By Aimee Weiss

Institutions that take participants through transformational learning experiences, such as training programs or immersive experiences, command great potential to leverage relationships formed during the programs. At a time when the word “alumni” is often reduced to banal jargon, what really is its value, and what is the purpose of the deep relationships between institutions, individual participants, and visions that last? To achieve their visions, how should institutions weigh the alumni-institution relationship against the relationships that they aim to foster between participants and their broader mission in the world? Programs don’t own participants; participants should own the vision that programs seek to address. Infrastructure and activities can be constructed toward a collective higher purpose and better perpetuate the systemic changes they seek to transition.

Tachlitic change occurs well beyond the fixed boundaries of these programs. A training program may present as transactional – participate through graduation to receive knowledge and a certificate – but we hope that the program will have greater influences. These powerful experiences can inculcate people with broader, purpose-driven missions. According to David Brooks, New York Times opinion writer, “A thick institution becomes part of a person’s identity and engages the whole person: head, hands, heart, and soul.” Thick institutions that produce alumni wield platforms far greater than a simple alumni coordinator or fundraising mechanism could ever capture. How might institutions take better advantage of transformative learning experiences to arouse the greater power of their alumni to do good?

Cross-posted on eJewish Philanthropy.