September 2015, DFC will start the process of setting up a Danida Alumni. We aim at having the database ready at the beginning of 2016.
By Lene Christina Mosegaard, Programme and Communication Coordinator
The establishment of alumni networks has for many years been called for by former and current Danida fellows. The member potential is enormous. Over the last 25 years around 20,000 fellows have participated in DFC’s fellowship programme.
Former and future scholars are likely to take up important positions in their home countries. They may thus in many instances have the finger on the pulse and be able to effectuate change.
“Alumni are partners, multipliers and ambassadors for academic, economic and development co-operation”. DAAD (German Alumni).
Unique selling points of DFC
A common thing for all fellows is their unique connection to DFC. Many of them have stayed at the DFC hostel. Through the social and cultural activities arranged by DFC during their stay, the fellows have moreover gained close relations with fellows from other countries.
Experience from alumni in other countries stipulates the importance of including social elements as part of fellowships in order to create a common platform and reference point. It is not sufficient to simply be part of a broader network as it does not engender the same feeling of ownership among the fellows. What engages alumni members is primarily the social relations and secondly the professional link.
In addition to the access to a central alumni portal, fellows also find the affiliation with local alumni networks attractive. Such local alumni enable them to arrange local activities. DFC is in a unique position to recruit members for a future international alumni given the close network created over many years.
Vision, mission and purpose
The group working on establishing the Danish Alumni has decided on the following set up:
The alumni network is actively used and contributes to capacity development in a broader sense with mutual benefits for both the global South and Denmark
Facilitate and maintain links and partnerships between the alumni and relevant Danish Institutions through interactive networks involving Embassies, higher education institutions, private companies and other partners
1. To establish professional and social networks within and across countries.
2. To generate the sharing of experience and ideas within and across countries, sectors and/or research areas etc.
3. To provide a platform for assessing programme results through beneficiary feedback and improve programmes based on this.
4. To ensure stronger visibility of Danida’s results and achievements through e.g. alumni events, media coverage or the publication of programme assessments.
5. To further public diplomacy.
6. To provide opportunities for networking with Danish companies around e.g. innovative and sustainable business solutions, potentially as part of Danida’s private sector programmes.
The Alumni stakeholders
The primary target group of the Danida Alumni is former and current Danida fellows at Master and PhD level.
For fellows attending shorter courses through DFC a joined portal (DFC Assessment) has already been established and they will thus not be included in the alumni during the pilot stage.
Based on learnings from the pilot alumni, an expansion of the alumni could be considered with a view to include all International students at Danish universities.
Additional target groups could include the institutions mentioned below, but is not necessarily limited to these:
1. The MFA and Danish Embassies
2. Foreign Embassies in Denmark
3. Danish companies with representation in the global South
4. Danish universities and research institutions
Plan for phase 1
Planned activities for phase 1 include:
- Design and establishment of alumni portal and database based on experiences from other countries.
- Establish group on LinkedIn and Facebook
2. Recruit members (develop sign-up sheets), Create networking opportunities and groups (designed in the database from the beginning)
3. Initiate and facilitate thematic discussion groups
4. Post ’News on Denmark’ (DFC newsletter) 3 – 4 times annually
5. Post Alumni portraits
6. Post information on events
7. Establish a local group for Ghana as a pilot country and hold initiation meeting and follow-up on events.
More information will follow in a future DFC newsletter including the recruitment process of members.
International alumni networks run by government agencies are gaining ground.
Every year government agencies invest large sums in international scholarships for higher education and programmes to enhance professional research capacity in developing countries.
Such support is often initiated based on a sense of commitment to an international community, as a tool to further public diplomacy, as an element in international development assistance, or as means of strengthening the capacity of the civil servants and the labour market in
developing countries more broadly.
However, governments, international agencies and the public alike are increasingly demanding evidence of the positive impact, and thus relevance, of these programmes. Alumni networks hold a great potential for meeting this demand and are increasingly being used for survey purposes.
Institutions such as the Campus France (France Alumni) , DAAD (German Alumni), NUFFIC (Holland Alumni Network), and SI (Swedish Institute Alumni Network) are furthermore increasing their investment in their alumni by introducing activities aimed specifically at generating economic collaboration. This focus on economic collaboration is still comparatively new, and the extent to which it is included as part of the alumni differs.
In DAAD’s and Campus France’s alumni programmes companies are permitted to register on the alumni portal, access member information and advertise positions.
In a number of the countries, local alumni have arranged events alone or in collaboration with the Embassy. As an example, both Nuffic and SI have arranged business events with local Embassies, local partners and Swedish/Dutch companies with success.
In addition to utilizing alumni for impact measurement and the creation of economic opportunities, more traditional reasons from a public diplomacy and professional network perspective include:
• Providing current and former scholars with information on the host country, e.g. cultural and social aspects and events.
• Building and sharing competences by creating and facilitating interactive networks involving Embassies, institutions of higher education and other partners.