About AYLF

Our Mission

The Aspen Young Leaders Fellowship (AYLF) identifies, cultivates, and amplifies future generations of talent to engage in the values-based leadership essential for transforming their lives and society for the better. AYLF is a place-based, multi-site program that nurtures a cadre of diverse youth committed to addressing the most compelling social, political, and scientific issues facing their communities. The fellowship is designed to:

  • Connect talent to opportunity
  • Develop passions into purpose
  • Transform vision into action

The Leadership Gap

Youth leadership development is too often left to chance or fails to achieve durable impact at a time when communities and the nation are starved for highly competent, effective, authentic, and socially conscious values-based leaders.

  • Only 1 in 10 businesses believe a college education adequately prepares graduates with necessary workforce skills (Gallup, 2014).
  • Calls from the public and private sectors to increase workforce diversity have largely gone unanswered despite clear evidence of organizational benefits.
  • Only 50% of colleges and universities offer formalized leadership programming despite evidence that leadership development contributes to college persistence.
  • The lack of formalized leadership development has dramatic consequences for local leadership pipelines and the ability for all sectors to optimize impact.

Our Approach

The Aspen Young Leaders Fellowship (AYLF) accelerates leadership development as well as fellows’ understandings of how to effectuate change individually and collectively both in and outside of systems.

Each year, 30 fellows ages 18-22 are selected from each locality based on talent and potential with particular attention paid to recruiting low- and moderate-income youth.  The program lasts one year and includes 150 seminar hours, a paid internship, launch of a community impact project, and access to an opportunity ecosystem supporting their development.  Upon completion, fellows enter a life-long network designed to support their success.

By recognizing the innate talent of young leaders as well as the communities in which they live, AYLF rebuilds leadership talent pools moving from community-supported to community-owned by partnering and investing in local adult and organizational capacities.

The Path Forward

Our longer-term goals are to deepen our roots in existing cities and expand into new ones, to graduate a critical mass of 400+ fellows by 2023 and to develop future leaders that have the capacity to address our most compelling social, political, and scientific issues in their communities. We will simultaneously build the capacity of adults and organizations to deliver high-impact leadership development far beyond the boundaries of any single fellowship, launch sustainable community impact projects, and provide a powerful network to shepherd fellows’ life-long development.

The AYLF team capitalizes on contemporary behaviorial science, whole-systems learning design, and the power of the Aspen Institute intellectual property to foster individual transformation, leadership development and community impact. We are seeking funding, programmatic, and community partners ready to help fuel growth for years.

Designed for Success

Sustainability Model. AYLF intentionally cultivates local adult stakeholders through community anchor institutions who, with support and training from the AYLF team, will grow to own and execute the program over time. Thus, impact is not contingent on the success of a single, young change-maker and whether they stay in or leave a locality. Instead, the community benefits from developing a critical mass of young leaders while simultaneously cultivating local adult and organizational talents to accelerate and sustain these efforts.

Opportunity Ecosystem.  There is perhaps nothing crueler than presume that any single opportunity is sufficient to disrupt systems of inequity when we know that it requires opportunities (plural) to create systemic change.  AYLF adopts a whole-systems approach to youth development that remediates barriers to success.  This includes:

  • Academic tutoring support
  • Safety-net funds for financial crises
  • Career coaching
  • Multi-generational seminars for families
  • Continuing training for alumni

Why Us?

The Aspen Institute is uniquely positioned to deliver on program impact. Over the Institute’s 70-year history, we perfected our model of cultivating nonpartisan, values-based leaders through text-based dialogue and the exchange of ideas. AYLF is modeled on the highly successful core of fellowships in the Aspen Global Leadership Network (AGLN) but modified by experts in youth learning and development to meet the needs of young people. The power of AGLN cannot be overstated. AGLN has graduated more than 3,000 global leaders serving from 50 countries and across sectors. AGLN Fellows are positioned to serve as mentors, guest speakers, and community impact project coaches for AYLF Fellows. AYLF participants, graduates, and their communities will benefit exponentially from this powerful network.