Friday, 18 November 2011

JISC Service Design event with We Are Snook


The project team (Laura, James and Pete) have made it back to Glasgow after encountering the most crowded train ever. I think I could write an entire blog post about the journey, but I'll concentrate on talking about the Service Design event instead.

Firstly, thanks to JISC and Aston University for organising and hosting the event. We had been keen to meet with Snook to discuss our project, so when the opportunity arose to attend we were most keen.

I took two things away from the event that I believe will be most useful for our project.

1. I'm looking forward to using the 'personas' tool when planning and testing our programme content. The event placed an even greater importance on understanding that whilst we think (and our research is indicating) that we have engaged alumni and students, we should not lose sight that not all will fit into this category. It's never going to be possible for us to speak with every different type of person who may or may not be involved in our project, so using personas can help us at least try to deliver a programme that can be all-inclusive.

2. The 'stakeholder map' will be a useful tool further into our project, so that we can take stock of how we started, what we've achieved and where we envisage we might develop. So I must remember to actually draw one out right now.

Additionally, the event was also a good opportunity to catch up with Leo and Loretta from our Cluster group and hear of the progress of their projects.

Thanks for reading!

Oh and if anyone wants to comment (and be the first from outside our Project Team to do so!), then please do!

University 'consumer culture' warning

Thanks to our Critical Friend, Peter Kawalek for sending on this article.

Maybe the most important statement is, "We need to talk about the student experience less in terms of transactions and more in terms of relationships..."

As an aside, the article touches on a criticism of focusing too much on undergraduates and ignoring postgraduates. This is something that the University of Glasgow is proactively working on through its external facing departments, setting itself an ambitious target of doubling it PGT numbers.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Visual Understanding Environment

This is maybe a tool that is used widely (or not) but has proved invaluable for myself and our project team.

Visual Understanding Environment

It's a free resource and very easy to use. Looking back at some of the original maps that we used for project planning, they are absolutely huge, difficult to read and not as focused as they could be.

The tool has enabled us to focus on the elements of our programme that are important to its success eg. resources/tasks.


Monday, 31 October 2011

Project update

It's quite worrying when you take a look at your own blog and realise that it's been so long since you posted anything to it however, it does mean that the team has been busy and focused.

After meeting with our Cluster group members in London at the start of September, the project team have been kicking on with defining the key aspects of our programme. Whether this be process flows, definitions of roles or the actual structure of the programme, it has really made us very aware of the level of detail and planning that is involved in a project like this.

There have been a number of factors that have assisted us in getting to this point.

Firstly, attending the CASE Europe 2011 conference in Manchester showed that volunteering within the HE sector is a 'hot topic'. It also showed that whilst a lot of HEI's are very keen to start or develop their programmes, no two are exactly that same. However, having said that, most if not all have the key aim of furthering and developing engagement with alumni.

Secondly, we should also acknowledge the help and advice of other institutions around the country. We're very lucky within HE that people are happy to share information, both good and bad practice. Come the completion of our project, the input from Development & Alumni, Careers and Recruitment offices around the country will not be underestimated.

Thirdly and finally, our Cluster group. It was really interesting to meet and see what the other projects were doing (and how far along they were). It allowed us to reflect a little and take a look at the amount of planning and research that we were doing and how appropriate it has been. Meeting also allowed us to share common problems and discuss potential solutions but it also raised a couple of questions for us. One response to the content of our programme was so strong from the rest of the group, that it showed that no matter how much you try and plan to offer something to everyone, you'll still potentially miss something.

We're also pleased to say that we will be informally launching one aspect of our programme in India this month, with a small group of our international alumni in attendance. We hope to update you with a little more information in one of our next posts.

Finally project members James Coleman, Laura Henaghan and Pete Speak will all be attending the Service Design event in Birmingham this month. We're very much looking forward to this and hope to see some familiar faces there.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Update of many, many things.

Forgive me father for it has been over one month since my last blog post.

The last month has seen a raft of progress for the SAVE programme at Glasgow which includes...

Meeting with an international company to discuss a mentor programme.
Meeting with Blackbaud to discuss potential solutions within NetCommunity.
Laura & Pete delivered a presentation on internal and external findings relating to potential programme content.
Being allocated a Critical Friend by JISC!
Being very, very close to contacting our students and alumni for their opinions about how the University engages with them and what we can offer them in the future.

So quite a lot to get through then! For the benefit of the hoards reading this blog, "I" or "me" means "Pete".

Meeting with an international company to discuss a mentor programme.

The Careers service has over the past year developed a close working relationship with a contact at a large international company, who along with the Careers service has been keen to engage with Glasgow University alumni employed at the company to become careers mentors. The meeting that we had was incredibly positive as we are now close to being in a position to try and take all the discussions that have taken place forward.
What came out of the meeting that appealed to me, with my rather analytical and systematic working brain, was that we have to satisfy and meet the needs of numerous people here; students, alumni, staff within the company and the Careers department at Glasgow University. We also have tp do this in a way that is interactive and easy to use as well as construct it in a manner that fits in with GU World (online portal for alumni) and NetCommunity (software for GU World)! So plenty of challenges ahead but this links me nicely to....

Meeting with Blackbaud to discuss potential solutions within NetCommunity.

This is the sort of meeting that I enjoy. Where someone tells me about all of the excellent features that are already available that aren't utilised and all the exciting updates that are coming!!! We met with Graham from Blackbaud and he helped us in two ways..

1. He confirmed in many ways that the ideas, methods of recording information and potential online structure of our programme that we have been discussing and developing aren't that far away from being realised and are workable.

2. He was able to offer alternative solutions in areas where we anticipated that we might find challenges in operating.

So all is looking rosy on this front.

Laura & Pete delivered a presentation on internal and external findings relating to potential programme content.

The fruition of over 3 months of work from Laura and over a month of work from Pete culminated in a presentation to the project group last week.

Laura was able to present on her findings from Alumni Volunteer Programme's at other HEI's in the UK and internationally as well as put forward initial recommendations on programme content. Additionally, there was a whole raft of other information discussed after the presentation on the key findings that have really been of excellent use in defining what we are hoping to do, as well as stimulating discussion on what our priorities should be.

I presented on the statistical findings of an internal audit of information held within the University, that has been collated over the years. Some of this was online activity and engagement with other information being recorded from existing relationships with alumni across Development & Alumni, International Recruitment and the Careers Service. One of the main points that came out of this audit was that we already have quite a number of alumni who want to engage with us, but we may have not followed up that interest in the past. These people will most definitely be contacted by us in the near future.

Being allocated a Critical Friend by JISC!

A warm welcome to Professor Peter Kawalek of Manchester Business School who is the Critical Friend for our cluster group.

We look forward to meeting him for the first time at our cluster group meeting which we are hoping to schedule on the 13th September in London. I'm awaiting a response from JISC who have very helpfully offered us use of some of their central London space, as the members of our cluster group have quite a geographical spread.

Being very, very close to contacting our students and alumni for their opinions about how the University engages with them and what we can offer them in the future.

Something that I have been working on is pulling together a questionnaire for both alumni and students that can assist us in setting up our programme.

Our main challenge in contacting them is that they're all away having a lovely time in the sunshine, whilst we're stuck indoors slaving over a programme just for them! Therefore we have had to hold off on sending out questionnaire so that we can get the best possible response from them (Amazon vouchers may also facilitate a greater response).

Our audit also output a large number of alumni (800+) that we can contact with the alumni version of the questionnaire.

There were two things that I kept in mind when compiling the questions.

1. Make sure they're not loaded questions.
2. Make sure the answers are comparable and easily output.

Here's hoping we get lots and lots and lots and lots of reponses.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, 11 July 2011

Great On-line Networks

If our Alumni Volunteering Programme could produce a community like this (on a much smaller scale) I'd be a very happy project officer. Some great examples of engaging with an on-line community through blogs and interesting discussions.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Database Officer: The New Start

For all the regular readers, you may have noticed a new name on the right hand side of this page (if you logged on in the last five minutes) and that is Pete Speak - Database Officer.

Today marks my first day in post, working alongside the awesome and supremely talented Laura Henaghan. Over the past few weeks, I have met Laura on a number of occasions to discuss the SAVE project and have been impressed by her enthusiasm. Now that I'm in post, I'm looking forward to digesting the large amount of information that Laura has passed on and being able to output some of the information that she's looking for from our database, the Raiser's Edge.
So starting today, that means an internal audit of all the volunteer information that we already hold! Here's to identifying all the volunteers that have given their time and expertise to the University of Glasgow over the years!


Wednesday, 22 June 2011

2nd & 3rd Stage Research Underway

Just a quick update for the moment.

With a flurry of activity the GlasgowSAVE project is very much gaining momentum. Upon returning from a successful visit to various Russell Group universities in England, we delivered against our first research objective, a review of alumni volunteering activity across the sector. The project team discussed the report produced from the research trip at our 2nd project meeting last Monday and agreed on some initial recommendations for the focus of our resources:

International Alumni Ambassadors programme
Building on existing alumni associations
Producing a searchable online framework of alumni profiles to aid international recruitment
case studies/ profiles
Identify Alumni Leaders to organise networks of alumni fully for recruitment, events and increasing the awareness of UOG overseas

Careers Network
A mentoring pilot to inform procedure & identify alumni to utilize in wider mentoring scheme post pilot
Alumni work placements
Guest speakers on employability or/and industry specific lectures for Schools
Alumni Profiles

Events & Benefits to Alumni & Students
A student - alumni networking society
A networking dinner event as a benefit to alumni and students
Consider an alumni jobs board

We are investigating how deliverable these recommedations will be and the outcome will also be shaped further by our second and third stage of research:

- A comprehensive internal audit of existing alumni activity at the University of Glasgow
- Gaining alumni and student perspective

Both stages of research are now running together as we are keen to progress the project. To this end, this afternoon I have the opportunity to attend a student workshop and networking session organised by the universities Career Service: The Mock Interview Workshop with Employers

The workshop will host 9 companies offering 27 students the invaluable opportunity to gain some first hand interview practice with employers, give them an insight into the recruitment process and help students develop their self promotion skills.

The project team have pulled together a short questionnaire, hoping to identify how students feel alumni could contribute to enhancing their career development, which I will be handing out to the group this afternoon. I am interested to hear our students opinions about the potential Alumni Volunteering Programme for the first time and I have been invited to attend the post workshop networking session where I intend to pick the brains of the students and perhaps even identify some Glasgow Uni Alumni amongst the employers.

Updates will follow.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Research Update

Just back from the picturesque St Andrews where i visited the University Careers Centre to meet with Paul Brown and Pam Andrew who very kindly agreed to talk through their online Careers Centre and Alumni Careers Network.

St Andrews are currently gathering up to date information about where their Alumni are now and their experience to date in their chosen fields. The existing Alumni Careers Network has been operational for over 7 years and as a result some of the information held on Alumni is in need of a little updating. In a bid to improve the service they hope to refresh their current data with some new volunteers and re engage with some lost volunteers. Careers hope to achieve this through some very simple yet effective solutions to bring everything up to date using Net Community on Raisers Edge.

It was very useful to see how they will build on the existing Alumni Careers Network, a searchable database, with a view to offering a more structured database which will ultimately produce better results for current students, who wish to contact alumni to ask about the experience in their fields.

I also had the opportunity to find out all about their intentions to expand the programme to perhaps include a Mentoring network on Linked In and some very interesting and original events they have in mind for the next year which focus on increasing student employability

Many thanks to St Andrews for sharing their plans with me. More information on the current carreers activity at the University of St Andrews Careers Centre can be found at:

Thursday, 26 May 2011

A Possible Idea For International Alumni Profiles

My research is coming across some interesting examples of how universities across the world are highlighting their internationalization and proudly displaying their graduate stories and profiles. I particularly liked this example from the University of Auckland , an interactive world map search-able by country, with lots of examples of their alumni working all over the globe.

The website has a real focus on student recruitment. Perhaps this could be a nice framework for the international requirements of Glasgow's project.

Pictures are from the University of Auckland website and more information can be found at

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Alumni Perspective

Last Friday I was lucky enough to have a meeting with an Alumnus who is very actively involved with Glasgow University as well as many other universities across the UK. It was a very positive meeting as this Alumnus has a real affinity for Glasgow.

Despite his busy schedule on a flying visit to the city he very kindly let me ask him all sorts of questions on his opinions of alumni volunteering for an hour! This oppertunity gave me some real insights into some of the expectations our alumni would have for the volunteering programme.

The Alumnus was thrilled that Glasgow are doing something to engage with their alumni in this way and is looking forward to seeing the end result, perhaps he may even get involved, if he likes what he sees!

The answers from this meeting have really helped to shape my research. As well as conducting a broad overview of all volunteering activity across the sector, I am now able to focus on specific elements of programmes which Glasgow Alumni may find appealing. Hopefully I can identify and meet a lot more "Key Alumni" in this manor to help shape our programme further.

Firstly however, I am off on some travels all around the country. At the beginning of June I am meeting with various universities in Central and East Scotland and 5 fellow Russell Group universities in England. All have generously agreed to spend some time with me discussing, in depth, their experiences (good and bad) of delivering their volunteering programmes.

These universities were selected for their international volunteering activities, careers networks and in some cases for their innovative overall programmes, so I'm very excited to see what works , what doesn't and what may be possible at Glasgow.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Fact Finding Mission(s)

Over the past couple of weeks I have attended some highly informative presentations and discussions at the University of Glasgow and been alerted to some innovative ideas for the potential alumni volunteering programme of the (not too distant) future. It has given me an insight into how alumni may be able to contribute to schools and services through volunteering.

One such interesting discussion was led by Akma Adam with Arts staff on graduate attributes & "The value of an Arts Education." Here, amongst other topics we discussed the topic of the employability of Arts and Humanities graduates and if this was a consideration in recruitment. Could arts alumni get involved to advise Arts and Humanities students as to just how transferable their skills gained at university truly are? I say this from a completely non biased arts educated point of view of course!

Another equally interesting presentation was given by Eileen Scott of Student Enterprise at the University of Glasgow
@studententerpr . Eileen very passionately spoke about the wealth of talent coming from Glasgow University and their creative and sometimes off the wall business start up ideas. It really got me thinking about how our entrepreneurial alumni may be able to get involved in some mutually rewarding and fun experiences with our students.

As a recently employed project officer at Glasgow the range of diverse and inspiring opportunities for students which exist within the university are becoming clear to me. It would be fantastic if a future alumni volunteering programme could, perhaps, contribute to some of these great services at some point in the future.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Micro - Volunteering : Another Interesting Idea

I have had quite a few meetings with the Graduate Attributes team at Glasgow University, a lovely pair, with lots of great university contacts and even greater ideas.

Jamie Wightwick ,Graduate Attributes Project Officer, pointed me in the direction of Micro Volunteering and in particular a website called 'Sparked' as a potential idea for delivering certain aspects of an alumni volunteering programme.

Sparked is a pioneer of the concept of ‘micro-volunteering’ – small 5-10 minute tasks that can be carried out remotely by an army of e-volunteers. Jamie added that he thinks it’s a really interesting model because it tackles the issue that a lot of the time people don’t have the time to volunteer head-on, and if done successfully thinks it really can provide an innovative form of support to charities.

He has wondered for a while whether this is a model that could play a part in engaging our own alumni base (through our own website rather than through Sparked) – in graduate attributes terms for example it’d be an excellent way of building up a quick bank of case studies (e.g. ‘we need volunteers to fill in this quick template with an example of some form of extra-curricular activity they engaged in and how it’s gone on to help them in their future job’ ‘make us a 5 minute YouTube video about your experiences of our work placement programme, Club21 etc.).

It is something that needs careful consideration and management to make it attractive for people to engage with – in my own experiences of tinkering around with Sparked, far too many of the tasks offered currently boil down to ‘look at our website and tell us how to make it better’ or ‘explain to us how to use facebook/twitter.’

Some food for thought, but definitely an interesting model, as Jamie said "Something to file in the ‘wouldn’t-it-be-nice-if’ ideas pile in any case"

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

GlasgowSave: Project Update - Research

GlasgowSAVE Research 1st stage (due early June) : Update

Overview of Alumni volunteering across the sector, Russell Group, Universitas 21 and other national universities with notable alumni engagement activity

Last week I produced an overview of all alumni volunteering programmes across the Russell Group universities. My research flagged up some really interesting (and in some cases vast!) examples of varying 'menu's of options' universities are asking their alumni to give their time to.

The possibilities for our project now seem endless and I will be delving deeper into 6 universities offering excellent opportunities to gauge how sustainable their activities are, how the programmes are being delivered and try to find out how successful they have been in engaging their alumni and students alike.

The (Long Awaited) 1st Project Update

The official (wider) GlasgowSAVE Project team met for the first time on the 9th of May to discuss all activities for the project to date and identify our strategy for commencing the project.

It was a great meeting where we discussed some very exciting possibilities and outlined the main focus of our research.

The project team concluded that a strong foundation of research is indeed key to the success and sustainability of our future alumni volunteering project and so I have commenced what seems like a mammoth task of compiling research against the following criteria (in 3 stages) :

1st stage : due early June
- Overview of Alumni volunteering across the sector, Russell Group, Universitas 21 and other national universities with notable alumni engagement activity

2nd stage: due early July
- Comprehensive internal audit of existing alumni activity at the University of Glasgow and reflection on how services, schools and faculties may benefit from and like to feed into any future alumni engagement programme

3rd stage: TBC
- Alumni Focus , exploring what kind of expectations some of our graduates might have about their future involvement with the University

- Student focus , exploring how our current students would like to engage with alumni with a view to enhancing their employability upon graduation

1st stage research has been underway for a couple of weeks , updates to follow shortly.

Thursday, 21 April 2011


Please to report that we are now Tweeting! @GlasgowSAVE

A Brief Description of the Project

The University of Glasgow's Sustainable Alumni Volunteer Engagement project aims to develop practices and processes that will enable the University to maximise the involvement of its alumni network in support of key strands of University strategy - student recruitment/conversion, the development of graduate attributes, and career progression. The project will benefit from existing alumni volunteering activities, recent developments made possible by the integration of University services contact databases, and the combined expertise of, and synergies between, the Development and Alumni Office, Careers Service, and Recruitment and International Office to create Alumni Student Ambassadors and an Alumni Careers Network.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Test Blog Entry

This is a test blog entry to see what a blog looks like and how easy it is to post.