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Building Strong Communities with the ALX Fellowship

Charles Vogl is a renowned adviser, speaker, and author, best known for devising and developing leadership programs worldwide for big organisations like Amazon, Twitch, and Airbnb to name a few.

In his book, “The Art of Community: Seven Principles for Belonging,” by author Charles Vogl, he says, “A community is not a product that can be manufactured, but a relationship that must be cultivated.” Here at ALX, we believe in that sentiment wholeheartedly.

His book goes on to help define what community is and offers some key principles to guide in building them. We have taken his teachings head-on when developing the ALX community, and specifically when applied to the ALX Fellowship. This article will tease out the essence of community, outline Vogl’s 7 Principles for Belonging, and illustrate how ALX uses them to build strong and lasting communities across Africa.

The Essence of Community: Belonging and Shared Purpose

Humans are social creatures, wired for connection. This innate desire is met by communities, groups of people who share a sense of belonging and a common thread. A community can be defined by a shared geography, like a neighbourhood, or a shared interest, like a book club. Regardless of the form, genuine communities fulfil essential psychological and social needs.

At their core, communities provide a sense of security and belonging. We are wired to crave social connection, and communities offer a space where we feel accepted and understood. This feeling of belonging combats loneliness and isolation, fostering emotional well-being.  Furthermore, communities fulfil our need to contribute and feel valued.  Through shared goals and activities, communities allow us to feel like we're part of something bigger than ourselves.

However, it's important to differentiate between a genuine community and a simple gathering. A group of people waiting for a bus may share a physical space, but they lack the shared purpose or connection that defines a community. Similarly, social media groups can foster a sense of connection, but they often lack the deeper bonds and sense of responsibility that come from interaction and shared experiences.

True communities go beyond common interests or proximity. They are bound by a sense of shared purpose, mutual support, and a willingness to contribute to the collective good.

The Key Principles of Community Building

Building a strong and meaningful community doesn't happen by accident. Author Charles Vogl, in his book, "The Art of Community: Seven Principles for Belonging," outlines seven key principles that serve as a roadmap for fostering genuine connection and shared purpose. Let's delve into each principle and explore how they can be implemented in practice.

The Boundary Principle

Every community needs a defined boundary, a clear sense of who is "in" and who is "out." This establishes a safe space for members who share core values and fosters trust. 

For example, in order to access tech programmes with ALX, potential learners must be 18 years of age or older and of African origin. In order to be a part of the ALX Fellowship, learners must have successfully completed their tech programme.

The Initiation Principle

Meaningful entry into a community is crucial. Initiation rituals, whether formal or informal, signify commitment and mark the beginning of a member's journey. 

At our many Hubs located across the African continent, we hold Karibu ceremonies to welcome learners into the ALX community. This is part of our initiation principle.

The Rituals Principle

Shared rituals are the heartbeat of a community. They reinforce core values and create a sense of shared experience.

We host many events at our Hubs, like guest speakers, socials, and competitions that help people stay engaged with one another. These rituals create a sense of community by reinforcing our core values and creating a sense of shared experience among our learners.

The Temple Principle

A physical or virtual space dedicated to the community fosters a sense of belonging and shared purpose. 

Our Hubs serve as the “temple” of ALX, where learners and alumni can come together for many different reasons. Whether they are looking to socialise with their peers or are looking for support from mentors, these spaces are built for our learners’ needs. Our alumni use the Hubs for networking purposes, too, creating a space that serves a function for ALX members at all stages of their journeys.

The Stories Principle

Every community has a story – its history, traditions, and shared experiences. These stories, passed down through generations or new members, create a sense of identity and belonging.

Our Karibu ceremonies always start by retelling the story of ALX so that each member understands where we come from. We are always clear about our mission and vision for Africa to ensure that our learners and alumni push towards the same goals as us.

The Symbols Principle

Visual symbols represent a community's values and aspirations.

The ALX logo is our symbol with the “x” signifying the endless potential of opportunity. Just as it is used in science to represent a variable, we understand the potential of each learner as an unknown variable. Each person has their own different idea of success and we provide people with the opportunity to reach whatever success they seek.

The Inner Rings Principle

Mature communities have established "inner rings" that offer opportunities for growth and leadership. Senior members can mentor new members, fostering a sense of shared responsibility and ensuring the community's future.

In the ALX community, this happens all the time. At networking events at Hubs, junior members meet with alumni to help them find employment. Current learners meet with mentors to help them with their coursework. These inner rings are not meant to separate people, but, instead bring them together.

When our learners successfully complete their programme, they are inducted into the ALX Fellowship, opening up many doors of opportunity for themselves.

By understanding and implementing these principles, individuals and groups can cultivate strong and vibrant communities that provide a sense of belonging, purpose, and shared experience.

Building Community with the ALX Fellowship

At ALX, it is our mission to help each individual find their place in the world of tech. We understand that each individual has a different definition of success and we therefore provide many different pathways to help them reach their goals.

When learners successfully complete their tech programme, they are able to be a part of the ALX Fellowship. Fellows become part of a thriving professional network where they have lifelong learning opportunities as well as additional perks to accelerate their careers. This includes access to diverse tech networks that can help alumni kick start their career, masterclasses and seminars at our Hubs, and career mentors to help guide alumni in their career journey.

In short, the Fellowship propels learners towards long-term career success.

This ALX alumni communities provide the opportunity for all of our learners to find their place in the world of tech. Want to be a Fellow? Apply now for an ALX tech programme and start your journey today.

Summary

The ALX Fellowship builds a supportive community for aspiring young African tech professionals. The article emphasises the importance of community, highlighting its role in providing belonging and purpose. Author Charles Vogl's seven principles are used as a blueprint to cultivate this community within ALX. These principles include having clear membership guidelines, initiation rituals, shared activities, and dedicated spaces, to name a few. 

The ALX Fellowship offers lifelong learning and career development opportunities for its members, helping ALX alumni succeed in the digital world of work.

By fostering a strong community, ALX empowers its learners to thrive in the tech industry. Apply now to an ALX tech programme and start your journey towards becoming an ALX Fellow today.

FAQs

1. What is the ALX Fellowship?

The ALX Fellowship is a program designed to support and connect tech learners in Africa after they graduate from an ALX tech program. It is designed specifically as a community for ALX alumni to help them build fruitful careers in tech.

2. How do I become an ALX Fellow?

After successfully completing an ALX tech programme, learners will be invited to become an ALX Fellow. Once you have become a Fellow, you will automatically gain access to an array of benefits that will help jumpstart your career.

3. What are the benefits of being an ALX Fellow?

The ALX Fellowship offers several benefits to members, including:

  • Professional Networking: Fellows gain access to a network of other professionals, creating opportunities for collaboration and career advancement.
  • Lifelong Learning: The Fellowship provides resources and opportunities for continuous learning and skill development.
  • Career Support: Fellows receive help with their job search, including access to mentors and career guidance.

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