Whether it’s within the nonprofit, public, or private sector, HBS alumni pursue a variety of managerial, entrepreneurial, voluntary, and philanthropic roles in socially driven pursuits at various stages of their personal and professional lives. Indeed the numbers are staggering: 12% of all HBS alumni work full time in the social sector (i.e., working in the nonprofit sector, the public sector, or in a for-profit business with a social mission), 37% currently serve on a nonprofit board, and 65% have served on a nonprofit board at some point in their lives. Beyond this involvement, many more alumni make significant contributions to the social sector through philanthropy and volunteerism. 

With this in mind, HBS’s Social Enterprise Initiative launched the Alumni for Impact program one year ago with the mission of driving progress in the social sector by amplifying alumni’s work in the sector through: connecting social enterprise-focused alumni with each other, creating mechanisms to share with alumni the latest faculty research and innovative ideas from the field, and bringing alumni together to work on solutions for our world’s most complex social issues. 

For this first year, we focused our efforts on experimenting with different forms of connecting alumni with each other as well as with different mechanisms for sharing research and ideas with alumni. In order to connect social enterprise alumni with each other, we took a two-pronged approach: 1) connecting through geography; and 2) connecting through subsectors, as the social sector encompasses many different fields such as education, impact investing, international development, health and human services, etc. 

Our team “hit the road” over this past year to meet with and connect alumni all over the United States. We held targeted events in San Francisco, New York City, Boston, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, and Greenwich, Connecticut where like-minded alumni gathered for conversations with each other and with SEI faculty and staff about the latest research and happenings at HBS. The high attendance and enthusiastic response from alumni at these events proved the value of and laid the groundwork for establishing geographic social enterprise alumni groups in the future. 

Alumni also connected at key industry conferences in impact investing (SOCAP16) and education (ASU/GSV 2017 Summit), as HBS has large pluralities of alumni working in both of these fields. Finally, a team of two co-chairs and 14 steering committee members established an impact investing alumni group, which consists of over 200 members and has planned a series of events for the group.   

In addition to bringing alumni together, we also experimented with different methods of sharing research and ideas with alumni. Professors Kash Rangan and Mitch Weiss shared their insights on impact investing and public entrepreneurship (respectively) in alumni webinars, and Professor John Kim led nearly 60 alumni from all over the world for an education-focused case discussion on HBS’s new virtual classroom platform, HBX Live. Started in June 2016, our quarterly Alumni for Impact Newsletter features the latest social enterprise-focused faculty research as well as ideas from alumni in the field. Finally, this blog, established in February 2017, enables faculty, staff, alumni, and students to share insights on their work in the social sector. 

Alumni for Impact is off to a great start. As we look to the future, we are most excited about developing a new series of convenings that will bring alumni together to work on finding solutions for key social problems. We will also continue building on the connecting and idea-sharing elements we’ve introduced, including formalizing geographic groups, starting other subsector groups, doing more social enterprise-themed alumni webinars, and experimenting further with HBX Live. If you are an HBS alumni interested in the social sector, please share with us any ideas you have for Alumni for Impact by signing up here. We look forward to hearing from you! 

Margaret Woolley Busse (MBA 2001) is the Associate Director of the Social Enterprise Initiative and oversees the Alumni for Impact program. 

Pictured above: Alumni gather at SOCAP16 conference for early morning breakfast, September 2016