The transformative capacity of transnational and transdisciplinary networks and the potential of alumni work

The transformative capacity of transnational and transdisciplinary networks and the potential of alumni work

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Vogel, Johanna
Discussion Paper 24/2021

Bonn: German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE)

ISBN: 978-3-96021-168-6
Preis: 6 €

The Corona pandemic has shown us more than any other recent event that when it comes to a global crisis, we are all in the same boat. In a complex world, we need cooperation to meet global challenges. Networks can provide a structure that enables cooperation and offers promises of being flexible and adaptable. This paper will focus on transnational and transdisciplinary knowledge networks formed by alumni – people who have experienced collective training at the start of their network journeys. Through this shared experience, I see a special potential for these types of networks to engage in collaborative work and create a wider impact in society. The overall question of this paper is: How can knowledge networks fully develop their transformative potential through strategic alumni management? This question is of interest to network facilitators, especially of alumni networks.
In order to address the challenge, the paper first presents findings from the alumni management literature focusing on the definition of alumni management, its relevance and the life stages of ideal alumni. This is complemented by insights from the social movement area that highlight the development paths of networks as well as the success factors for social impact networks. Empirical examples from existing alumni networks elaborate the success factors within their work. From these three areas, five recommendations are deduced. In order to foster transformation and create social impact beyond their networks, alumni networks should:
(1) align their activities to the life stages of their alumni,
(2) establish and nurture trustful relations among their network members – encompassing all elements of trust (benevolence and confidence, reliability and predictability, competence, honesty, openness as well as familiarity and intimacy),
(3) initiate and continually work on a collaborative we-identity process,
(4) provide supporting structures that allow for making easy connections as well as
(5) enable self-organisation.
When these five recommendations are taken into consideration, knowledge networks have a great potential to support societal change.

Über die Autorin

Vogel, Johanna



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