Case Study 1


In 2019, ELSA Alumni was launched. For a yearly membership fee, former members of the European Law Students Association (ELSA) from all over the world could join reconnect via their members-only intranet. Initially, there was high engagement with old classmates reminiscing and posting old photos. However, after the excitement of the initial launch faded, engagement sharply declined.

This made the Board of Directors nervous. They quickly tried to solve the problem by proposing to get a newer intranet. They believed that engagement dropped because the intranet was outdated and didn’t offer a mobile app.

In 2021, I worked with the Board to find out what was really the reason for a dip in member engagement. I conducted 18 in-depth interviews with both members and non-members of ELSA Alumni and the findings were eye-opening:

Members wanted get updates from the organization itself. The issue wasn’t the intranet, but rather the lacked of content on there.

Members needed more structured guidance and support in activities, like the mentorship program, where members felt left on their own after initial pairings.

ELSA Alumni were already using and preferred other platforms to connect with each other like WhatsApp and LinkedIn.

1 Stakeholder Interviews

I needed to find out what the Board members meant when they said “low engagement,” and how they experienced this issue. I uncovered:

  • Feared lack of exposure for fundraising & new initiatives
  • Believed getting a new intranet with a mobile app would solve issues
  • Lacked understanding of the current member experience

2 Redefining The Problem

Yes, the obvious issue was low engagement, but the real challenge lay deeper: a gap in understanding the members’ experiences and the value they gained from the organization.

The Board believed a new intranet with a mobile app might fix things (and wanted my help to find that solution), but that was risky—and potentially pricey! So, I recommended digging deeper into why engagement was falling before betting on an expensive fix that might not even work.

The research unveiled several key insights:

  1. Communication Gap: Members felt the platform did not facilitate effective communication among alumni.
  2. Lack of Networking Opportunities: There was a clear desire for more structured social events and networking opportunities.
  3. Need for More Support: Members expressed the need for more guidance and structure in initiatives like mentorship programs, indicating a desire for a more supportive community environment.

These insights suggested that the issue was not just technological but also related to the platform’s content and community management strategies.

Proposed Solutions & Conclusion

Presenting these findings to the Board, I emphasized the need to look beyond technological upgrades to address the deeper needs of the alumni community. Although my engagement ended before any solutions were implemented, the research provided a foundation for making data-driven decisions to enhance member engagement and value.

Reflecting on the project, I recognize the importance of not only identifying issues but also proposing actionable solutions. Despite the limitations of the research, it was a critical step in understanding that the path to reinvigorating an online community involves understanding its members’ needs and values at a fundamental level.

In hindsight, I would have pushed to remain involved in the solutioning and implementation phases, guiding the Board through the development of initiatives based on the research insights. My unique position as a bridge between the Board’s perspectives and the members’ needs could have facilitated more targeted, effective changes to enhance the ELSA Alumni experience.

Looking Forward

This case study underscores the value of UX research in uncovering the root causes of user engagement issues and highlights the importance of considering both technological and community-building solutions in revitalizing online platforms.