Each year, Global Citizen Year recruits and selects a cohort of exceptional high school graduates to join them as “Fellows." For the equivalent of one academic year, Fellows are given the opportunity to live with local families in communities located in Africa, Latin America, or Asia, and work as apprentices for local groups advancing education, health, and sustainability.
Global Citizen Year invests in promising young individuals who reflect society’s diversity, and use the transitional period before college to ignite a sense of purpose. The premise of this approach is that combining coaching, curriculum, and real world experience fosters leadership in ways that classroom learning alone cannot. By immersing themselves in these communities, Fellows develop insights and skills that shape their character, guide their higher education, and equip them to find shared solutions that advance the positive change.
More than that though, Global Citizen Year wants “cross-cultural collaboration. We want empathy. We want things that come from really transformational experiences,” Kevin Prentiss, VP of the Marketing Team, tells us.
The organization’s mission is not just about recruiting and training the right candidates, but changing a cultural attitude. Unlike many other countries today, the practice of taking a gap year between high school and college is not widespread in the U.S.
“Part of what we're trying to do is grow the program and grow the movement,” explains Aparna Kothary, Director of Technology Operations. This includes partnering with students, teachers, educators, parents, and networks to share the message.
"The flexible, quick nature of Airtable's interface let us play with our data and build hypotheses about where we should focus our efforts."
The team wanted to identify trends in the schools or geographic locations their applicants come from, and answer the question, “Where are things working?” Although this data existed in their CRM, it was tedious to manipulate and difficult to gain any insight from. They used Airtable instead, and in the process, Global Citizen Year discovered patterns that challenged their previous assumptions.
Using the map block, along with a CSV containing the addresses of their applicants’ high schools, the team was able to see exactly where applicants were coming from.
“We thought a lot of the applications were coming from the coasts. When we plotted them on the map, we saw that just wasn't the case. We had clusters across the US.” Prentiss explains. “The flexible, quick nature of Airtable's interface let us play with our data and build hypotheses about where we should focus our efforts."
One of their biggest wins was identifying individual schools and teachers driving multiple applications (even if Global Citizen Year didn’t have an existing relationship with them).
“It's been an agile, iterative process thanks to Airtable. We get live feedback on what's working during our recruitment cycle, and that allows us to focus on high schools or teachers with similar attributes.” Prentiss shares, “That way, we can control our variables and prove our learning.”
Building a movement
Beyond insights, they wanted to create an operational dashboard. “With Airtable, we could not only interrogate our data, but we could wire it into our other processes and systems, to automate actions,” Prentiss says.
To this end, they began using Airtable for targeted outreach. “We're sending information in and out of Airtable,” Kothary explains. “Outreach to teachers and educators comes from Airtable, the same place we're identifying the different high schools.”
"By using Airtable, we've been able to try new strategies and experiment with different audiences at a scale that we haven't been able to before."
The visual appeal of Airtable, its flexibility, and easy-to-use interface means that it’s spreading throughout the organization. Part of what’s made the product so successful at Global Citizen Year is its intuitiveness. “Airtable has replaced some other tools. It takes the spreadsheet format and offers a product that has way more functionality and sophistication,” says Kothary.
Starting a movement was never going to be easy. But, using Airtable, the organization has been able to “try new strategies and experiment with different audiences at a scale that we haven't been able to before,” Kothary says.
“We've gotten incredibly sophisticated with our targeting and the audiences we invest in,” says Prentiss. “We have engagement scores and target scores, and are able to work off of that algorithm. Understanding the what and the why of those scores is the strategically deep learning that Airtable has enabled.”
“The ROI on our philanthropic dollars, the efficiency of our time, the scale of our effort and the prestige of our program, are all predicated on how quickly we can learn,” Prentiss explains. “Airtable is our R&D laboratory for measuring the impact of our organization.”