Around the Institute

2017 Resnick Aspen Action Forum Kicks Off

July 28, 2017  • Nicole Corea

Planning themes for this year’s Resnick Aspen Action Forum meant looking at the state of the world around us. Monumental shifts in politics, migration, trade, climate, and technology are happening in the blink of an eye. Global leaders have to keep up by recalibrating their worldviews while remaining committed to their core values. It’s time for The Great Re-set.

Peter Reiling, the Aspen Institute executive vice president for leadership, welcomed Action Forum leaders from 30 different countries with a reminder of their shared goals to reflect, refresh, and recommit to action. He noted that, especially now, it easy to become comfortably numb. “But, abdication is not an option,” he said. “The world needs courageous, entrepreneurial, and perhaps most importantly joyful leaders who are ready to lean in and act.”

In the following panel discussion moderated by journalist and Henry Crown Fellow Suzanne Malveaux, four such leaders shared their thoughts on how to navigate these previously uncharted waters. The impact of technology was frequently mentioned. For some, it induces anxiety. Henry Crown Fellow Jocelyn Mangan, CEO of Snagajob, works with those employed by the gig economy. They have shared with her their concerns over automation taking away stable work. For others, it is a source of hope. Health Innovator Fellow Wayne Franklin, director of the Texas Congenital Heart Program, spoke about how Twitter can be just as effective at predicting heart attacks as the CDC. Both panelists agreed that technology could be used more effectively than it is now.

“We’re the first generation in human history that can see the future,” said Catto Fellow M. Sanjayan, CEO of Conversation International. Yet while we may be able to calculate how quickly temperatures will rise and the arctic shelf will melt, we have been less adept at understanding the rise of populism. Catto Fellow Carlos Viviani, senior economist at the European Commission, says this is due to lack of leadership at the political level. Outcomes like Brexit were the result of government officials not taking the time to address the economic and identity anxieties of their populations. Migration itself is not the problem, he noted. It was the lack of integration of foreign-born migrants. Viviani encouraged politicians to keep their ears to the ground.

Good leaders are first good listeners. Active listening requires one to not only understand what a person is saying, but also why they believe it to be true. The Resnick Aspen Action Forum provides a space for people from different backgrounds and worldviews to take on global challenges. You too can watch and listen to these inspirational leaders on our livestreams as the event continues through Monday.