Connext 2019 is in the books! On Saturday, April 27, we welcomed nearly 500 learners to Harvard Business School for a full day of programming surrounding the theme, “Business with a Purpose.”

Whether you attended in person or tuned in remotely, relive the experience with a look back at this year’s event.

HBS Online Connext 2019

Image via Evgenia Eliseva


The conference kicked off in the new Klarman Hall auditorium with opening remarks by HBS Professor Bharat Anand, Senior Associate Dean of HBS Online and Vice Provost for Advances in Learning at Harvard University. In his speech, Anand highlighted the tremendous growth of our global community since our launch nearly five years ago—a point underscored by the diverse audience in attendance. Participants from 48 countries spread across six continents made the journey to Boston for the event, including three who traveled all the way from Australia!

“It’s truly remarkable, the effort that’s gone into creating something that now brings you all here today,” Anand said. “It’s been a challenging experience at times for us. A thrilling experience. An inspiring experience. Never a boring experience—I can tell you that.”

Klarman Hall Audience

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HBS Professors Nancy Koehn and Joe Fuller then took to the stage for an engaging keynote discussion about the relationship between management and leadership, moderated by HBS Online Executive Director Patrick Mullane. The conversation set the tone for the remainder of the day, offering audience members with valuable insights that could be applied to their own lives and careers.

“Finding a purpose that’s authentic, worthy, and incites your passion, and motivates you to find your strongest self because you really believe this is the North Star for you, is everything,” Koehn said. “It is the gas. It is the resilience. It is the discipline to hone your gifts and use your experience to squeeze the very marrow out of this turbulent, extraordinarily promising—and equally perilous—world that we live in.”

Watch the opening remarks and keynote below:

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Following the opening presentations, participants made their way to Aldrich Hall to take part in faculty-led case discussions in the signature HBS style. This year’s event included sessions with Ethan Bernstein, Mihir Desai, Jan Hammond, Jeffrey Rayport, V.G. Narayanan, Forest Reinhardt, and Mike Wheeler. Many attendees were beyond excited to meet their HBS Online professor in person, and said the classroom experience was one of their favorite parts of the day.

After lunch, attendees headed to Batten Hall, where they had a range of activities to choose from, including:

  • Panel discussions about launching a purpose-driven business, sustainability, diversity and inclusion, ethical leadership, and the MBA experience
  • Guided tours of the HBS campus
  • The opportunity to get a new professional headshot
  • A series of activations in a custom-designed Community space. Participants were invited to mark their home country on a world map, share their thoughts on what Community means to them, and take our #HowDoYouConnext? quiz to discover their conference personality.

Connext 2019 Diversity Panel

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The day culminated in Klarman Hall with a keynote by Catherine D’Amato, President and CEO of the Greater Boston Food Bank, who spoke about her organization’s work to make Massachusetts hunger-free by 2028. She shared intimate details about her personal background and how it’s informed her career. As she told her story, she encouraged audience members to think about what they can do to take action and better their communities.

“We need to give people access to high-quality, nutritious food,” D’Amato said. “This doesn’t require groundbreaking innovation. There’s no complicated science or chemistry, and there’s no deep research needed. There’s a solution—it’s called food.”

Watch the closing keynote below:

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D’Amato closed her address by proposing a special challenge to the HBS Online Community:

Develop an innovative, cost-effective, scalable way for pantries to deliver food to clients. Strategize how GBFB could increase access to nutritious food by meeting those in need where they are, and outline how this solution might help end hunger in your own community.

HBS Online Community Chapter Organizers will be gathering their members to develop and create a presentation outlining their solution, and select Chapters will have the opportunity to speak directly to executives from GBFB about their ideas in our real-time, interactive online classroom.

Connext 2019 Closing Keynote

Image via Evgenia Eliseeva

The announcement of this challenge not only spoke to the theme of “Business with a Purpose,” but provided attendees with an actionable way to put lessons learned from both their coursework and the event into practice to solve real-world issues.

To close out Connext 2019, participants gathered for a reception in the Spangler Center to reflect on the day and network, capping off a fun-filled, inspiring event.

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