The power of alumni
For many schools, the continued support and engagement of former learners contributes to the on-going success of the institution. This support is given because alumni feel a pride and love for their former school and a deep sense of gratitude for how the school has shaped them.
The support comes in various forms - from showing up at school events, offering their services and skills, sending their own children to their former school, and importantly, giving the school money. Each of these contributions holds some weight and each can take the school forward and hold the school back.
For many schools, how the alumni feel about transformation is an important factor in determining how a school transforms. Bringing the alumni on board is a crucial step. But, as Markus, a former learner of a private school explains in the clip below, the alumni is not one unified group of women and men. For those that actively participate as Old Girls and Boys, like Markus, they love their school. But they do not all necessarily hold a common vision of where the school will or should be in the future.
A challenge, therefore, in leading a school trough change today, lies in the ability of the leadership to bring the alumni in and along on the journey. Some of the alumni might be there with you already. And some, perhaps out of a need to preserve that memory of the school they attended, find it difficult to see where the school needs to be heading.
Transforming a school into an institution that thrives because of its diversity (in learners and staff) needs the support of the alumni. This doesn't mean that the alumni should ever be allowed to hold back the transformation. It means that time needs to be spent with those resisting change to understand their fears, hear them, and let them hear from you and those that want a school where all feel they belong - that want all girls and boys to have that same feeling of love and pride that they felt and do feel.
This takes work and might involve some sacrifices. If after genuinely listening to the fears and selling your vision, you still find alumni who aren't on board, it might mean that it's time to turn the attention to those that are. It might mean that some of the contributions could be withdrawn from those that just do not support where the school is heading. But new contributions can be found from those alumni that are with you and do love their old school. In our work across the country we have met these alumni, young and old, who do support the transformation of schools that is being called for and want to wholeheartedly contribute to their school's journey. Leaders for change need to sit down with them.