We live in a world of possibilities. From Africa to India to Central America, leaders and entrepreneurs are harnessing new technologies and innovations to shake the status quo and strengthen their societies. Whether they are passionate about providing clean water or clean elections, their ability to pursue progress is too often stalled by structural limitations and political gridlock. But these issues exist here as well. Schools across the United States are developing innovative models for learning, and conservation and renewable energy technologies are no longer on the fringe. Yet, like so many other critical issues, they've become highly politicized. Whether or not we succeed in responding to these and other challenges depends on how we invest in leadership.
The goal of the Aspen Global Leadership Network is to build a corps of entrepreneurial, values-based leaders, then bring them together to create change at home and abroad. Fellows selected to join the Aspen Global Leadership Network convene multiple times over several years to clarify their values and discuss their legacy. Then they are tasked with moving from "success to significance" by creating projects that address a pressing societal issue.
It all began with 20 Henry Crown Fellows in 1997. Today, there are over 1,600 Aspen Global Leadership Fellows, spanning 45 countries on 6 continents. Fellows are taking on daunting challenges in education, working to improve public health, standing up for indigenous populations, fighting corruption, taking political office, and more.
South African Michelle Odayan left her home and job to run a multimillion-dollar initiative to strengthen and reform the justice system.
Desmond Shum launched The Family Heritage Center at Tsinghua University, helping major families in China think strategically about how to use their resources to benefit society.
Panamanian Hildegard Vasquez launched a grassroots initiative (CAPTA) to train and educate women to help lift their families out of poverty. Her project also re-socializes local gangs and strengthens community through restoration of cultural sites.
Govindraj Ethiraj left a lucrative media job to join the Universal Identity Project, the first identification system for all Indians. The program will improve the delivery of government services while reducing graft and inefficiency.
Indiba-Africa Development Alliance
Africa Leadership Initiative/South Africa: Class V
Michelle Odayan is executive director of Indiba-Africa Development Alliance. She co-founded the Indiba-Africa Group and ODM Consult, two human rights and management consulting firms. She is an arbitrator and mediator with the South African Local Government Bargaining. Council (SALGBC) and the Motor Industry Bargaining Council and is actively involved in a variety of professional associations. She has held formal positions with ACCORD, Olive OD&T, Business against Crime, and Agenda Feminist Media. Between 2000 and 2004 she was seconded from BAC to the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development to lead the court management restructuring process within the lower courts. She served on the Presidents Working Group on Women between 2005 and 2007 and continues to provide advisory support to a number of public and civil society boards. Michelle holds BA LLB degrees from the University of Natal. She lives in Durban with Anil Naidoo and their daughter Antara. Michelle is a Fellow of the fifth class of the Africa Leadership Initiative-South Africa and a member of the Aspen Global Leadership Network.
Great Ocean Group
2005 class of Henry Crown Fellows
Desmond Shum, Executive Chairman, Great Ocean Group, Beijing, China. Desmond Shum is the Chairman of Great Ocean Group, Vice Chairman of Airport City Development Co. Ltd., Honorary Trustee of Tsinghua University and a member of the 11th session of Beijing Political Consultative Conference. In 2004, Desmond and his wife set up the Desmond & Whitney Shum Fellowship at Harvard University. The Fellowship supports graduate students undertaking social science research projects in China. In 2007, they also established Kai Feng Foundation, which works mainly with leading universities, research institutes, art institutes and top level NGOs by sponsoring them in the areas of education, science and culture. In 2011, Desmond established Tsinghua Kaifeng Family Heritage Center, endowed to Tsinghua University by the Kai Feng Foundation. Tsinghua Kaifeng Family Heritage Center is the first of its kind in China dedicated to nurturing exceptional family heritage, aiming to build mutual benefit for Chinese and international wealth owner families and the benefit of society. Desmond received his Bachelor's Degree in Finance and Accounting from University of Wisconsin - Madison and an EMBA graduate at a joint program of Kellogg School of Business of Northwestern University and Hong Kong University of Science & Technology. Desmond is also a titleholder of Chartered Financial Analyst ("CFA"). He is a member of the 2005 class of Henry Crown Fellows at the Aspen Institute.
Co-Founder and Head Architect
Hache Uve, S.A.
2nd class of the Central America Leadership Initiative
Hildegard Vasquez is head of the architecture office, Hache Uve, which she founded in 1998. Her office has concentrated mostly on preservation and renovation of historic sites such as San Felipe Historic District in Panama or the city of Granada, Nicaragua. She served as head of Fundación Calicanto, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the cultural, historic, and human restoration of San Felipe. Its projects include the re-socialization of local gangs, educational programs for single mothers, multiple cultural events, and plans for the restoration of colonial churches. She has also been a member of the Inter Oceanic Canal Museum Board since its creation in 1997 and was part of the Contemporary Arts Museum Board from 2001 to 2005. Her office has worked on restoration projects such as Panama's National Theater and Santo Domingo Convent and is currently working on a proposal for a contemporary arts center in the transitional area of San Felipe and Chorrillo. Hildegard has a BA and a BFA from Rhode Island School of Design and a master's in historic restoration from the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid. She is a Fellow of the second class of the Central America Leadership Initiative and a member of the Aspen Global Leadership Network.
Inaugural class of the India Leadership Initiative
Govindraj Ethiraj is editor-in-chief of UTV News, the news arm of media and entertainment group UTV. Prior to this, he worked with Business Standard as new media editor. He continues to be a columnist with the newspaper on general business issues and technology convergence. He was previously at CNBC-TV18, where he was actively involved in most of the channel's initial growth and expansion initiatives. Prior to that, he worked with Economic Times and was actively involved in driving general business news and financial markets coverage out of Mumbai. He also worked with Business World and Business India magazines. His awards include: British Chevening Scholarships For Young Indian Print Journalists at The University of Westminster - 1998; Selected as one of 25 most influential personalities in media and advertising in Bombay by Mid-Day on its 25th Anniversary (2004); Nominated for Distinction in Communication at the Teacher's Achievement Awards 2004; BMW Foundation Herbert Quandt Indo German Young Leaders Forum 2005; Conferred Honorary Lifetime Member of the XLRI Alumni Association (2005), and Award For Outstanding Contribution To Media; Indira Award For Marketing Excellence 2006. He graduated from Elphinstone College, Mumbai. He is a Fellow of the inaugural class of the India Leadership Initiative and a member of the Aspen Global Leadership Network.
Fellows from the Aspen Global Leadership Network share their thoughts during last summer’s ACT II gathering in Aspen. ACT II is the Biennial Gathering of Fellows from across the Aspen Global Leadership Network (AGLN). More on the Aspen Global Leadership Network