“Countering dropout rates: Moving forward with the alumni program” Grant
Youth Fusion (YF) developed and implemented a robust program in Quebec and now in Ontario and New Brunswick to counter dropout rates and enhance training-employment adequacy. Youth Fusion hires university students or recent graduates as Project Coordinators to offer in-person experiential learning projects and career exploration mentoring to at-risk youth in elementary and high schools, in collaboration with teachers and mentors from the related industry (volunteers that come to school 3-4 times during the year to share expertise and experience and invite youth for a visit of their workplace).
This grant helped the organization to develop an online alumni platform known as Fusion Connexion. This platform allows for personalized and continuous support to participating youth and project coordinators after their first participation in the program, all through their educational continuum, in order for them to enter the workforce and keep on sharing their experience and expertise with others. It enabled them to bring their community together digitally for the first time. They have reduced physical boundaries by creating links between our former and current members nationally and internationally (Quebec, New Brunswick, Ontario and France).
Over the course of the grant:
- Various functionality added such: created a work space between the coordinator and the manager (private group with live feed, customize page/link, media center); created a Dropbox space in the platform for deadline and activity; integrated event feature with ticketing system (similar to Eventbrite); created a public register of our coordinators; added a live feed similar to social media; added a forum; added work and internship offer and application process (internal and from partners); added integration of the employee platform to enter their work hours and report.
- More than 2,000 members have joined the platform.
- All members of the community are now able to connect to the platform including: our partners, former participants and animators, mentors, coordinators (former and current), volunteers, employees, teachers, members of the school community, etc.
- Able to generate useful data to help measure our long-term impact on school completion, chosen post-secondary studies, job market entrance, etc. within the Youth Fusion community.
A few key insights from this work
The coordinators and mentors (volunteers) with the new alumni platform were more aware of the information, opportunity, common need/struggle and add access to help and ideas. They were not alone anymore and had access to a community.
We recommend involving the executive committee (heads of operations, evaluation, finances, HR) in designing big projects such as Fusion Connexion. Few people on our end had been involved in the reflective process surrounding our initial funding request and staff turnover meant a new team had to get an understanding of the project early on. We now use a project management methodology to design and implement similar projects. This has helped us better transferring knowledge and ensuring that all needs are met.
Aside from the executive committee, it is also important to involve employees in the development of an alumni platform so that they can see the benefits of actively using it and give feedback. A way of doing so would be organizing more training sessions in the early phases of the platform’s implementation and carrying out focus groups regularly to collect feedback and improve user experience.
About Youth Fusion
Youth Fusion is an award-winning Quebec-based charity that establishes innovative partnerships between disadvantaged schools and universities in an effort to counter dropout rates by creating and implementing projects that motivate high school youth and keeps them interested in school.