Cover Photo Credit: Fitri Mulyaningsih (Yangon Alumni Summit, March 2019)
VIA’s alumni community, which spans 56 years of experiences, many nationalities, and several continents, presents both an incredible opportunity and a challenge. In order to better understand how we can create and support sustainable, meaningful connections and engagement across this diverse network, we initiated an in-depth needfinding project in 2018.
As part of this foundational year in our alumni community and ecosystem development initiative, we tested specific aspects of community-building. Working with several highly active alumni members, we organized four community summits in Asia over the course of one year. During the summits, we shared our vision of VIA’s ecosystem, with the intent to build investment among the attendees in actively participating and co-creating the community with us. Each summit iterated on the last, so we rapidly improved the collaborative planning and implementation process with alumni coordinators.
Summit Quick Facts
- Locations: Chiang Mai (June 2018), Tokyo (September 2018), Yangon (March 2019), Taipei (June 2019)
- Total attendance: 80
- Programs represented: 7
- Participation years: 2011-2019
- Attendees from the USA, Mainland China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Macau, Myanmar, the Philippines, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Timor Leste, Zambia
- Chiang Mai Summit attendees visited a social enterprise supporting environmental sustainability, youth education, and job skills training for migrants in Chiang Mai.
- The Tokyo Summit included a professional panel discussion with VIA alumni and education-focused social entrepreneurs.
- Yangon Summit attendees visited several education-related social enterprises, including an independent textbook book publisher and VIA’s Global Community Fellowship partner, KoeKoe Tech, which creates apps to make health and legal information more accessible.
- The Taipei Summit is the first summit open to alumni “and friends”, so several attendees are local guests who are new to the VIA community and interested in learning more about VIA’s work.
- At the Taipei Summit, we welcomed two attendees from Timor Leste and Laos who are alumni of the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) Media Literacy workshop that VIA facilitated in Yangon in March 2019.
- Intentional convening is critical for community members to connect, share ideas, and forge collaboration across backgrounds and cultures.
- Most attendees were surprised when they started to see the full scope of the VIA community. Many were unaware of the range of programs, themes, locations, and nationalities represented in our activities. Despite the wide variety of VIA experiences represented by attendees, there is a strong sense of shared identity and community.
- Alumni are enthusiastic and motivated to connect with each other and collaborate. While some have unique community-based projects they would like to pursue, many are interested in recreating their VIA experience in their home country – to share the lessons they learned, build community, and support fellow emerging leaders.
Looking ahead, we plan to build on lessons learned from the summits and develop activities and resources to support, connect, and inspire those in the VIA community pursuing a lifetime of meaningful impact as leaders and changemakers.