We transformed a two week, in-person Muslim leadership exchange program into a seven-week digital experience that brought Muslims from across the globe together.
For 20 years, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) along with Australia Indonesia Connections (AIC) had been running international exchange programs. AIMEP (Australia-Indonesia Muslim Exchange Program) and AAMEP (Australia-ASEAN Muslim Exchange Program) were developed for delegates to participate in a community-based program of cultural, social, and intellectual exchange and dialogue.
In the wake of the COVID-19 global pandemic, these in-person programs had to be reimagined. Gould Studio was tasked to strategise these in-person programs into a digital alternative by moving the entire program online.
This move to an online sphere was going to be new and challenging. It had never been done before. We needed to make sure that the experience of the in-person program, as well as its authenticity and professionalism, was not lost in the digital shift. This was going to be a first-of-its-kind digital experience for the client, with much speculation and uncertainty as to how it would run.
The program was going to include 77 guest speakers and 28 delegates from both Australia and Indonesia.
Along with the support of DFAT and Australian Government Officials, we worked together with AIC to plan out how the program can be implemented. We researched some of the best platforms to run the program on, the most efficient communication channels to use, and the different elements we could incorporate into the virtual sessions to keep them enjoyable and fulfilling.
We decided to use Zoom to deliver the video sessions, Slack for communication, and Thinkific as the website for program resources and information. We also undertook a complete rebranding of the AIMEP program, including developing a new website, visual identity, social media content, and physical assets, such as specialised gift packs and certificates of completion.
Running the program live meant that we needed to test our ideas on the go. In the beginning, we sought delegate feedback to ensure the program was being received well. We held polls about what the delegates wanted more or less of, what they liked and any suggestions for future sessions. Based on the feedback, we altered the virtual sessions to incorporate extra Q&A time for speakers and delegates, as well as extended delegate breakout room times. As a request from our delegates, we also upgraded the Thinkific platform by integrating several links and material from guest speakers.
To increase AIMEP's social media presence, we developed weekly highlight videos with video content from each of the seven weeks, as well as 'meet the delegates' posts, and other weekly content posts. This significantly increased traffic and followers to AIMEP's social media platforms on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.
In previous years candidates were taken on an in-person Australian Government tour but unfortunately this was cancelled due to Covid-19. Instead we opted to organise a delegate presentation week which was well appreciated and praised by the delegates.
Delegates formed a strong sense of community during the program, resulting in a collaborative effort that raised over $33,000 in funds to support COVID affected individuals in Indonesia, an initiative that the Gould Studio team organised and supported.
We were able to bring eighteen Indonesian delegates and ten Australian delegates together in a community of shared experiences, respect, and understanding. Over the course of seven weeks, our team planned, managed, and ran 35 virtual sessions, consisting of technical, operational, and communication tasks during the live sessions. A variety of national and international speakers, as well as Australian and Indonesian government officials, and delegates, took part in the live sessions.
The project received outstanding reviews after launching and completing the very first digital AIMEP program this year, with plans to to continue digital exchange programs post pandemic.
Many of the delegates continued their interactions after the program. Half of the Australian delegates now plan on travelling to Indonesia to meet their fellow Indonesian delegates. Both Indonesian and Australian delegates plan to collaborate to produce digital social content, hold conferences, set up educational and social community initiatives, and connect their work and volunteer organisations with other delegates and their organisations.
The majority of delegates highly recommend others to join future programs. Some of the delegates have created media content for personal and mass sharing, such as articles, e-books, blogs and vlogs, to summarise their AIMEP experience.