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HBS Hacks: A New Model for Alumni Convening

By: Margaret Busse 23 Mar 2018

Over the course of its inception two years ago, the Social Enterprise Initiative’s Alumni for Impact program has focused on connecting alumni within geographies and within subsectors of the social sector (the impact investing alumni group is an example) as well as developing platforms that enable knowledge sharing from faculty to alumni and from alumni to alumni (in the form of our quarterly newsletter, this blog, alumni webinars, and HBX).  

Now we are taking on a new challenge: bringing alumni together to work on some of society’s greatest challenges, because we believe the best form of alumni engagement is in the actual doing and because we believe our alumni are equal to the task of tackling these challenges. 

HBS Hacks is an innovative, hands on, interactive event that draws elements from tech hackathons and design thinking principles. Our first focus? The Future of Work. 

As we witness on an almost daily basis, the world of work is constantly changing at an ever-increasing pace. Technological breakthroughs are upending traditional work everywhere—from grocery store self-checkout stands to software automating bookkeeping—and causing both displacement and new opportunities for workers. Many see it as an inevitable brewing storm. 

Prognostications and analysis regarding the future of work are popping up everywhere. McKinsey Global Institute has dedicated significant resources to analyzing the many challenges associated with the future of work in a comprehensive report, What the Future of Work Will Mean for Jobs, Skills, and Wages. The New York Times posited the question “Will Robots Take Our Jobs?” in a recent article focusing on automation replacing human work. Others focus on the rise of the gig economy, as in this NPR reporting, The Rise of the Contract Workers. HBS itself just launched a new research initiative called Managing the Future of Work (MFW), with faculty co-chair Professor Joe Fuller researching the skills gap dimension of the challenge in his recent work on how “degree inflation” causes skilled workers without college degrees to be overlooked by employers. Finally, for as much angst as we might have, Forbes contributor Josh Bersin weighed in on the problem and doesn’t think the future of work is as scary as we might think.

But no matter the expert, all can agree that significant change is coming. Is there a way society can be better prepared for it? We’re tackling this and other questions such as: How can displaced workers best be redeployed? How can business, government, and nonprofit leaders come together to mitigate the effects of worker displacement? How should entrants to the workforce best prepare themselves?  

Alumni for Impact has teamed up with MFW, HBS Association of Northern California’s (HBSANC) Community Partners Program, and HBS’s California Research Center to bring about this full day event, right in the heart of tech central, San Francisco. Participants will hear from HBS faculty and experts in the field, then work together in teams to craft and present action plans for industry, the City of San Francisco, local colleges, and nonprofits. Collaborators from Google.org, the City of San Francisco, and other businesses and local non-profits will be there to shine the light on the problems at hand. Prizes will be awarded for the best solutions! HBSANC Community Partners will then work with the cross-sector leaders over the next year to plan and pilot the winning solutions, with follow-up results to share one year later.

If you are an HBS alum living in Northern California, we hope you will be able to join this one of a kind event. More information can be found here.

Margaret Busse (MBA 2001) is the Associate Director of HBS’s Social Enterprise Initiative and leads its Alumni for Impact program.