Supplier Diversity

Promoting Supplier Diversity in Higher Education

A major research focus of the Lab for Inclusive Entrepreneurship is identifying ways to promote relationships between higher education procurement teams and diverse small businesses.

Why this is important

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, between 2018 and 2019, the spending of HEIs in the U.S. reached $632 billion (in current dollars), two-thirds of which was spent by public institutions and the remaining one thirds by private institutions. Yet, a majority of HEI spending was associated with a limited number of large businesses, which dwarfed the participation of DOSBs. A GBH News analysis, for instance, showed that only 12 contracts (about 2%) out of nearly 700 made by a big college purchasing co-op in Massachusetts were awarded to minority-owned businesses.

What we’ve learned

Over the past 12 months, the Lab for Inclusive Entrepreneurship has published two reports on supplier diversity in higher education.

In a May 2022 research report titled “Promoting Supplier Diversity in Higher Education,” we identified the barriers and opportunities in doing business with colleges and universities based on a survey of diverse small businesses located in New England.

Click here to learn more about the key research findings and download the report.

Recently, we issued a report titled “Addressing the Supplier Diversity Awareness Deficit: The Role of Higher Education Procurement Websites.” We know that supplier diversity web pages can make a difference; they can open a window into an institution’s procurement process, which is very often seen as complex and confusing by small businesses. Deciding what kinds of information to share (and how to share it) can serve as a way for an institution to listen to the needs of its local diverse business community and demonstrate its commitment to diversity and inclusion. Our latest research report examines to what extent 114 colleges and universities in New England open the window to supplier diversity opportunities.

Click here to learn more about the key research findings and download the report.

How we plan to move forward with this work

With the support of a three-year Knowledge Challenge grant from the Kauffman Foundation, which supports activities that improve our understanding of entrepreneurship, the Lab will conduct research, hold an annual symposium, and serve as a forum for idea sharing.
The overall goal goes beyond research; It is to generate practical, actionable policy recommendations for higher education procurement teams and create educational programs for diverse small business owners that will help them compete for business.

Learn more about Kauffman Knowledge Challenge