NSL knows that Washington is only the beginning of the new story. The real test of success is how it has affected the student and his/her team in five years time, and then in ten years time. Is NSL still a part of the story they will tell years hence? Does it serve as an important turning point of their journey to leadership?
When NSL ends, the new story has only just begun. Though follow up seems a daunting task, experience shows us that it happens almost automatically by means of the strong and varied relationship opportunities that the program fosters and its design makes possible. The Host Families are usually the best and most devoted followers of the post program life of their host sons or daughters. They are closely followed by the Program Directors who make it their special mission to remain an attentive and supportive audience to the new story as it emerges for each graduate. And finally, among each class, the program encourages former interns to continue to weave and build on the stories they began on the core program.
The signs of success include the vitality of their connection to America, with Host Families visiting their students, or students making return visits to Washington. Students go on to form friendship groups that often become their primary peer group, and some even find a life partner. We measure the long term success of NSL by the following questions:
- Did the graduate go on to a role of service and leadership that contributed to solving the conflict directly or indirectly?
- Did the graduate stay connected and continue to support his team mates and build bridges to other classes?
- Did the graduate stay connected to the Host Family and NSL Team?
- Did the graduate assist the program in subsequent years in helping recruit candidates, offering ideas or help promote media interest/investment in the program?
- Did the graduate use narrative analysis as a tool for future problem solving?
- In short, did the alum come to a practical sense of ownership of NSL?
- Finally, did the program give the students a new way of thinking about the world and the ethical responsibility to the future rather than the past?
NSL aspires to be a life-changing experience for its young people, and so the most important ongoing measure of success is whether their program connection remains alive, and with it, the potential for future contribution to the greater good. If the program did in fact create a chain of powerful stories, it knows that the stories will continue to connect the members of each and every team who will recognise themselves in each other’s stories about their NSL experience.