As graduates of schools like Harvard, Princeton and Dartmouth have known for centuries, an alumni network is a valuable tool. Dartmouth grads, for instance, could historically prevail upon C. Everett Coop about a cough, Dr. Seuss for a rhyme, Robert Reich for a job, Nelson Rockefeller for practically anything and, more recently, Timothy Geithner for a bailout. (Hey even Mr. Rogers went to Dartmouth.) But what if you don’t have access to a powerful alumni network? You finish school–be it college or high school–and then you’re on your own. What a waste, thought Jake Hayman, founder of Future First, an organization built to help secondary schools launch and nurture alumni networks where they don’t exist. All those people launched into the world from the same place, who sat in the same desks and ate in the same cafeteria–and they never talk with one another? Hayman thought this might be fixed.
Since private schools have been at this a long time, there wasn’t a lot of testing to see if alumni networks are a good idea. Proof of concept was already done. The part in question was whether a network that wasn’t made up of elites would hold the same kind of value. Guess what? It does. The famous Metcalfe’s law, though it considers telecommunications networks rather than alumni ones, states that the value of a network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users of the system. In other words, it’s more about the how many than the who. So any network, if it grows, is valuable. (Check out the Twitter valuation, if you’re having doubts.) Now active in over 450 schools in Britain, where it was founded, Future First is spreading its tools across the globe. It found its first five participating US schools in 2013.