Becoming a Health Innovator Fellow FAQs

What is the purpose of the Fellowship?
The goal of the Health Innovators Fellowship is (a) to strengthen the leadership of innovators across the U.S. healthcare ecosystem, and (b) to connect, inspire and challenge them to develop creative new approaches to improve the health and well-being of all Americans. The program offers busy people an opportunity to “hit the pause button” during four one-week seminars over twenty months when they can spend time with a group of peers in the health care field and, together, reflect on how they lead in their organizations and how they might strengthen their leadership and have a broader and deeper impact on health care in the U.S.

How is the Fellowship structured?
This fellowship is modeled after the highly successful Henry Crown Fellowship, launched in 1997. It was developed through a partnership of the Aspen Institute and the Greenville Health System of SC, which is a generous sponsor of this Fellowship. The Aspen Institute controls the content of the Fellowship and the selection of the Fellows.

Who would benefit from participating in this Fellowship?
The Fellowship is designed for proven, entrepreneurial leaders in the U.S. health care field who have reached a point in their lives and careers when they would like to “paint on a broader canvas” as leaders and could benefit from an opportunity to think through how to do that with a diverse group of peers with whom they would not ordinarily interact.Fellows will hail from a variety of industries and sectors throughout the health care ecosystem – including medicine, health insurance, pharmaceuticals, medical technology,  biotech, the life sciences, mental and behavioral health, government, public health, health care facilities and systems, medical equipment and supplies, health care venture capital, veterans’ health, and more.

How does one become a Health Innovator Fellow?
Candidates must be nominated by a third party who knows him or her well and is prepared to speak candidly and objectively about the candidate’s qualifications. Individuals cannot apply for the Fellowship or nominate themselves. See more on this in the “How to Nominate” section of our website.

How will the class of Fellows be selected?
Each class will have 20 Fellows, women and men, all between the ages of 35 and 50.  The ideal class will include Fellows from various personal and professional backgrounds whose experiences will complement, challenge, and inspire each other during the seminars and throughout the Fellowship.  We are looking for diversity within the class.  Each Fellow should have something to teach and something to learn from the others.  We call the process of putting together the ideal class  "creating the mosaic", and it's both a science and an art.  Unfortunately, many exceptional, impressive individuals are not chosen to be Fellows because they don't fit the class mosaic for that particular year.  That's why we reconsider candidates, sometimes for a number of years, for their suitability for future classes.

What will happen during the Fellowship?
Fellows are part of a class of 20 leaders in the U.S. health care sector.  Fellows go into retreat four times over a twenty month period with the other members of their class.  These retreats are held behind closed doors – no one else may participate in these retreats except the Fellows and three Aspen Institute moderators. There are no guests speakers or visitors.  This is a unique opportunity for Fellows to share openly and confidentially with one another the challenges they face as leaders and their visions for how they might “step up” to have a broader impact that will improve the health and well-being of Americans.  The role of the moderators is to spark a candid dialogue among the Fellows about how they currently lead, their view of a “Good Society" and how the U.S. health care system aligns with that view, their thoughts on how the health care system could be improved, and their ideas on how improving health care in the U.S. can become part of their personal legacy.

Why would a busy leader in health care make available so much time for this?
We are keenly aware that Fellows are very busy and their time is at a premium.  That said, Fellows who have participated in one of Aspen Institute's other dozen Fellowship programs tell us that their participation in the Fellowship was one of the best investments they have ever made. The Fellowship provides a rare opportunity to step back, think with, and draw inspiration from other successful leaders who are facing similar life and professional challenges.

What do you expect from Fellows?
The program requires each Fellow to commit to attending approximately 26 days of seminar meetings (i.e., 4 seminars of 5-7 days each). On top of this is the time required to prepare for each seminar as well as the time and energy to design and launch a leadership venture of the Fellow's own choosing.  This venture is a requirement of the Fellowship and an opportunity for Fellows to truly stretch themselves in their leadership. Each Fellow will need to be able to attend all four seminars in their entirety – start to finish – and each candidate will need to confirm his or her availability for all four of the seminars before we will consider them for the Fellowship. Participation will be without cost to the Fellows or their organizations, with the exception of incidental expenses and travel costs to the seminar sites.  For those who cannot cover transportation, there is a pool of funds at the Aspen Institute to support them.

One of the requirements is that the Fellows participate in all four seminars. Is there any flexibility for that requirement?
No. All of our Fellows are busy, but we do expect all of our Fellows to attend each and every seminar, from start to finish.  No late arrivals or early departures.  No ducking out for calls or meetings.  We know this sounds difficult, but we now have more than 2,100 Fellows who have been able to respect this requirement of their Fellowship.

Your materials mention the Aspen Global Leadership Network (AGLN) – what is that? 
The Aspen Global Leadership Network is the umbrella under which the Institute operates fifteen geographic or sector-specific fellowships around the world.  Collectively, the Network comprises over 2,100 current Fellows and alumni from 48 countries, and continues to grow. Like the Health Innovators Fellowship, each of the Fellowship programs is designed to inspire Fellows to take their leadership to greater heights and to broaden their impact on society at-large. The seminars provide Fellows with an intimate forum for deep introspection, probing dialogue and interactive problem-solving. Fellows are also challenged to launch ventures that will stretch them as leaders.  Looking across the Network, we see Fellows using their businesses and organizations to create new ventures and jobs, develop medical devices for children, fight rare genetic diseases, improve employability, provide healthy meals to school children, promote environmental sustainability, reduce infant mortality, raise classroom engagement, stop ethnic violence, keep kids out of gangs, and battle corruption, just to name a few. The Network helps keep members connected so that they can continue to learn from, collaborate with, and support one another.  Once selected, the Health Innovators Fellows will automatically become members of the AGLN and will be included in their activities, including the annual Aspen Action Forum.

Who is an ideal candidate?
We are looking for proven innovators in the health care field who have achieved significant success and are now at an “inflection point” – that is, at a point in their lives and careers where they are ready to explore “painting on a broader canvas” or deepening their impact on U.S. health care. Being at an inflection point is different from being ready to change jobs. Fellows must be at a stage in their lives when they are ready to explore how to use their skills, experiences, resources, and networks to broaden and deepen their impact on health care.

How do you define the health care field?
Broadly. We are looking for Fellows from a variety of industries and sectors throughout the health care ecosystem – including medicine, the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries, the life sciences, mental and behavioral health, government, public health, health care facilities and systems, medical equipment and supplies, veterans’ health, and more.

When are nominations due?
Nominations for the third class of Health Innovator Fellows are due January 31, 2017.

How can my nomination be most effective?
To be most effective, your nomination will convince us of the following five things: the candidate is a proven innovator; the candidate is an innovator/entrepreneur; he or she is at the right point in their life and career to step back and think about how to broaden their leadership and impact (inflection point); the candidate is not daunted by the sorts of challenges that may scare away others (resilience); the candidate understands the requirements of the Fellowship and can commit to completing them.

You say you want “proven innovators in the health care field who have achieved significant success. How do you define success?
We are most interested in candidates who have risen to the top of their chosen field.  Most Aspen Leadership Fellows are founders of an organization, CEOs, executive directors, and senior executives.  They can be from the for-profit or non-profit sectors, or from government or academia.  The key is that they are leaders and true innovators who have already made a difference in the health care field and are ready to have an even greater impact on health care.

What does it mean when you say you are looking for entrepreneurs/doers?
We are looking for people who make things happen.  Not analysts or advisors.  Our strongest candidates will have started and grown something and are ready to do more.

Is my candidate eligible if he or she will turn 51 this year?
Eligible candidates must be 50 years old or younger on October 30, 2017.

Should I tell my candidate that I am nominating him/her?
Absolutely, yes, you should tell your candidate because you need to ensure that he or she is interested in the Fellowship and available to participate fully if selected. Please forward the nomination materials to them and make sure they visit our website so that they understand the program and the time commitment it involves, and that they are fully prepared to engage. We encourage them to reach out to other individuals involved with the Aspen Institute (Fellows, trustees, etc.).

How well do I have to know the candidate to nominate them?
Very well. We are not looking for someone you have merely met at a conference or read about in an article who impresses you and appears to fit our criteria. We look to you as a nominator to provide an in-depth look into candidate’s background, values and readiness to take full advantage of this opportunity.

How can I prepare my nominee for an interview?
Please ask them to be open and honest. At this point in the process, we are confident the candidate meets our basic criteria (e.g., success in their field, innovative, between the ages of 35 and 50). The interview is about getting to know them as a person. Are they at an inflection point in their life? Are they willing to be open and vulnerable at the seminar table and with their classmates? Do they have a kind heart and generous spirit to take this journey for themselves and their classmates? The interview is a chance to really get to know each of our top candidates and see how their personality would fit into our class mosaic. Everything said at the interview is confidential, so please encourage your candidate to feel comfortable sharing anything they feel is important about who they are as a leader and a potential Health Innovator Fellow. In addition, we strongly encourage them to reach out to a few alumni or current Fellows to get a feel for the Fellowship.

What can derail a candidate?
We expect candidates to come to the interviews having taken some time to research the Aspen Institute and what the fellowship experience entails. We also ask them to make a couple of non-negotiable commitments: to attend the seminars in their entirety, start to finish, and to complete a meaningful venture. An inability to commit to either eliminates candidates for the coming year. We ask the nominator to stress the importance of examining the published seminar dates, as well as the venture-related criteria and frequently asked questions. We have had candidates who accept an interview knowing that they cannot make the dates. Some believe they can receive an exception, which is not the case, as the seminars are an essential component of the Fellowship and missing any part is unfair to that Health Innovator Fellow and their class. Any Fellow who accepts an interview slot expecting that he or she may get an exception prevents another candidate from being evaluated.

Do you accept nominations for candidates based outside of the United States or candidates in the United States who are working on international health issues?
Unfortunately we do not. 

Can Fellows from other AGLN programs be nominated to participate in Health Innovators Fellowship?
Unfortunately, we are not able to accept candidates who are Fellows of other Aspen Global Leadership Network programs. 

Another requirement is that the Fellows carry out a leadership venture. What sort of venture will Fellows be expected to complete?
Our goal is to help develop and incubate creative approaches that will improve the health and well-being of all Americans.  We ask our Fellows to develop new approaches that will stretch them in their leadership and make a significant impact on the field.  The key is that the ventures add to the Fellows’ current efforts and accomplishments; Fellows cannot fulfill the venture requirement by continuing a current venture or venture. We leave it to the Fellows to decide on their venture. The Fellowship does not provide financial resources for these ventures, but we will approve the ventures and provide support that includes coaching and mentoring.

Does my venture idea have to be original?
Not necessarily. In fact, we encourage you to learn about successful models, if and where they exist, including models already launched within the Aspen Global Leadership Network and not necessarily in your community or country. That said, we believe that Fellows are uniquely gifted, creative individuals who have the potential to come up with breakthrough ideas by virtue of their entrepreneurial and innovation-driven natures.

Must I create my venture myself or can I leverage other successful ventures?
Leveraging others is fine. The key is that you add a new dimension to what is already happening. Two South African Fellows are busy replicating Teach for America in South Africa. Others have replicated the Henry Crown Fellowship program itself…which is why we can now speak of the Aspen Global Leadership Network. In fact, we encourage you to look at the venture summaries listed in the AGLN directory (www.aglndirectory.org) for ideas as you develop your initial venture concepts and plans.

What kind of impact meets the criteria of the program? How far should the reach be?
As a recipient of this Fellowship, you are the beneficiary of a very significant investment in your development as a leader. Your nominator and our backers believe, as do we, that you have the capacity to bring significant new ideas and energy to societal challenges that often seem to be hopelessly deadlocked. We have no specific target level of impact in mind but we do hope for a real and significant “return” to the world for this investment. We chose you because we believe in your ability to do great things.

What do you mean when you say the venture should be "a stretch"?
The challenges we face in our organizations, communities and countries are real and growing. They cannot be addressed by a “business as usual” approach. The Fellowships that comprise the AGLN were created to provide a real boost (a “turbo-charge”) to existing efforts. We know you are busy and we know you are already engaged. We want you to stretch for two reasons: the world needs you to; and we believe you will surprise yourself by how much more you can actually do if you think about how best to leverage your time and talents.

What if my job is already a social/community program/venture?
Many Fellows are already “social entrepreneurs”, NGO leaders, government leaders. We know that. But even you have the ability to stretch and do more. We know that because we have seen it done again and again.

How would you define something as additive in this context above?
In this instance, the venture can be something additional that your organization or office was not already doing or planning to do. It should be something that you would not have started or done, but for the fact you are in this Fellowship. Jacqueline Novogratz of Acumen Fund created an “Acumen Fellows” program loosely modeled on the Henry Crown Fellowship Program. Bill Bynum of the Enterprise Corporation of the Delta created the HOPE Credit Union.

Given the number of ventures already created within the Aspen Global Leadership Network, are there any common traits among those that have proven successful?
Yes, a few. First and foremost is the correlation between the Fellows’ passion for the venture and its success. If you aren’t thrilled about what you are doing, odds are it will not succeed.

They actually started. Ventures that go through endless feasibility studies rarely get off the ground.

They take advantage of platforms under the Fellows’ control. Ventures built off of Fellows’ existing businesses and organizations have often done very well relative to others. Not always. But often.

They either have or explicitly plan for full-time managerial staff. Ventures take time. Once launched, if they are to grow and sustain, they need the leadership of Fellows but also someone who will “lose sleep” over the details. Our best ventures have considered this and either hired, planned for the hiring or partnered with others who could provide dedicated management.

Can we do a class venture?
If in addition to a personal leadership venture, yes; instead of, no. We encourage class-wide collaboration and have seen many attempts over the years to launch class ventures. None have panned out though, usually because of the difficulty of finding one that everyone can be equally passionate about.

Can joining a new board count as my venture?
No. As leaders, we assume you are already involved in boards and assorted charitable works. Simply joining a new board is not a stretch.

When do Fellows have to decide what they will do for their venture?
Fellows are not expected to arrive at the first seminar knowing what venture they will undertake. Rather, the Fellowship experience and the other members of their class are meant to inspire them to discover what they would like to do. We do expect them to identify and commit to an idea within the first six months, and to begin implementing the initiative during the two-year Fellowship period.

If you have any further questions, please contact the program's managing director, Rima Cohen (rima.cohen@aspeninst.org) or the program coordinator, Lisa Rubenstein (lisa.rubenstein@aspeninst.org).