It’s just about a year since I took up the post of Alumni Officer at the International School of Geneva (or Ecolint, as it’s commonly known). In those twelve months I’ve met hundreds of our alumni in person and interacted with many hundreds more electronically. Looking back, I think the part I’ve enjoyed the most so far has been my role as a story-gatherer. Certainly the familiar territory of tidying up the website and the planning and delivery of events has been as satisfying as ever, but it’s the people and the paths they’ve taken that has really made the difference for me.
Among the various projects and initiatives with which I’ve been involved, the one that best exposes this treasure trove of stories is the 90-9-90 Project. Having spent the quiet summer months getting to know the alumni as data (and creating our first “Alumnographic”, which I’ve written about before), I faced into the new school year knowing that the 90th anniversary year offered a great opportunity to reach out to the people behind the data.
The idea was a simple one: get 90 alumni to answer a 9-question survey to mark the 90th anniversary of the school. I put a lot of thought into the questions. They needed to be relevant for alumni of just about any age; to be phrased in a way that allowed both shorter or longer responses, depending on the comfort zone of the responder; and to generate enough variety so that the project would remain fresh right through to the end.
We reached our target of 90 just before the Christmas break, with probably about half of them having been directly invited to respond and the rest being submitted spontaneously. If the website stats are anything to go by, it was a huge success. The project, presented in a blog format, was far and way the most visited section of the website throughout the three months it was running, and it remains very popular with site visitors even now.
The questions took alumni from when and how they arrived at the school, to the teachers and places that meant most to them, and on to their lives today and their thoughts on the school and students today. Of course some put more thought than others into their responses, but the quality was generally very high. Those who responded (perhaps obviously, given the nature of the project) demonstrated a real pride in the school, often balanced with constructive criticism, with intelligence, wit and wisdom shining through regularly. The diversity of the career and life paths “the 90” have followed gives you a sense of the truly unique nature of Ecolint as a school.
From my point of view, it couldn’t have turned out any better. This simple idea generated three months of content that attracted people to the website. Posting updates via our social channels was very effective, as alumni were naturally interested to see whether anyone they knew had responded. It also served to kick off many interesting conversations that are already leading to other projects to help involve alumni more in the life of the school. (Exhibits A and B.)
In an effort get maximum value out of the content and to increase the awareness among current staff and students of the rich resource that our alumni community represents, with help from our in-house graphic designer I created a poster (below) that now hangs in strategic locations around our three campuses. The hope is that anyone lingering in the relevant spaces will take the time to dip into a selection of the responses and perhaps think more about how they themselves could engage with our alumni.
I’ve kicked off a couple of similar initiatives in the meantime, one focusing on entrepreneurs and another dedicated to former staff. They’ll both take a little longer to find their feet for various reasons, but it’s a format that works really well for mining the rich seam of stories to be found in the Ecolint alumni community.