Fellowships Alumni Network Study: The Role of Networks in Creating Social Impact
The Fellowship Alumni Network Study is a collaborative research initiative that brought over 20 partner organizations together to understand how fellowship programs can support their alumni to drive positive social change. Facilitated by IREX and supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the consortium co-designed survey, interview, and focus group templates are designed to facilitate data collection around the following research questions:
- To what extent do alumni who are part of a fellowship network contribute to changes at different levels of society (e.g., individual, institutions, community, and systems)?
- How do networks support alumni to contribute to changes at different levels of society?
What did we find?
Broadly, this study identified the type of impact fellowship networks can have on alumni, and the common elements of a network that alumni value in improving their work. Learn more about the following findings in the report.
- Fellowship networks support changes at every level of society.
- Alumni care about three common experiences (I.e., building relationships, sharing knowledge and experiences, and accessing professional opportunities) from their fellowship network.
- Fellowship programs foster an improved awareness of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) issues.
- Personal friendships are an essential part of a sustainable network.
- Certain support strategies are widely desired across fellowship networks.
Cohort friends became life-long relationships. There were inroads into professional opportunities at the beginning, but the personal realm was much more impactful and sustainable. It evolved into an emotional support network.” Arturo Gonzalez, Atlas Corps Fellowship, 2015
What can we do?
This report aims to inform continued learning on how fellowship programs can support their alumni to drive positive social change. When considering the design and development of fellowship networks to foster meaningful engagement, donors and implementers should consider the following questions that align with these elements:
- How can we build or strengthen relationships between alumni and provide space to develop friendships?
- How can we elevate alumni experiences to support sharing and learning from one another?
- How can we improve alumni access to professional development opportunities?
Providing spaces, like the Impact Fellowships Summit, for fellowship programs to share successful practices and the impact of those practices is an essential next step to inform meaningful advancements across the sector.