Introduction to Alumni Networks

A Goldmine of Opportunity

Many organizations believe in the power of individuals and support these catalysts of positive impact with various types of fellowship programs. But what happens when a program ends or a funding cycle comes to a close?

For institutions committed to long-term impact and sustainability, building an alumni network can be a goldmine of opportunity. Such a network can continue to provide alumni with support in the long term as they actively work towards the institution's mission by:

  • facilitating connections between alumni from different programs or fields;
  • empowering them to innovate;
  • creating space for collaboration.

A network also helps alumni maintain a close relationship with the institution once their respective programs have ended. This allows both sides to benefit from a growing pool of expertise and contacts, while reinforcing mutual commitment to a shared mission in the long term.

The iac Berlin works with foundations and related organizations to help them elevate their alumni work through network thinking and community building. Using the alumni’s shared experiences and sense of identity as a basis, such networks provide the structure and space for connections to be made quickly and organically. This increases the potential for new collaborations and, thus, innovation.

Key Ambitions of an Alumni Network

  • Strengthen and concentrate members’ societal impact.
  • Provide space for learning and experimentation.
  • Support the organization’s thematic priorities and approaches through individual activities.
  • Create strength through diversity as alumni emerge from various program communities and contribute their individual interests, goals and expertise.
  • Increase members’ sense of belonging, keeping them connected to the organization.
  • The network acts as a living memory and resource for the organization.

Drawing from our own experiences with the Bosch Alumni Network, as well as our work with a growing learning community of foundations and alumni organizations, we have developed the expertise and tools necessary to support network-builders at various levels.

Along with initial strategy development, network management consulting, and transitional and exit strategies, we work with our partners to answer such questions as:

  • How closely should our alumni network be linked to our institution, and how much ownership do we want to have?
  • What is our relationship with network members, and how long do we want to be involved?
  • How will the network be funded, and who will coordinate it?

Impact & Benefits

The impact of alumni networks can best be understood as a self-enhancing (i.e. circular) model as opposed to the standard linear model used in many conventional impact assessment frameworks. Outcomes on the member, network and societal levels are re-incorporated into the network to strengthen key actors and promote learning. Thus, influential assets in the network—individuals, structures, etc.—are being continuously developed and optimized as they work from within to further develop the network.

Alumni networks are thus a highly attractive model for providing individuals and initiatives with long-term support, as well as an ideal opportunity for foundations to scale their potential positive impact.

We would be happy to work with you and your organization on the plans and questions you have about your alumni plans. Please get in touch with:

Darius Polok
Managing Director

Examples for successful Alumni Networks and bridges between networks: