Ring of Reciprocity

“The Reciprocity Ring is a dynamic group exercise that applies the ‘pay-it-forward’ principle to your team or group while creating and cementing high-quality connections.” – Professor Adam Grant

Hosting a Ring of Reciprocity exercise in your club can be a great way to help your members reap the benefits of the Wharton alumni network by soliciting support and advice on a personal or professional issue. Each Ring leverages the giving capacity of its members to help each person address their challenges.

Format:     Small group conversation with facilitator

Duration:  1 – 2 hours

Venue:      In-person: Any quiet, private space
                 Virtual: Zoom or other videoconferencing platform

Supplies:  In-person: White board or flip chart, post-it notes
                 Virtual: Zoom or other videoconferencing platform; Google Sheets

How to Run a Ring of Reciprocity:

  • A Ring of Reciprocity session can be run either in-person or virtually.
  • In advance of the session, ask the members of the Ring to brainstorm and write down their specific request for the group.
    • If you are hosting the Ring virtually, you can use this Google Sheet as a template. Each member of the group should enter in their contact information and request prior to the meeting itself.
    • If you are hosting the Ring in-person, prepare a white board or flip chart with each participant’s name and a space for their contact information and request. Give each member a stack of post-it notes and a pen.
  • Gather the group together and conduct a short icebreaker.
  • Following the icebreaker, allow each participant to spend 2 – 3 minutes discussing their help request. After they have introduced their help request, other participants may ask clarifying questions. Participants may then input their offers of help, connections, or resources.
    • For virtual Rings, these offers can be typed directly into the Google Sheet during the discussion.
    • For in-person Rings, help offers can be written on post-it notes and stuck next to the requestor’s name on the white board or flip chart.
  • Once the session ends, the Google Sheet will serve as the record of the virtual conversation and provide the basis for follow-up. For in-person sessions, the facilitator should take a picture of the white board or flip chart to document the participants’ name, contact information, and the help offers. Each participant should take the post-it notes associated with their own requests, and the facilitator should email the entire Ring with the photos.
  • A week after the session, the facilitator should email the Ring participants and remind them to follow through with their offers of help.

Recommendations for a Successful Ring:

  1. The smaller the better. Limit the size of each ring to a maximum of 10 people.
  2. Specific requests are better than general requests. Personal or professional requests are equally valid.
  3. Encourage every member of the Ring to be mentally present and clear away any distractions. If the session is being conducted virtually, ask participants to turn on their cameras and close out of all other programs.
  4. Follow-up is key.
  5. Try this activity out in different spaces, such as a restaurant or a park. Take note of what format works best for your group or your club.
  6. The role of the facilitator is to
    1. Create a comfortable and informal ambiance
    2. Keep people on track
    3. Serve as timekeeper
    4. Encourage follow-up

Additional Resources and Suggested reading:

Wharton Reciprocity Wednesdays, Wharton Club of Chicago

Ring of Reciprocity Event, Warton Club of Dallas-Fort Worth

Chapter 1, Give and Take, Adam Grant

All You Have to Do Is Ask, Wayne Baker