IDEAS: Winter 2016/2017

Winter 2016 – 2017

Editor’s Letter

Collaboration. Impact. They’re two core Aspen Institute principles. With more than 30 programs and counting, the chance to join forces for change is not just obvious but essential.

So when the Youth & Engagement Programs, a major Institute initiative under the direction of Rajiv Vinnakota, joined forces with Jennifer Bradley’s Urban Innovation Lab to bring together adolescents and young entrepreneurs to propose solutions to the problems they face in Washington and Baltimore (page 70), we wanted to be there to listen. As is so often the case, they spoke with not just idealism but simple clarity that gives hope for the kind of collaborations they can themselves make work. “Racism is something that can be designed—but it can be redesigned and dismantled,” one entrepreneur said.

We feature Institute impact in a dedicated section every issue, but we have an unusually long section this time, to highlight the Institute’s focuses on youth and to show more of its collaborations. We have four reports from young people who rose to the Aspen Challenge in Chicago (page 34), including two students in Englewood, one of Chicago’s most impoverished neighborhoods, whose Challenge project was teaching high-school students how to use banks rather than extortionate check-cashing services. It’s all part of what Vinnakota calls the need to give young people access to “social capital”—the scaffolding, seen and unseen, that lets people succeed.

Another group of high-school students, this one in Raleigh, North Carolina, came together as part of the Bezos Scholars Program to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline that suddenly became part of their own experience when six students were charged with disorderly conduct over an end-of-term prank involving water balloons (page 40). The young woman who spearheaded the team is keeping closely involved as a first-year at the University of North Carolina.

Our cover story shows the kind of collaboration that Aspen extends across the globe: helping entrepreneurs in developing countries without reliable access to business and technical expertise get both, and go on to advise others in their own countries. That kind of reverberation—starting with generosity, expertise, energy, and the need to recognize and help people who don’t have it yet—is what the Institute creates, city by town by country, year by year. In the next years ahead, we’ll need and look forward to more of it. And IDEAS will be here bringing that generosity and work to you.