Towards our shared future as AAI

       Hey AAIIEESEEEEEEEEEEEC!

–       WHAAAAT’s UUUUUUUUP?????

–       How are you feeling???

–       Excellent!

–       HOW ARE YOU REALLY FEELING???

–       …

Today we asked this question from AAIVP Program Innovation and Communication: how are you feeling regarding AIESEC Alumni as a global organisation especially now in the pandemic. She also sheds light on what is going on in our global network of AIESECers. 

Through this interview you can discover how AIESEC and AIESEC Alumni are getting more and more aligned, what hopes the entire ecosystem has, what is happening currently in AIESEC and even get some insights on how our possible future working together with common goals and projects as united organizations will look like.

If this is not making you shout “f-ing EXCELLENT”, then get in touch with us immediately on krisztina.kapuvari@aiesec-alumni.org to join the conversation and hopefully get more fired up.

 KRISZTI: Let’s start with talking about the elephant in the room: Covid. How do you see it impacted our organisation?

MARIEL: Obviously we needed to adapt as everyone else. It is challenging for us all: businesses, families and organisations as well. What we always do in AIESEC is to try to get the best out of every situation and stay solution oriented. Therefore we looked at this as an opportunity. For example, we know that after 72 years we have more than 1 million AIESEC alumni out there. Are we connected with them all? Not quite. Covid gave us the opportunity to question ourselves: does everything need to happen in person? Obviously, going to conferences, organising alumni meetings are a great source of memories for AIESECers, but covid showed us all that there are other ways of doing things. This does not mean these programs did not exist before…

KRISZTI: What changes did it ignite in the organisation so far?

MARIEL: A lot of people congratulate us for motivating and supporting  entities on  running Virtual alumni talks currently all over the regions, but this virtual program was around in our network already before. We launched the first Virtual Leadership Development Series actually over 2 years ago. Also you know alumni talks happened in many physical conferences over the years, but now they are all virtual, as it is more necessary than ever to connect. Something new we did in 2020 is to unite effort in all the regions, we create global guidelines and templates for communications and tutorials for broadcasting and support with promotion on every newsletter,  which make it easier for national entities to run the programs and reach a bigger audience. Also we are working on evolving to add more into this and designing together with regions continues learning initiatives that can go beyond Alumni talks.

KRISZTI:  You sound really hopeful Mariel, about our current situation. I just want to pick up on that. Currently AI is running the new conference digitally which is called The Leadership Congress, that is now a combination of what was IPM and XPRO’s (regional conferences). So there was this shift as well in AIESEC to be more accessible with our global conferences to team members, team leaders, local chapters and even alumni. I have to admit I am watching it every year since these conferences are broadcasted live, but now it is more interactive as it is happening virtually for everyone. I know for sure you are following it as well. And I just wanted to share that I observed that the entire AIESEC ecosystem is buzzing with hope currently. So just wanted to ask you what is happening right now between AI and AAI? 

MARIEL: The relationship between AIESEC International and Alumni International has been growing for many years, but the past 2 years have been especially remarkable on the way we communicate and work together. Sometimes, in the times of a crisis is when we turn more towards each other – of course. At least we usually assume when they need us they will contact us, but at the end this is not sustainable. We are now talking about connectivity on a daily basis in situations that we are both facing

KRISZTI: Can you give us an example?

MARIEL: I remember last year we were talking about IC when COVID started. That was a big decision challenge to take for AIESEC together with considering pausing some of  the exchange operations last summer.In March 2020- even before AIESEC announced updates regarding IC going digital.  In AAI we took the decision – to cancel/postpone the physical conference.  Planned for March 2020 in a matter of a week the same month we adapted, planned and delivered the virtual activation agenda with over 1500 delegates. We invited AI, Noelle Guirolla, Former Vice President Public Relations from AI delivered a great session and Alexandra – the PAI then – she shared a message and made a remark, that they were excited to see us adapting to virtual reality as they were also addressing the same points. Of course they have a full capacity like a full time team and so on therefore they can make it more amazing and way larger and that is what actually happened a few months later with the first Virtual IC in history (the biggest IC ever).

KRISZTI: On that note, how was the collaboration regarding the digital IC last year?

MARIEL: AAI held 4 sessions (by all AAI Regional Offices) and a panel during IC 2020, the first fully digital congress of AIESEC International. This was a milestone. The first IC virtual ever. A big deal… IC was available in all time zones accordingly. It resulted in 12,000 delegates. So you can see the difference. I personally have been in about 4 ICs in my life with AIESEC which usually had around 6-800 delegates. That was already inspiring but this gave us the opportunity to reach more AIESECers and even more alumni. Right now The Leadership Congress TLC – you just mentioned earlier – is also a big opportunity to reach local committees and all levels of operation in AIESEC and alumni as well not just MCs. So in conclusion, this is all driving results with less resources used and achieving even more. We again have the opportunity to ask ourselves what is the purpose of doing the things as we used to? Of course we love to meet in person but virtual opportunities are also here to stay and we just need to embrace it. 

KRISZTI: How does AAI plan to embrace it this year?

MARIEL: An example is the AAI and Regional conference which was last year postponed will happen this November 2021 and it is going to be called The AIESEC Alumni Leadership Summit. New name proposed by the regional team of AAIB before TLC was announced. So you can see we are very naturally aligned with AI. It is going to be virtual as well. Although if the situation allows we will give the opportunity to delegates to meet also in person in Rivera Maya Mexico as planned last year. It will be a hybrid. It is basically addressing the challenge what current reality has.

KRISZTI: That sounds amazing. I really love the way you used the word aligned because that is actually relating to my next question. You mentioned 1 million alumni, we heard it a lot, almost all alumni know this… And you mentioned with virtual conferences now we can even activate 12,000 AIESECers at once across all time zones. That is awesome. But what else can we do? What is the alignment between AI and AAI in terms of programs?

MARIEL: We talked a lot about conferences but these are just a tool that we have always used in the last 7 decades to connect, to make strategies, meet in person to address challenges, to downscale information etc. But when we talk about programs and our day to day operation it is really important to achieve our goal. The goal is very clear: we are here for peace and we are here for fulfilling humankind’s potential to achieve peace in the world. If you ever saw the AIESEC Way, you know the journey of an AIESECer. There is a system of programs delivered by the organization. It goes from engaging with AIESEC (EWA), to experiential Experiential Leadership Development (ELD) programs of AIESEC and then there is the last phase: – Life-Long Connection (LLC).  The programs and initiatives of this phase are defined by the Alumni Association. This journey has been there, defined in these 3 phases for a decade or more…

1 the AIESEC Experience

 KRISZTI: Tell us more about how AAI is working currently with AIESEC on programs and why is it important to us all?

MARIEL: The communication and the work between 2 different VP Program Innovations of AI has been about that connect phase. How are we going to make sure that connect is more a structure and AIESECers know about it. How do we ensure that all current generations of AIESECers joining the organization will know about it? Even during their first induction seminar they know that there is a life-long connection phase, that Alumni Associations exist and that we have opportunities for them to keep developing themselves after AIESEC. It is essential that we create those change makers, those peace builders we promised. Yes, that is actually the promise of AIESEC.

KRISZTI: That was powerful and totally makes sense Mariel. Alumni are the leaders AIESEC creates eventually. Can you elaborate on that please?

MARIEL: More than ever now AIESEC believes that Alumni is that promise. We, those 1 million Alumni, are the result of AIESEC’s development model. You know we are those leaders AIESEC promised to the world. Something I loved from the session on AIESEC’s Essence by current PAI Eva, is that we are not responsible for making one person from point A to go to point B to become leader. We cannot promise that every person who has been on exchange or in membership experience will develop leadership. What we can promise is that we, AIESEC as an organisation, are going to deliver the environment, the challenging environment, and the opportunities to live an experience which can develop the right leadership. We have models for that. 

KRISZTI: What does this mean for the alumni community?  

MARIEL: Yes, we have 1 million alumni who have passed through AIESEC experience. Do we know if that 1 million alumni developed leadership skills? No we do not know. So what we are trying to do right now, to reach those who actually developed these leadership skills or who still want to develop leadership skills and contribute to a better world. Some alumni might not be interested in that. But we are. That is our purpose. We are here to support the world, support the alumni community and support AIESEC.

KRISZTI: Yet again I am really fired up by hearing all this. I also followed Eva in that Essence talk, and there was something that rang a bell with me as well. So we know that leadership is what AIESEC believes is the fundamental solution for world issues.

We say it for like 6 years or even more. But what she highlighted was that “developing ourselves is the way to change the world.” I believe we as an alumni organisation are supposed to pick this up as well and provide opportunities and programs. We have 3 categories for alumni programs today – alumni to alumni, alumni to AIESEC, alumni to the world – as you just mentioned it. Right now, I know we are going through some innovation, refreshment, and reviewing what we are doing as an alumni association. Can you just highlight your hopes, what you wish to see at the end of this “reinvention” process?

MARIEL: What I can tell you is that this year we are launching the Life Long Connection portfolio. That is the end goal, the deliverable for 2021. Now, how are we getting there? We have many national alumni associations and the 4 regions are already working on it by piloting new initiatives. Almost every month we launch a new program globally in our associations: employability, entrepreneurship etc. We can see all these happening. What we are trying to do together as the global team – which includes the regions – is to consolidate all these good case practices and bring some innovation to improve them, or even new programs can be created. So in the end we would like to have a signature life-long connection portfolio of programs, with guidelines. 

KRISZTI: How is it going to look?

MARIEL: The idea is to have a framework that is flexible so it can be adapted to each realities of the local levels. Everything is happening right now you know in the virtual realities. Of course we can interact in different events, but the idea is that specific projects would happen locally. And for that globally, we have to come to a collective agreement what does Life-Long Connection Portfolio mean, and what it means to us AIESECers. That will be promoted by AIESECers from the induction phase and become well known in our network. This is indeed really exciting for us, alumni.

KRISZTI: Do you have some examples of potential projects which are already run by alumni in one or more parts of the world?

MARIEL: We talk about projects which support employability, entrepreneurship, social impact, networking, business, economic growth… Programs that actually deliver impact as our contribution towards the world as well develop us, AIESEC leaders.

KRISZTI: How are you working on it right now? What is happening in the network regarding this?

MARIEL: I am very excited to work with a lot of people right now on this. There is a consolidation team globally, with the regions, national alumni associations, also with AI of course. It is a joint effort. So you know there are a lot of smart, committed, purposeful people working on it right now together and that makes us really excited to see what will be the outcome and to work together to consolidate.

KRISZTI: Absolutely fantastic and I just can’t wait to see what is going to be the way for the Life-Long Connection phase of the AIESEC journey. Especially for someone who is transitioning from AIESEC to alumni with all the energy, leadership skills. How the network will be aligned, and how the obstacles will be removed in this road. You know it is not always easy to transition from AIESEC to alumni or even just transition from AIESEC to work. That is also a challenge to come from this AIESEC ecosystem with all the innovation, energy, social impact, possibility of change, freedom and go into work where things are usually quite settled. I am really excited to hear from you today, and learn about our future as AIESEC and Alumni. Really looking forward to turning things around, to make it easier for our future members. I can confidently say that we will engage that 1 million alumni. We will unite. I am in a lot of events, interacting with lot of alumni and regions right now and I can confirm as well that there is a buzz, there is a definite positive outcome of covid, but not only that it is a lot of factors in the environment which made us come to this point, and it is just the right timing… 

 

MARIEL: A lot of things are going on and even before the pandemic we came together as a global association with all regions and local alumni to vote for the integrated membership for AIESEC Alumni International. That is a remarkable milestone as well. That was a commitment as a united global network. Put it in your calendar, the time is ticking, the first version of Life-Long Connection (LLC) program portfolio will be launched IC 2021. Of course we will have iteration after iteration… but save the date. Also the Alumni Leadership Summit… So much more things are coming, and please look out for updates. You will get to know more information and hopefully be part of these opportunities. I hope you will also get excited… A lot is happening. We will also engage the network with different surveys, because we want you to participate and get the opinion of everyone incorporated into the portfolio.

KRISZTI: So let’s just close with going back again to Eva, current PIA’s sentence I highlighted earlier because in the end all comes down to this “developing ourselves is the only way to change the world.” Us as well, alumni, should have programs to further develop ourselves in order to make a real difference in the world. I believe that AIESEC Alumni should have opportunities to be sitting in positions, being in situations where we can really influence the decisions about the future of humankind. So let’s just do that. Let us help each other to get there. Thank you Mariel for this interview and having us fired up.

MARIEL: Thank you Kriszti and for all our alumni change makers around the world.

Authored & Published by Krisztina Kapuvari | Illustrated by Oğuz Yılmazlar |Edited by Gergely Lázár |Part of the WAYSWF team

About The blog team: What Are You Still Waiting For Team writes about Sustainable Development Goals. A group of passionate alumni working voluntarily created this work and many other articles.  You can read and support them via http://bit.ly/WAYSWFLinks

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