Resources for HBS clubs and other peer groups

Frequently Asked Questions

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What is the Return On Investment (ROI) of participating in a forum/How do I justify the time and cost?

Joining a Forum is an investment in the well-being of your business, yourself and your family. While there are no guarantees, there are countless examples of forum members in Young Presidents Organization, Entrepreneurs Organization, and Harvard Business School alumni clubs who have made significant financial gains or realized savings as a result of the wisdom shared by their Forum members. Forum members also benefit from new perspectives on career choices, personal and family relationships and other life challenges. Additionally, participants learn communication and interpersonal skills that are useful in every aspect of members’ lives.

I have a good network of personal and professional friends. Why should I also join a forum?

Many people are fortunate to have a trusted group of friends, family, and business colleagues who can offer advice and support them in times of need. A peer forum provides an important complement to those relationships.

  • The forum includes people with whom you have no previous substantive relationship and no conflicts of interest. It thus affords you with new and fresh perspectives from peers who are often more qualified than other confidants.
  • The structure and protocols of forum ensure you can efficiently and effectively address important issues, in a way that informal conversations may not allow.
  • It's on your calendar. The discipline of forum ensures that you regularly step back and reflect on where you’ve been and where you are going.

I'm really, really busy. Is now the right time to join a Forum?

Ironically, if you are so busy you don't see how you can take on another obligation; this may be exactly the right time to commit to forum. How can that be? Many members share that it is the time they invest in Forum each month that helps them maintain the right priorities, focus, and balance during all of the other days of the month. At each meeting the harried member will find a group of peers who are often equally stressed over their many professional and personal obligations. And he or she will learn from the experience of other executives who are also trying to make it all work and hold it all together. The worst decision may be the opposite of what you think at first: NOT joining or NOT showing up at your monthly meeting.

Is joining a forum right for me?

Forum is not for everyone, but it can be a powerful, even transformative, experience for those who are:

  • Open to change, with a genuine interest in learning and growth as a person
  • Willing and flexible to try new processes
  • Interested in stepping outside of one's comfort zone by being open and vulnerable, which are central to building connections and a foundation of trust.
  • Interested in building meaningful relationships with fellow members.
  • Willing to speak openly about concerns, but with a respect for the group's decisions.
  • Able to commit time to Forum. Monthly meetings are typically 3-4 hours (or 1-2 hours when meeting virtually); an annual retreat, if scheduled, is typically 1.5-2 days.

What is the role of confidentiality?

Confidentiality is critical to building the trust that facilitates meaningful discussion in the forum environment. It is a cardinal rule of any forum that all matters discussed in the forum are confidential and not to be disclosed to people outside the group.

How are HBS Alumni Forums organized, led, and perpetuated?

HBS forums are offered by local HBS clubs as a benefit of club membership.  

At the forum’s orientation session,the group selects from a volunteer moderator and assistant moderator, and those roles then rotate among all members every 6-12 months. The moderator’s role is to prepare the agenda for each monthly meeting, ask for volunteers for other roles and lead each meeting. The assistant moderator keeps notes on attendance,handles meeting logistics and manages the group’s finances. Each Alumni Forum is an autonomous group. The School and the local Club make no contributions to and have no responsibility for individual Forum finances.

HBS forums have proved to be so valuable that many forums have been running for five years or more, and members view them as the most valued alumni benefit.

How does the HBS Alumni Forum placement process work?

In assembling an HBS forum, local organizers gather information from people interested in the program, and put together groups consisting of people who, based on the criteria they share in their profiles, are likely to develop an effective forum experience. In general, it is helpful to have a mix of people who face similar types of challenges, but who are likely to have differing perspectives, so that there will be a fruitful exchange of ideas. The primary criteria for forming appropriate peer-group Forums include scope of responsibility, size of organization and geographic proximity.

All forum candidates have the opportunity to review the list of other members before meeting, and also check for any potential conflicts based on close business or personal relationships.

What are the time and cost commitments to be in an HBS Alumni Forum?

Each Forum sets its own schedule, typically meeting for about three to four hours monthly and holding an annual 1-2 day overnight retreat. Each Forum launches with an in-person or virtual orientation session, and future meeting dates are then set by mutual member agreement.

Costs to join an HBS forum vary by club so please consult your club's forum administrator. Fees may include an initiation/orientation fee, an annual membership, and out-of-pocket costs for shared meals; retreat travel, accommodations, and meals; and professional retreat facilitator fees.

Forum members also agree to join and remain a member of their local Alumni Club.

What happens during an HBS Alumni Forum orientation session?

The orientation provides the foundation for launching a Forum. During this session, members learn the guiding principles of Forum, build the foundation of the group dynamic, begin to get to know their fellow Forum members, participate in an actual Forum meeting and set the groundwork and structure for the Forum.

Are HBS forums open to people who are not HBS alumni?

Generally, HBS forums are open to all alumni who have an active membership with their local HBS club. This includes graduates of the MBA, DBA, OPM, AMP, GMP, PLD, and select other executive education programs. On a limited basis, HBS forums are also open to other executives, entrepreneurs and leaders of business, non-profit and government organizations who are alumni of Harvard College or other Harvard graduate schools. HBS forums may, at their discretion, choose to apply a narrower definition of peer criteria (HBS or Harvard alumni only) or a wider definition, accepting others who meet their peer criteria..

I'm not an HBS alumnus. How can I join or start my own forum?

Alumni Forum Services has helped many besides HBS alumni reap the benefits of forum participation. We help in these ways:

  • Directing you to other appropriate peer forums
  • Helping you start your own forum including providing marketing templates, supporting the placement process, facilitating member orientations, and supporting the forum once launched
  • Advising your school, association or company on the design of a forum program that meets your needs

Some HBS forums accept non-HBS alumni who would be considered business peers of current members. Contact your local HBS club or Alumni Forum Services for more information.

Are the fees to join an HBS Alumni Forum paid by me or my employer?

Forum initiation and membership fees are often covered by employers as a professional development, continuing education, or training expense. Membership in a forum provides personal and professional growth, both of which improve leadership skills and make forum participants a greater asset to their employer. In fact, while forum benefits are high and tangible, the cost is far less than executive education or coaching programs that companies regularly pay for. The case for having your company fund your forum membership is, therefore, an easy one.

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