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In a series of casual conversations, in 1999 and 2000 a few members of the Class of 1963 at Harvard Business School compared personal plans for "what to do with the next phase of our lives." This led to eight all-day or half-day meetings, in which two dozen classmates participated... the self-styled "Gang of '63."

Gradually, a consensus developed that we could and should do something pro bono — together.

Joining together would be fun. Seeing how very well Classmates came together — with similar values, a shared "formative" experience at HBS, a common language, etc. — was a very pleasant surprise.
With nearly 40 years of experience and learning, each of us — and even better, all of us — learned a lot and has met many people. If we pool our know-how and our personal networks, we could offer considerable helpfulness to pro bono ventures.
Pooling our financial resources — and our abilities to raise money from foundations and other sources — we could make far greater contributions together than we ever could separately.

We also agreed that since we wouldn't live forever and couldn't all commit to full-time work for the next 10-15 years, it would be wise to be realistic — and focus on identifying talented people with promising good ideas who would need and appreciate our particular abilities to help out.

This evolved naturally into our strategy for the future — "working together again... pooling our skills, networks and resources to make a difference — pro bono. It's fun and it works...".

Our abilities to help pro bono ventures appear to include such dimensions as these:

Managerial and organizational experience on ways to work effectively with others
Strategic thinking — as sounding boards and mentors and even up to conceptualizing and articulating vision
Budgeting and planning
Fundraising
Public relations, positioning and branding
Governance or Boards of Directors
Bringing people together
Engaging governments, corporations, and organizations

During our initial discussions, we agreed we would be wise to start with several programs, so Classmates would have choices for their own personal involvement.

We also agreed that we should concentrate on one large area, Education, and focus on improving the educational experiences of kids, with an emphasis on young kids from difficult environments.

We also agreed that we would concentrate, for now, on these challenges in America.

Among other things we look for programs that could be proven out on a local level— and then expanded to national application, taking advantage of one of our Class strengths… we live in many areas.

During our discussions, we got some wonderful help from a great group of experienced people. Among others, our "due diligence" meetings have included discussions or presentations by:

Ruby Hearn of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation,
Rebecca Rimel of Pew Charitable Trusts,
Steve Nelson of HBS,
Carol and Joe Reich of Beginning with Children Charter School,
Henry Schacht of Ford Foundation,
John Whitehead of Goldman Sachs and of HBS Social Enterprise;
Our own classmate, Don Nielsen, President of the Seattle school board;
And representatives of Teach for America, Up with Children, Landmark School, the Yale Child Study Center, A Charter School, FIRST, and Princeton Project '55.

Collectively, we met with folks who are doing some of the finest thinking on educational change and needs in America today.

In November 2000, "The Gang of '63" had settled on education in America as its arena, and identified a program to explore for each of four client groups... students, teachers, parents and education leaders. In July of 2001, invitations were sent out to all 552 HBS '63 classmates to join "The Partners of '63." To attain the success we envisioned, The Partners of '63 set out to reach a start-up "critical mass" of 25-50 classmates, and 75-100 classmates within our first two years. These goals were achieved.

In 2005 and 2006, incidentally, "The Partners of '63" rebranded as "Applecore Partners," in response to concerns that our 'gang' might be too easily conflated with the Class of 1963 itself (in class-members and others' minds). These concerns faded, however, as it became more clear that Partners63's efforts reflected well both on the Class of 1963 and on the values and intentions of the Harvard Business School.

Accordingly, we were proud and pleased to revert to our "Partners of '63" identity, while retaining "Applecore Partners" as an umbrella to welcome and shelter potential Partners entities formed by other HBS classes.




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