Monday, 9 December 2013

IDS Alumni Come Together!

A post by Susan Fleck IDS Alumni Ambassador for USA.

Thank you so much to all of you who responded to the IDS Alumni Survey from this past September; it received 141 responses from 60 different countries.  The results provide a fascinating insight into our diverse group’s interests and motivations. Perhaps not surprisingly it shows that many of us want to keep in contact with old friends. Meanwhile, a large proportion of us engage with IDS social media and blogs - a type of active engagement with the Institute that simply did not exist just a few years ago. However, despite staying abreast of the news, views and research coming out of IDS it seems few of us have had the time to commit to more substantial interactions.

The snapshot these results provide is being fed into a new alumni strategy that it is hoped will strengthen and broaden 1) the Alumni Association, 2) Alumni-IDS interactions and 3) IDS’ vision of a world without poverty.

IDS builds thinking professionals who are driven by passion to make a difference in the lives of the poor. Outgoing Director Lawrence Haddad asked the alumni working group to support the development of a strategy that combines the time, treasures, and talents of IDS as an institution and of the 3,000 IDS graduates working around the world to everyone’s mutual benefit. The alumni survey was our starting point.

Here is a snapshot of the survey results:

Who responded?
  • Not surprisingly, more recent cohorts of graduates responded – 44% of respondents graduated after 2005, and another 25% graduated during the previous ten years.
  • A third of respondents come from the UK, India, and the United States of America.  An additional 27% are from one of these six countries - Japan, Canada, Italy, Pakistan, Mexico, and Spain.  The others come from 50+ other countries. 
  • 56% of respondents were graduates of MA programs, the others graduated from DPhil and MPhil programs; the most common MAs were governance and gender.

What are we all doing?
  • Most of the respondents report working in areas related to our studies. 
  • The most common areas of development work are poverty, governance, gender, and social protection.

Where do we work?
  • Most respondents reported working in international NGOs, national governments, and academia.
  • Nearly two thirds of respondents have worked in academia, while only 10% have had a career solely as an academic.

How have we been involved in IDS since we graduated?
  • Alumni ‘occasionally or frequently’ keep in touch with their friends – ie, meeting up socially (53%) or through social media and email (60%),
  • Not many alumni ‘occasionally or frequently’ are involved in IDS teaching or research (15%), been to an IDS alumni event (23%), or visited campus (27%).

What do we want an IDS alumni association to do?
The survey asked you to rank a number of activities by importance, and to tell us whether you could support or be involved in the activities. 
  • We are willing to give of our time and talents as individuals.
  • But we look towards IDS to provide us a space for more and/or continued professional development.
  • Only a few respondents commit to supporting activities that require institutional support (ie professional development or jobs) or monetary contribution (ie the scholarship fund).
This chart below shows the results in detail; green bars of importance are ranked one to nine (most to least important), and the yellow bars of alumni support are ranked (most to least likely to be involved), and mapped by activity against the green bars. 

The top three activities alumni want IDS to do for them are:
1.      Provide opportunities for continuing professional development,
2.      Provide information about jobs and internships.
3.      Promote IDS research and events.

But the top three activities that IDS alumni could commit to getting involved in are:
1.      Develop a mentor programme.
And tied for 2nd place:
2.      Promote IDS research and events.
3.      Support research activities.

Of course a survey like this cannot answer all our questions. Why are IDS alumni able to mentor but not able to offer internships?  What did each of us think when we responded to the priority of promoting IDS research and events? Do we want to bring IDS to where we live and work, or do we want to integrate our ideas into IDS research?  What draws us intellectually to IDS?  We will need to flesh out these questions to move forward.

I cherish the memory of community, ideas and activism that I experienced at IDS – and I don’t doubt that most other alums experienced the same. It would be great if the IDS Alumni Association could provide us opportunities to reconnect and build anew. We are perpetual learners; we also have deep expertise. How can we harness the expertise of 3,000 IDS graduates with centuries of experience under our collective belts?

The survey results tell me that it is time for IDS alums to come together. In a consistent and thoughtful way. The IDS Alumni Association can be a community to reflect, to share, and to strengthen our network of dedicated and passionate leaders. As we look for systemic answers to persistent problems of poverty and insecurity the world over – whether we are working in development or another career  –  let’s take advantage of the like-minded vision we share to lead others into a better tomorrow. I’d love to hear your ideas – feel free to write me 

Tell your friends and fellow IDS alums to sign up for the IDS Alumni blog and to get in touch via the IDS Facebook page. You can also find out where your nearest Alumni ambassador is and get in touch.

Disclosure: the survey was designed by me, and fellow IDS alum Mary McKeown with support from the IDS Central Communications team and Director Lawrence Haddad.

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