Business and Society Program

The First Movers Fellowship Experience

Innovation. Leadership. Community. Reflection.

For more than 15 years, the Aspen Institute Business & Society Program has convened experts from around the world to consider what kind of leaders we need to ensure that companies integrate social and environmental value with financial success. And we have studied how we can develop leaders with this vision and ability. The First Movers Fellowship program transforms what we have learned from this decade-long inquiry into practice.

The year-long Fellowship includes three seminars: July 2016 in Aspen, Colorado; November 2016 in Wye River, Maryland and April 2017 in New York, New York. It is structured around four core components we have learned are essential for developing First Movers who can envision and implement game changing innovations within their firms. Innovation. Leadership. Reflection. Community. Members of our “Design Team” – who design and facilitate the seminars – are leading experts in each of these areas.

Each four-day seminar weaves together a program that includes skill building in innovation and leadership, time and tools for reflection, intensive project work, and collaboration with a community of innovators.

By the end of the program each Fellow has:

  1. Envisioned and implemented a game-changing innovation within their firm.
  2. Developed skills to socialize innovative ideas within complex systems.
  3. Connected to a community of innovators who will remain a lifelong source of encouragement, collaboration and support.
  4. Developed strategies for tapping in to their personal passions and purpose to fuel their commitment as change makers.


Individuals selected to be First Mover Fellows commit to undertake a project within their companies during their year as a Fellow that reflects their commitment to social innovation in business. The scope for these projects is very broad. Fellows’ projects have ranged from providing access to sanitation for low-income households in Ghana, to reducing the reliance of fleet vehicles on petroleum-based fuels, to developing best practice privacy and information values to ensure ethical use of personal data. See additional information about Fellows’ projects.

“Before Aspen I was thinking of the project in terms of a pure communication focus rather than asking what impact it can have on our work force and the significant work force challenges that we face. It reframed the way I think about it, talk about it, the impact it can make.”  

- Jenifer Bice, Walmart, Fellow since 2012



Fellows are required to participate in all three of the seminars. Between the seminars, they work on implementing their ideas for products, services processes, or business models in their companies. They also continue to connect with other Fellows and Aspen staff via conference calls, interviews and meetings.


Fellows identify at least two colleagues to serve as Thought Partners during their Fellowship and support their efforts to turn their projects into reality. Ideally, one of these partners comes from the leadership development or human resource department of their companies to help ensure that the leadership lessons learned by the Fellows are shared widely amongst other high potential employees.

The Fellowship Financial Commitment

The Fellowship is a self-funded program of the Aspen Institute Business and Society Program. Fellows pay a $26,800 participation fee to cover program planning and facilitation and room & board for three seminars. Fellows also pay their own travel expenses to attend the seminars in Aspen, Wye River, and New York. Fellows’ fees and costs are covered by their companies.