Around the Institute

Best of the Five Best

December 23, 2014  • Tarek Rizk, Guest Blogger

Today we start the first of two days highlighting our favorite ten ideas from the Five Best Ideas of the Day so far. We launched in late June of this year and have published 124 lists. That’s 620 ideas. The team working on the Five Best of course has some personal favorites, and I canvassed people around the Aspen Institute as well as some of our earliest followers to hear what ideas really appealed to them.

What I learned, and what I’ve gathered from months of feedback from subscribers to our daily newsletter, is that many very well informed people have mixed feelings about the tidal wave of information available to us every day. Even our own best systems for seeing the most important news and analysis — who we follow on Twitter or Facebook, what email newsletters we subscribe to — can come up short.

That might be because some of these sources are working so hard to deliver what readers need to know so they can move on to something else. Others are giving you their take on an important story. We don’t see our mission that way. We think that the world is full of ideas that might slip by us as more sources churn more content into the information ecosystem. We don’t want to control the frame on some issue or another. And we don’t want to be another morning newsletter that you scan as you wait for a cup of coffee. We want you to see an idea that makes you stop and think for a moment because it’s a new approach to a problem you understand or an under-exposed truth about an issue everyone is discussing. 

With that criteria in mind, we select ideas every day, and today we picked five of our favorites from this year. (Another five ‘greatest hits’ will appear tomorrow.)

A great idea might be one you yourself have thought about but never put into words. Take one of our ideas from today: The case for one six-year term for U.S. presidents. I’ve lived in Washington a long time, and I’ve seen my way through many presidential terms. And this notion, to loosen the fetters of constant campaigning and salvage more usable leadership from a presidency, really resonated with me.

Great ideas can also come — sparingly, I’ll admit, since the Internet is full of explainers these days — in the form of a thoughtful and informative piece that gives readers the background to make sense of an issue that isn’t available elsewhere. This summer, as we all read about the surging numbers of underage migrants appearing at our southern border, only passing reference was made to the source of the mass exodus. This map-driven explanation from the Wilson Quarterly unpacked the crisis starting in Mexico and followed it to its sources deep inside Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.

If these pique your interest, visit the Five Best Ideas of the Day at and consider signing up for our email, delivered at noon Eastern time each weekday. Thanks.