The INSEAD Alumni Forums, the school’s annual showcase event, have recently taken place in New York and London, with the Asian edition set for November in Singapore. The events in the US and Europe have once again seen success in raising the school’s profile and engaging with alumni all over the globe.
The forums have been on the go since 2011 when two alumni, Julio Pekarovik MBA’94D and Dustin Hindman MBA‘06J, the then President and VP of Events of the National Alumni Association (NAA) in the US, pioneered the idea. At the time, membership to the NAA in the US was falling and Julio and Dustin saw the need for an event that would bring alumni in the region together regularly, providing an opportunity to network with peers and to strengthen the relationship with the school, while giving exposure to the INSEAD brand.
The plan worked. After the first forum in Chicago, NAA membership saw a sharp rise in the US with extremely positive feedback from attendees. The event has been going from strength to strength ever since.
“Since pioneering the forum concept six years ago, we have learned a lot and have applied those learnings so that the quality of the programme and the overall event is always improving,” says Carlos Montemayor MBA’96J, acting President of the NAA USA.
Such was the success of the first event in the US, that NAAs in other regions soon followed suit, and the Alumni Forum is now firmly in place on INSEAD’s yearly calendar in the Americas, Asia and Europe.
In Asia, where forums have been held in cities as diverse as Sydney, Shanghai and Tokyo, the next one will be in Singapore under the theme “The Future of Business: Ideas, Innovation & Technology”.
“Business as a force for good?” was the topic for discussion at the European event this year in London, encouraging debate on something close to INSEAD’s heart.
“Business as a force for good is a theme I passionately believe in,” says Paul Skipworth MBA’95J, President of the NAA UK. “I believe that a career in business can be an opportunity to make an enormous positive contribution to society. I hope the theme and discussions in the conference helped to highlight the good that business can do if companies are led by the right people with the right moral compass.”
Back in the US, where the latest event took place in April, the focus was “The future of business”.
“We wanted to explore the impact that technology disruption is having in different business verticals and how business models are adapting to these changes,” says Carlos.
The forums give alumni the chance to continue their INSEAD journey of lifelong learning – faculty are at each event to lead panel discussions, facilitate conversations and present latest research. Attendees also hear from industry experts, including non-alumni, with senior leaders from organisations such as the World Bank, Dow Jones and KPMG appearing at past events, along with founders and CEOs of successful local and international companies.
The events are a platform to network with fellow alumni and business leaders beyond what is possible at class reunions, with the option to attend every year or even three times a year, which has been the case with some who are fondly referred to as “alumni forum groupies”. The mix of classes means recent graduates give fresh insights, older alumni share their experience and expertise, and the change of location year-on-year keeps the event fresh and vibrant.
“In a way, it’s like going back to the INSEAD experience for a weekend, and that is what makes it memorable,” says Carlos.
The forums also allow friends of INSEAD, including those who have completed courses that do not fall under the ‘alumni’ category, the chance to continue to benefit from their relationship with the school, often incentivising word-of-mouth recommendations to their own network of colleagues or business contacts.
For the school itself, the Alumni Forums are a way to showcase its world-class faculty, get the INSEAD name out in each region and to building on the profile of the school around the world. And, while the theme of each is decided on jointly between the school and the organising NAA, it is always consistent with INSEAD’s mission and values. This joint involvement also ensures that topics are relevant to the region and gives alumni a voice in steering the direction for the future success of the school.
“The NAAs are key to making the Alumni Forums a success,” says Fadilah Ahmad, Senior Director Alumni Institutional Events and Sponsorships at INSEAD. “If it wasn’t for the passion and dedication of the local volunteers, who give up their valuable time to secure sponsorship, get high-profile speakers and organise amazing social events with a local flavour, the forums would not be what they are today.”
The forums also differentiate INSEAD from its peers. While the concept is not unique to the school, the way that INSEAD does them is. This is mainly down to the school’s diverse and far-flung alumni –dispersed throughout 172 countries all over the globe, 43 of which have a critical mass of more than 100, more than any other business school. Whereas similar events at other schools are often organised with a top-down approach, for INSEAD, it is the alumni who are the driving force, and the forums are the epitome of the “all hands on deck” philosophy of the school.
“It’s down to the people,” says Paul. “INSEAD’s alumni are passionate supporters of the school for years after they leave. It’s that passion that makes us different.”
While the conferences are organised by each association independently, the organising committees inspire and learn from each other across regions and years, with an official handover and debrief from one forum in a region to the next. This means that the structure and strategy are continuously evolving, with a steering committee recently added to give additional support and direction.
“Congratulations to the NAAs in the UK and US for their successful events this year and I’m looking forward to the forum in Singapore in November. These forums are integral to INSEAD, allowing our faculty, alumni and friends to come together to fulfil our mission of lifelong learning. Building on the INSEAD brand and increasing our profile around the world is one of our main priorities, and the forums are instrumental in making this happen,” said Dean Ilian Mihov.
The next Alumni Forum will take place in Singapore on 18-20 November 2016. In the Americas, the forum will be in Montreal on 28 and 29 April 2017, and the European forum will be in Paris on 16 and 17 June 2017.