The 2018 Resnick Aspen Action Forum

The Resnick Aspen Action Forum is one of the Aspen Institute's greatest platforms for sparking real and measurable change in the world. Since its inception five years ago, the Action Forum has successfully provided a space for over 1,000 high-integrity, action oriented leaders to come together, pause, reflect, refresh, and recommit to doing their part to build a better world. Those attending share a common thread: they are “doers” – men and women who have achieved great success in their careers as entrepreneurs and CEOs, and now are using their talents to make a dent in the universe. These participants are inspired by the Action Forum’s seminars, workshops, and topical dialogues, to make public “Action Pledges” which detail specific ways they will create positive change in their communities. Some of the 2018 participants include: 
  • Indrani Bagchi, Senior Diplomatic Editor, Times of India
  • Megan Jones Bell, Chief Science Officer, Headspace
  • Marla Blow, CEO, FS Card Inc.
  • Rick Calero, Senior Managing Director, TIAA
  • Arturo Condo, President, EARTH University
  • Dave Gilboa, Co-Founder & Co-CEO, Warby Parker
  • Sejal Shah Gulati, General Manager and Vice President, American Express
  • Di-Ann Eisnor, Director of Urban Technology, Waze/Google
  • Sally Shan, Managing Director, Head of China, HarbourVest Partners, LLC
  • Fred Swaniker, Founder & CEO, African Leadership University
  • Shane S. Tedjarati, President & CEO, Global High Growth Regions, Honeywell, Inc
  • And many more...
The theme, Fearless Leadership, gave those gathered in Aspen – our largest ever with 340 adults and nearly 100 youth – the chance to reflect on the role that fear and fearlessness play in their lives, especially in a time of uncertainty and rapid change, and what that means for them as leaders. With over 300 Action Pledges made, they left with fresh perspectives and stronger resolves. Below, we highlight some of the best content from the 2018 Action Forum. 

Our 2018 Theme: Fearless Leadership: The need for fearless leaders has never been greater. Disruption of business models. Shifting global trade. Massive movements of people across borders. Degradation of civic and political discourse. Heightened attention to harassment and discrimination. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Add to that advances in automation and artificial intelligence, major generational shifts in the workforce, and medical advances that heighten humanity’s powers to tinker with fate. How do you lead when you don’t know what’s around the corner? As employees and consumers encourage you to take a stand, how best to respond? When friends and neighbors challenge your core values, how best to engage? As changes impact you, your family, and those you love, how to maintain your moral compass? In a world of relentless pressure, how do you maintain a calm presence when you’re deeply anxious inside? How do you nurture and preserve your compassion and humanity?

Moving From Thought to Action

The Action Forum is designed to help move leaders from thought to action. Through workshops, dialogue, and public commitments to act, participants are turning their ideas into real and measurable change. While at the Action Forum, participants also make Action Pledges. These public commitments are made by leaders to direct their talents and resources toward a specific societal challenge. Below are just a few examples from the 2018 Action Forum: 
  • "I will end the transmission of HIV from mothers to children by 2020." - Aedhmar Hynes, CEO, Text100 Global Communications
  • "I will fight the growing scourge of fake news and touch 50 million social media users through my online initiatives, and, in India by 2019." - Govindraj Ethiraj, Founder-Editor, IndiaSpend
  • "I will lead a movement to ensure that there is safe and healthy play in 7,000 schools, reaching 3.5 million students, in the United States by December 2020." - Jill Vialet, Founder & CEO, Playworks
  • "I will change the energy infrastructure landscape by commercializing nuclear cold fusion energy reaching over 1 billion people around the world by 2040.” Doug Moorehead, President & CTO, FlexGen

One of the greatest ways the Action Forum helps participants create an impact is through opportunities for collaboration. Each year, participants gather from across the globe to discuss the most pressing challenges their communities face. During the 2018 Action Forum, participants gathered to discuss everything from Truth & Reconciliation efforts in America to the crisis in Nicaragua to Weave: The Social Fabric Project, a new initiative aimed at bringing together a divided nation. The Action Forum allows those in attendance to leverage the collective brainpower of their fellow participants. Through open collaboration sessions, Peer Consultancies, and informal conversations over a meal, the Action Forum brings together the greatest minds to tackle the toughest challenges of our day.  

In 2018, the Aspen Global Leadership Network published the first edition of Summit: The Journey From Thought to Action. This magazine chronicles the stories of action from across the Aspen Global Leadership Network and will be released each year at the Action Forum. The 2018 edition highlights some of the Fellows who are pushing the limits of Fearless Leadership and putting their values into action. This magazine is distributed to all current Fellows at seminars around the world to help inspire and galvanize entrepreneurial leaders to step up and make a difference. To read more about how participants are making an impact, download Summit below. 

Watch Featured Conversations

At the Action Forum, we heard how Fellows are leading through uncertain times in their own contexts as well as why they remain hopeful for a brighter future. Take a look at the videos below to hear their insights and stories. 

Via Facebook Live, we also talked to several leaders about their perspectives on values-based leadership and the lessons they’ve learned through their journeys. Watch, like, and share their interviews on Facebook below.
All video from the event can be found on

From Engaging Dialogue to Supporting Action

Each year, the Action Forum offers a variety of different session formats. From classic text-based dialogues to interactive skill workshops, each session is designed to help participants reflect on their values and spur them into action. 

Seminar Dialogues help leaders reflect on timeless ideas and values. Through text-based dialogue with expert moderators and accomplished peers, seminar participants expand their knowledge, refine their tools of intellectual analysis, test the wellsprings of their convictions, and enhance their capacities to think more creatively in solving the problems that confront society. You can download the 2018 readings here

Topical Dialogues feature a range of leadership topics that were crowd-sourced by participants. These dialogues are different from typical “panel” discussions. Several pre-selected Lead Discussants kick-off the discussion by sharing their personal experience or perspective on the topic. After their opening remarks, the moderator will use their comments to frame and anchor the remaining 90-minutes to create a brief, highly interactive discussion for the 20-30 participants in the session. Examples from 2018 include Disruptive Innovation: Keeping your business ahead of the curve and Compassionate Leadership: Opening up a blind eye. You can view a full list of topical dialogues here

Action Workshops are an integral part of the Action Forum experience. Each year there are three different types of workshops offered: Peer Consultancies, Group Collaborations, and Venture Skill Workshops. These sessions are often hands-on, interactive, and collaborative and are designed to offer tangible lessons to challenge participants to think about the unique impact they can have. You can view a full list of Venture Skill Workshops here