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 1,200 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. Over 360 adults and 120 youth gathered to explore the theme of Borders: Within and Around Us. Below, we examine some of the highlights from the 2019 Action Forum. 


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 2019 Action Forum: 
  • “I will elevate, train, and support more than 300 education leaders of color who impact the lives of over 500,000 students in five to seven U.S. cities by the end of 2021.” Carmita Semaan, Pahara-Aspen Education Fellowship
  • “I will power secure voting for 100 elections for organizations around the world by July 2020.” Jorge Garcia, Central America Leadership Initiative
  • “I will impact and steer at least 1,000,000 primary school students, and by extension their 6,000,000 family members, toward adopting eco-friendly consumer behavior in China by 2020.” Tao Zhang, China Fellowship Program
  • “I will empower 100,000 young people to be financially literate and produce personal financial plans to save and invest for bright and stable futures that break the cycle of poverty in Africa by 2022.” ’Tokunboh Ishmael, Finance Leaders Fellowship
  • “I will plant 10,000,000 bio-diverse trees in the mountains of Araku where I work with indigenous tribes to produce world class coffee in India by 2024.” Manoj Kumar, Kamalnayan Bajaj Fellowship
  • “I will enable 100,000 poor and disadvantaged students in African, Arab, and Middle Eastern countries to get access to updated academic knowledge with my app by 2022.” Muna Abusulayman, Middle East Leadership Initiative

You can read more about Action Pledges and the other ways that Fellows are stepping up to lead in the 2019 edition of Summit: The Journey from Thought to Action, the magazine of the AGLN. Download the digital edition below. 

The 2019 Theme

BORDERS | 边界 | FRONTERAS | الحدود | גבולות | FRONTIÈRES | सीमा
Within and Around Us
  There are borders within us all. The person we are today and the person we want to become. The balancing act between our families, our professional ambitions, and our self-care. The identity outwardly presumed and the authentic self we know to be true inside.

There are borders around us all. Walls between countries, religions, and cultures that decide what’s in and what’s not. Policies that can close or open, altering the spread of knowledge, resources, and transactions across sectors and nations. Man-made systems that construct and deconstruct our sense of seeing and being seen.

Whether literal or conceptual, all of these borders are real and powerful, and constantly evolving, especially as technology leapfrogs, political systems reorder, and business models disrupt. We now face renewed questions about the boundaries of human potential: What causes some borders to be drawn while others are erased? What cracks do you see emerging and where do you see bricks being laid? What borders preserve what you love and protect what you hold sacred? And which might be holding us back from realizing our shared horizons?

Around the seminar table, we break down some boundaries and reinforce others to explore the boundless frontier of human compassion, ingenuity, and leadership. We invite you to return to this space to ask: how is bordering impacting my world today? What might lie beyond the limits we have constructed? And what might transpire should we dare to leap across the edge?

Watch Featured Conversations

At the 2019 Action Forum, we heard how Fellows are leading with the borders in their lives, discussed the limits of humanity, and gained inspiration from the rippling around the world. Take a look at the blogs below, including full videos, to hear Fellows' insights and stories. 
  • Opening Plenary featuring Aspen Institute President & CEO Dan Porterfield, newly named AGLN VP John Simpkins, Henry Crown Fellow Shamina Singh, Middle East Leadership Initiative Fellow Karim Alwadi, and Youth Action Forum participant Jane Nduati on a multi-generational panel discussing the borders in their lives. 
  • 2019 John P. McNulty Prize Laureates Presentation featuring 2017 Prize Winner and Middle East Leadership Initiative Fellow Lana Abu-Hijleh in conversation with former UN Under-Secretary-General Olara Otunnu, followed by "pitches" from the 2019 McNulty Prize Laureates. 
  • Leadership Beyond Borders featuring the first female private space explorer and CEO of the XPRIZE Foundation, Middle East Leadership Initiative Fellow Anousheh Ansari, followed by a conversation with China Fellow and CEO of Jane Sun and David Rubenstein.  
  • Closing Plenary featuring the Videos for Change projects created by the Youth Action Forum participants, long-time friends and moderators Heather Sonn and Keith Berwick, founding executive director of the Henry Crown Fellowship, with his hopes for the next chapter of the AGLN, and inspiring closing remarks from the Aspen Institute's Leadership Division Interim EVP, David Langstaff. 

Through Facebook Live interviews, we also took a close look as to why values-based leadership is necessary in our world today and how Fellows are guided by such values to drive impact. Watch, like, and share their interviews on Facebook below. 
  • Leadership Matters featuring Aspen Institute President & CEO Dan Porterfield, Henry Crown Fellow and inaugural McNulty Prize Winner Jordan Kassalow, and Bezos Scholar Sahdia Khan on the impact of the Institute's long-running leadership development programs. 
  • Answering the Call featuring the 2019 John P. McNulty Prize Laureates on what pushed them to act in their communities and what they’ve learned along the way. 
  • Catalyzing Impact Around the World featuring McNulty Prize Catalyst Fund recipients on the border-breaking impact they are having in Syria, El Salvador, and the United States, and their plans to push further. 
  • Moving from Thought to Action featuring two AGLN Fellows, Bright Simons (ALI-WA) and Pavandeep Sethi (FLF), at different stages in their venture process discussing what it takes to launch a social impact venture. 
  • Leading with the Borders Within and Around Us featuring AGLN VP John Simpkins, Sejal Shah-Gulati (KBF), and Meredith Kopit Levien (HCF) exploring the borders in their lives and what keeps them hopeful in an increasingly divided world. 

The Youth Action Forum

This year, the Youth Action Forum partnered with High Resolves and Videos for Change to engage the 120 youth participants in creating videos highlighting some of the toughest issues young people face. Check out the videos, made in less than four days, shown at the closing plenary here

Explore Past Action Forums

Find some inspiration in the archived videos, photos, and information from previous Resnick Aspen Action Forums.