Real Estate & Facilities), and Samilys Rodriguez (Director of WBE & Corporate Services, WBENC New England at the Center for Women & Enterprise) — shared their experiences and insights, highlighting the importance of embracing diversity in this growing field.

Over the past six months, the Northeastern Lab for Inclusive Entrepreneurship has conducted research to gain a better understanding of the state of supplier diversity in higher education from the perspective of procurement professionals. We wanted answers to the questions. Here are some preliminary findings.

This year’s National Association of Educational Procurement (NAEP) New England Conference took place in Newport, RI, from October 22 – 25, 2023. The conference brought together not only higher education procurement professionals in the New England region through 17 sessions and network events, but also suppliers through a Vendor Expo. Session topics ranged from supplier relationship management to contract management to project management.

Over the past six months, the Lab for Inclusive Entrepreneurship has focused on translating research findings into actions to promote supplier diversity. What we learned in our survey of diverse small businesses (click here for the report) is that they often don’t know where to begin. For that reason, Egle Slezas, an instructional design graduate student in Northeastern’s College of Professional Studies, is crafting on-demand, interactive modules to provide diverse small businesses (DSBs) with basic information about the procurement process.

How can generative AI help diverse small businesses learn about the procurement process in higher education? A team of CPS graduate students is trying to find out by designing what we’re calling a Diverse Supplier Chatbot.

Supplier diversity has emerged as one of the important initiatives in both public- and private-sector procurement. It seeks to promote equitable procurement by diversifying and including suppliers owned by underserved people or located in distressed communities. As a result, it may provide economic opportunities to disadvantaged groups and contribute to addressing the racial wealth gap and local economic depression issues (HBR, 2020).

The theme of the 2023 Symposium on Supplier Diversity in Higher Education was “Translating Words into Action.” After Northeastern Lab for Inclusive Entrepreneurship’s executive director Francesca Grippa reviewed the preliminary results of a survey of procurement professionals in higher education, a panel of experts shared their perspectives on how to build a supplier diversity culture.

A major focus of the Lab for Inclusive Entrepreneurship’s work is providing assistance to small businesses in Maine, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. To that end, the Lab leverages Northeastern University’s Experiential Network, which matches student teams with sponsors to tackle business challenges. Thanks to a grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, the Lab can offer funding for these projects.

The Northeastern Lab for Inclusive Entrepreneurship’s support of a promising venture is exemplified in collaboration between Ackeem Evans, founder of Election Bridge and a 2023 Inclusive Entrepreneur Fellow, and Mikhail Oet, one of the Lab’s faculty directors.

The Northeastern Lab for Inclusive Entrepreneurship recently hosted a webinar to discuss the Lab’s recent research report, “Addressing the Supplier Diversity Awareness Deficit: The Role of Higher Education Procurement Websites.”