2017 was an exceptional year for the EIT Digital Alumni Foundation. We have continued the development of some key-activities and launched new important projects, we have significantly strengthened the connections with the whole ecosystem, and our Community has grown massively in size and engagement. The amount of work, energy and resources to fully “scale up” this community is increasing day by day, but our results and achievements are being noticed within (and outside) the EIT ecosystem, and more and more Alumni are contacting us to “give back”. Below, we will present a summary of the major happenings and accomplishments of the last 365 days.
The mission of our Foundation is to keep strong connections among fellow alumni and the EIT Digital ecosystem. Despite being still in its early stages of development, in the past year our community has experienced an impressive growth, both in terms of the numbers of members registered at alumni.eitdigital.eu and of initiatives which have been launched.
In fact, not only the size of our community increased by over 200%, with the number of Alumni doubling, but we also welcomed the first former employees, Associate Members and Friends.
The major meet-up of our community in 2017 was the first Annual Meeting, which took place in Brussels on 20 March. The 85 participants had a chance to listen to a keynote speech by USTWO’s co-founder Mills (full video here), visit the European Parliament, get to know what their colleagues are working on and network with them. Several members decided to stay one extra day and attend the EIT Digital Conference, listening to high-profile talks and seeing cool innovation results.
Our next achievement was the complete redesign of our website and intranet, in order to offer a better, usable and centralised online engagement platform to our Community, and to keep track more easily of the careers and whereabouts of our members. Thus, after the initial development and maintenance by our Alumnus Dimitris, we organised an internal hackathon focused on bug fixing and open-sourcing: our website can now be “forked” by anyone who wants to contribute (Gitlab repo here).
Few days later it was already Elections time: Francesco decided to remain and run for President, together with Bobo as Events Officer and Tiziano as Marketing & Communications Officer. Later, Alessandro applied as Treasurer and Sandip as Secretary. Two more candidates (Giancarlo as candidate President and Anand as Treasurer) helped make the voting period more exciting, and showed increased engagement and interest in these roles from the community members.
One month later, representatives from both the old and new Board met at the Eindhoven CLC for a weekend transition workshop, during which the state of affairs of the Alumni community was established. The new Board officially took over the leadership of the Foundation on July 4, after presenting the Financial & Work Plan for 2018 to the CEO of EIT Digital.
The main priority over the Summer was to finalise the “Event guidelines”, which now allow our members to organize events in the name of the Foundation, and get them funded via the Board.
We then expanded our Slack Team and officialized the role of our “Local Representatives”, which helped us present the Community at each Summer School, and on several other occasions.
We organised with them over 20 events in more than 10 countries, with 500+ participants. In addition, we launched a mentorship programme (which is led by our Alumnus Shikhar) and a blog, which we expect to scale in 2018.
Over the course of the year, we highly reinforced the connections with the KIC and intensified the communication and collaboration with the different teams at EIT Digital. Our Alumni helped the Master School office during the recruitment campaign, joining the Q&A of the web2Present webinars and representing the Master School at University fairs in Bologna, Athens, Naples, Barcelona and Milan. Many of our members acted as “mentors” at the Kick-Off in Helsinki, while others joined the I&E workshops giving valuable feedback according to their experiences.
We also started enlarging our network of connections and partnerships with tech businesses: Forrester offered a 70% discount to our members for their security & privacy conference in London, and many other companies contacted us to post their job opportunities on our website, which led to 50 openings listed on our Job Portal. We invite our members to exploit the vast potential of this community, also by establishing effective and mutually-beneficial relationships between their companies and our association.
In line with the Foundation’s goals, we played a crucial role in the further development of the broader cross-KIC EIT Alumni community: we helped organise the Board of Boards meeting and the EIT Alumni Connect, shared guidelines and best practices for social media, invited external members to join our events, led the rebranding of the Startup Days and continued supporting the “Women@EIT” initiative, which was also upgraded to a broader EIT Alumni level. Moreover, we participated in the AlumniUnite by EIT InnoEnergy and in the Climate-KIC Alumni Reconnect.
An extremely active presence at the Master School Kick-Off helped us raise awareness about the Foundation and engage early with our potential target segment: in fact, a massive number of students pre-registered on our website. On the other hand, unfortunately, the conversion rate at the Graduation Ceremony in Madrid was not as high as last year, mostly due to the limited free time available and the logistics of the event. Nevertheless, the Alumni meet-up our Local Representatives organised on the next day, was truly appreciated by all the attendees.
Finally, we organised an internal startup contest, which helped us scout the entrepreneurial ventures inside our community, and let App’ero represent us at Slush 2017. In addition, the social media campaign linked to this contest over-performed: over the year, thanks to this and similar campaigns, we increased by +70% our social media followers and likes.
Finally, for the first time in 3 years, we utilised all the allocated budget which was approved by the Governing Board for 2017. At the same time, however, we managed to keep our overhead expenses as low as possible, and invested an incredible amount of effort to smooth the complex financing mechanisms of the Foundation, by digitalising both our bank payments and cost reporting procedures.
To conclude, we consider the Alumni community a vital component of the EIT Digital ecosystem, in terms of external promotion and brand awareness, connections with companies, life-long career development of its members, and KPI reporting. For these reasons, we hope it gets more and more integrated with all the branches of the organisation, and kindly wish for greater consideration and interest by all the employees and partners.
Our immediate next efforts are now directed towards the Annual Meeting 2018, taking place from April 28 to May 1 in the beautiful mountains of Trentino, Italy, for a long weekend full of relax, workshops, learning, talks, saunas, presentations and outdoor activities with our beloved community!