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My social media feeds were all a buzz recently with the success of Lorde at the Grammys.  People I am connected with were proud to see another NZ success story. For such a small nation, I find that New Zealanders have a strong sense of belonging and pride.

In a recent survey it was found that expats are just as included in the pull of “brand New Zealand” as those back home. So how can New Zealand as a country benefit from this want from people across the world to be a part of the New Zealand success story?

KEA

One organisation that aims to help New Zealand become the “most globally connected nation in the world” is KEA (Kiwi Expat Association).  And with 1 million expats you can see why they would want to.   KEA was founded by Sir Stephen Tindall and Professor David Teece in 2001 and has quickly grown to be a vital link for expats to “home”.

 The vision we developed at KEA was for New Zealand to operate as a globally connected nation of 5 million people, rather than a geographically isolated country of 4 million.  It’s a vision that favours the “brain circulation” over the “brain drain” argument where expats are concerned; that an engaged network of expats could be part of the “soft infrastructure” on which New Zealand builds a globally competitive economy.  And there was always a belief that embracing our expats in this way would help bring many of them home sooner rather than later, with a good number of highly productive years left in the tank.

Ross McConnell
http://www.kinfolk.co.nz/blog/a-battle-for-the-ages/

The organisation hopes to reach and motivate expatriate Kiwis to increase their contribution to New Zealand.  And why wouldn’t they?  Just as alumni of large Ivy League universities work together to benefit each other – why not a country?

The upside for New Zealand as an alumni network, as a country, if you like, is that there are hundreds of thousands of Kiwis that have done incredibly well overseas that really do want to help the country, want to help these folks that are trying to network into different parts of the world.  We really need to reach out to them more and do the Yale, Harvard thing and use the power of our networks.

Craig Donaldson (Current KEA Interim Global CEO)
The power of networks transcript

But how do you engage such a large community?

In the KEA report in 2009, it was interesting to see that initiatives such as mentorship and job boards did not have the impact that was anticipated.  What would influence people to move beyond passive participation in an online network, to active participation?

Since the report, KEA has been actively using the power of social networks to increase their membership. Increasing their numbers from 30,000 members in 2012 to over 200,000 in 2014.  And with the search for a new CEO, the focus of the organisation is shifting too; moving from adoption of members to more commercial outcomes.  It is all about the “possibilities of harnessing the strength of a globally connected New Zealand and achieving Kea’s greatest imaginable challenge: 1 million Kiwi advocates, champions and story-tellers by 2016.”

Having this expatriate advocate network connecting through storytelling is very powerful.

…storytelling is not just about the transfer of knowledge; it is also a movement designed to amplify the voice of a community (Burgess, 2006). Everyone can participate because everyone has a story to tell.  http://librarydigitalstorytelling.wordpress.com/what/

Celebrating success stories is one way to foster “brain circulation” and limit brain drain. But it’s just one small step. In the next post, I’ll suggest ways that KEA can connect and empower their huge network to do more than just celebrate from afar. By focusing on specific behaviours and tapping into all 6 sources of influence, KEA can turn expats into a powerful network of ambassadors that can help each other and the country as a whole.

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