More than 100 participants from around the U.S. and other countries attended the 2012 Socrates Summer Seminars, July 5-8, in Aspen. The seminar weekend opened with a dinner program featuring Aspen Institute Executive Vice President Elliot Gerson and Socrates moderators Leigh Hafrey (Leadership in the 21st Century), Seth Goldman and Brian Trelstad (Social Enterprise andvImpact Investing), Andrew Ross Sorkin (The Employment Debate), Vijay Vaitheeswaran (Reconsidering China’s Edge), and Robin Wright (The New Middle East Order). In addition to the roundtable discussions, Socrates attendees enjoyed a weekend of outdoor activities and group dinners. Vaitheeswaran also interviewed Sorkin for a fireside chat in which Sorkin shared personal anecdotes during the 2008 financial crisis which led to his book, Too Big to Fail. Furthermore, Goldman and Trelstad’s seminar group also joined Sorkin’s group for a special session on the role of social entrepreneurs in job creation. More photos available on the Socrates Facebook and Flickr pages.
The 2012 Socrates Program Dinner was held on Saturday, July 7. Aspen Institute President and CEO Walter Isaacson moderated a conversation on “The Digital Future” between Blue State Digital’s Managing Partner Thomas Gensemer and newly installed Yahoo! CEO and former Google Vice President Marissa Mayer. The dinner, which was hosted by long-time Socrates supporters Tarek and Shiva Farouki and David and Lisa Hernand, honored Socrates Program co-founders Gary and Laura Lauder. Video of the dinner is available here.
Social Enterprise and Impact Investing: A New Approach to Capitalism
Whether it’s a recognition that our current system isn’t working or a desire to create a new model, the past decade has seen a wave of innovators attempt to build and invest in business models designed to generate profits while creating social and environmental benefits. How are these trends reshaping capital markets and the career expectations of emerging leaders? Does their ascendancy challenge basic assumptions about the role of the firm or the nature of fiduciary responsibility? What are the implications for corporate executives and individual investors?
Moderators: Seth Goldman, co-founder, president, and teaEO, Honest Tea; and Henry Crown Fellow, the Aspen Institute; and Brian Trelstad, CIO, Acumen Fund; and Henry Crown Fellow, the Aspen Institute
Heroes and Villains, Winners and Losers: Leading Business, Politics, and Civil Society in the 21st Century
How must we lead in the 21st century, in politics, business and civil society? From human nature to global systems, financial services in ancient Greece to the current economic downturn, endangered-peoples movements to extreme sports, Thoreau, and social media, “Heroes and Villains” captures the challenges and solutions we have already articulated for the new century. Starting with participant input on the nature of values-based leadership today, we will look at dominant issues in government, corporations, and the larger culture, and identify cross-sector frameworks for successful, ethical decision-making.
Moderator: Leigh Hafrey, senior lecturer, Communication and Ethics, MIT Sloan School of Management
The Employment Debate: Public or Private Responsibility?
Unemployment remains a persistent problem in the United States. How can we fix it? How can the government help spur job creation? What policies could be the most effective in the short term and long term? Tax? Regulations? Education? How does the U.S. compare to other countries? What’s working — and what’s not — in other parts of the world? What does history tell us? This seminar focuses on the unemployment problem in the U.S. and the debate over how to solve it.
Moderator: Andrew Ross Sorkin, financial columnist for The New York Times; co-host of CNBC’s Squawk Box; and author, Too Big to Fail
Reconsidering China’s Edge: From the End of ‘Cheap China’ to the Frontiers of Technological Innovation
China has risen to the top tier of the world economy by becoming the workshop to the world. But wage inflation, demographics, environmental burdens and regulatory costs are eroding its competitive edge. Vietnam, Indonesia and other countries with huge pools of young and cheap workers are now serious threats from below. Mindful of this, China’s leadership now explicitly wants to boost “indigenous innovation”, by which it means coming up with homegrown technological marvels rather than mere copycats of foreign inventions. To do so, it is plowing billions into research and development, and pushing its state-owned enterprises to innovate. But in the process it is squeezing foreign investors to hand over intellectual property to local partners as part of this innovation push. And by over-emphasizing Silicon Valley-style “bleeding edge” innovation, it may be giving short shrift to powerful local capacities for frugal engineering and business-model innovation. Is this really the end of Cheap China? Will China escape the middle income trap? Can China leapfrog from imitation to innovation? And is the American middle class right to think that innovation may be a zero sum game?
Moderator: Vijay V. Vaitheeswaran, China business editor, The Economist
From Rock the Casbah to the Rising Islamists: The New Middle East Order
The most important political change in the early 21st century is the epic convulsion across the Middle East. The first phase witnessed the ouster of geriatric autocrats in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen. The fires are still burning in Syria, with unrest shaking up regimes in several other states. But more than a year later, the early euphoria is increasingly being replaced by uncertainty and fear. For, shaping a new order, the second phase, is proving just as traumatic. The rise of Islamist parties further shatters political traditions and assumptions about everything from the peace process to the price of oil. What’s next for the region? Can Islam and democracy really be blended—at least in a viable 21st century government? How does the new Middle East interact with the international community? What does this mean for the regional and global balance of power? In this seminar, participants will take a close look at the new players, new parties, new scenarios, and looming challenges—and what they all mean both for the people in the world’s most volatile region and the United States.
Moderator: Robin Wright, journalist, author and foreign policy analyst; Senior Fellow-Wilson Center Distinguished Scholar, US Institute of Peace