As you commence alumni recruitment activities, it will be critical to discuss its relation to the on-campus campaign. Once alumni join the campaign, it may become evident that their visions, approaches, and goals for the campaign differ from the visions, strategies, and ideas of the on-campus campaign. This can be a good thing, especially when student campaigns work in parallel with alumni campaigns. Think through the boundaries of your campaign early on and create procedures that correspond to those boundaries before alumni recruitment begins in earnest. Questions to consider include:
In addition to a strategic document, the alumni organizing committee could also create a ‘Memo of Understanding’ that reflects the answers to this document and defines the relationship between the alumni and the on-campus campaigns, communications methods, and procedures.
There are multiple ways in which alumni can participate in your campaign activities. The ways in which alumni are integrated into your campaign should be defined and agreed upon at collective meetings.
One option is to fully integrate student and alumni efforts, have alumni participation on all campaign meetings and calls, and invite alumni to communicate on the team’s listserv. This method maximizes student and alumni contact, but could require increased coordination.
A second option is to equip alumni with the autonomy to self-organize an alumni group that then coordinates periodically with the on-campus student group.
A third option is for one student to be responsible for alumni engagement, which may be ideal in initial recruitment phases while team leadership is developed, or if no alumni can or are willing to take on an organizing role.
Regardless of how your group chooses to integrate alumni, the structure of alumni participation should be clarified early on, and tailored as needed. There should be clear means of communication between alumni and students. It is also important to make sure that alumni feel ‘buy-in’ and that they are being included in a meaningful, genuine manner.
One option you have to integrate alumni into the campaign is to have them take leadership roles in recruiting each other. Alumni can be particularly effective in organizing other alumni because alumni will be engaging their peers, friends, and similarly aged alum, possibly from their class. It is therefore important to have diverse alumni representation in your ‘core’ alumni organizing group in order to appeal to alumni from various generations and classes.
There are many reasons a divestment campaign might consider creating an alumni-led, self-sustaining alumni organizing team. A self-organizing alumni team can help free student’s time to work on-campus, provide additional items to consider for the student campaign, and can accomplish different but complementary goals. An alumni-led team could and should collaborate and communicate with the on-campus group, coordinating on strategy and big themes.
Critically important to consider in creating an alumni-led campaign is that campaign goals must be clearly articulated and agreed on by all. For instance, there may be a tendency for some alumni to tend towards a more iterative approach, shying away from hard asks. If the campaigns are not aligned, this could create obstacles to achieving goals.
Another benefit of letting alumni act more autonomously is that you can deploy an ‘inside-outside’ strategy. Inside-outside refers to two groups working in parallel with common goals and targets. One group runs a high-profile, possibly aggressive, or adversarial pressure campaign on a target from the ‘outside’, possibly using shame or negative media attention to motivate change. Resenting this, the target is driven to work with another group from ‘inside’ that the target finds more palatable, approachable, or ‘friendly’, but who can present the goal of both groups in a more approachable and face-saving manner. The inside-outside strategy works best when the outside group deploys large scale, disruptive actions that are difficult for the target to cope with or manage, or that present reputational risk, incentivizing work with the more ‘reasonable’ inside group. This strategy can be utilized effectively to break gridlock, like that found at universities where divestment campaigns have become adversarial and/or schools that have received a ‘no’.
Inside-outside strategy can be deployed at any point throughout the campaign, including from the beginning. The inside-outside strategy works best when there is little or no public association between the groups, but the strategy works because the groups are coordinating behind the scenes, staying aligned on underlying goals and messaging.
Where a campaign has received a ‘no’, an alumni group can renew the push for divestment from a different direction than the on-campus campaign. If you are able to recruit adult, older, financially savvy, and VIP alumni, administrators may feel less able to dismiss and condescend the concerns of their peers and contemporaries as they might students. Thus, if the inside and outside campaigns agree on the outcome the divestment campaign is seeking, on-campus campaigns should consider having alumni strategically negotiate with the university rather, or in addition to, the on-campus group doing so. Alumni in positions of power may also be able to successfully solicit personal meetings with higher-level administrators; personal lobbying of administrators advocating divestment is an ask to consider for VIP alum.
The Wiser Together initiative is an exploration of how different generations can work together to learn and benefit from each other. The organization defines eight principles of intergeneration collaboration, which brings some context to approaching alumni organizing.
How can we shift traditional mindsets and assumptions in ways that deal compassionately with hierarchies and stereotypes, which can keep us stuck in unproductive relationships between generations?
How can we embody the Wiser Together approach to the work we are already doing in order to test and share the evolving Wiser Together guiding principles, approaches, and core questions, as well as our ongoing learnings?
How can we design environments and collaborative processes which assure that every voice and perspective has the equal opportunity to contribute their gifts?
How can we introduce authentic dialogue, the arts, ritual, and celebration as well as other modes of creative expression to access collective intelligence and cultivate wise action?
How can we create opportunities to build strong personal relationships of mutual trust and respect with others across the life cycle in all Wiser Together projects?
How can we individually and collectively incorporate time for reflection and mutual learning as well as the documentation and sharing of stories, tools, and frameworks across our networks?
How can intergenerational partnerships create opportunities to learn the truth about history and to allow meaningful relationships to be at the root of designing the future we imagine?