2019 Topical Dialogues

Topical Dialogues are designed to allow participants to grapple with some of the most pressing tensions surrounding the theme of borders. In 2019, these dialogues have been redesigned to help participants dive deeper into a specific issue area. Each 3-hour session will be uniquely crafted to help participants understand these issues so that they can explore how to best step up, lead, and commit to making a difference. 

Read the full description for each Topical Dialogue below by clicking on the session title. "πŸ”·" indicates the dialogue is intergenerational with participants (14-18) from the Youth Action Forum. 

Beyond Borders: Collective Leadership in Times of Humanitarian Crisis πŸ”·
Partner: Central America Leadership Initiative 

In times of government collapse, national turmoil, and humanitarian crisis, what is our moral obligation to act? How should leaders respond? And when? Fellows in the Aspen Global Leadership Network frequently face these questions during crises at home and abroad. What is at risk to you, your family, or your work if you stand up? Is it worth it? What boundaries do you need to draw to preserve your own safety?  And how do we, collectively as a global values-based network, come together across divides to find solutions and act?  This multi-generational session will ground these questions through global cases, including the current socio-political crisis in Nicaragua and the region. We’ll explore how Fellows from across the AGLN have responded to such crises, and begin to map what can be learned for future collective response efforts.


Carrying the Torch Together: Leadership Across Generations πŸ”·
Partner: The Pahara Institute 

"Leader" is not a title earned on a certain birthday – yet within many sectors and many leadership models, age grants you an important pass to enter the gates of leadership. If leadership is a mindset, not an age, who might be fighting to exercise leadership? Who is being left out and by whom? How do you elevate others to ‘enter’? Do you ever ‘age out’ of the responsibilities of leadership, even if you no longer have the formal title or position? What tensions exist in this handoff? Is it really even a handoff from one to the other or is there a possibility for collaboration? Baby Boomers, Gen-X, Millennials, and Gen-Z all have created and embraced different leadership paradigms based on the world as they know it and the future they envision. How do we lead together when we carry such different models of leadership, especially when those models are in conflict? Do we have to choose, or can multiple paradigms productively co-exist? This multi-generational dialogue will offer voices from across the age and leadership spectrum.


Financial Security: Making the Digital Economy Work for Everyone, Everywhere πŸ”·
Partner: Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth

Income and information inequality are two of the defining challenges of our time. In order to solve them, we need to build equitable and sustainable economies where the benefits of growth are broadly shared across all segments and where access to information, data science and knowledge is democratized. While some progress has been made in creating new pathways of access to financial services, formal and informal borders still keep millions of people out of the mainstream financial system and unable to tap into the technology and know-how that could unleash their full potential. What are the barriers to economic participation and why do they exist? How can we rethink the enabling mechanisms of financial security – concepts such as credit, ID and benefits – to adapt to a changing world? And what are the roles of businesses, governments and leaders to help design this brave, new world of interdependency, one that is inclusive, sustainable and secure for all.


Healthy Boundaries: Well-being for Leaders
Partner: The Skoll Foundation

Self-care. Personal sustainability. Self-forgiveness. These are not phrases often discussed within the fast-paced executive rooms in which we travel. As busy leaders, how do we give ourselves the time to care for our souls and bodies? How do we practice compassion for ourselves? How might we be more forgiving and accepting of our own missteps? As Bryan Stevenson notably asks, how might we “embrace our own brokenness” to better understand the hard, changemaking work we do and to better bridge the divide between us and those we serve? This session will explore the borders we erect between mind, body, and spirit and ask us to examine what a practice of well-being could mean for our lives and work.


Living vs Being Alive: Longer Lives… to What End? 
Partner: Aspen Health Innovators Fellowship

How long do you want to live? When is it time to let nature take its course? What’s best for our society? People around the globe are living longer than ever, thanks to advances in technology, medicine, and public health. But should science prolong life just because it can? How have you and your family been impacted by these advances? Is life worth living once your body and mind deteriorate? Should we do all we can to keep ourselves alive? Does your faith or spirituality inform how you think about life and death? Through a moderated dialogue and guided reflection, we will explore these values in tension and contemplate the difference between living and merely being alive.


Moving from “Me” to “We”: Weaving Thick Bonds to Mend the Social Fabric πŸ”·
Partner: Weave: The Social Fabric Project

Weave: The Social Fabric Project launched a year ago at the Aspen Institute under the leadership of David Brooks. It began with the idea that our social fabric is being ripped to shreds by distrust, loneliness, alienation, inequality, racism, and spiritual emptiness.  What has caused this tattering of our social fabric? Is this phenomenon experienced only in the United States, or around the world? The good news is there are everyday people bringing communities together to support and serve each other – one relationship at a time. These “Weavers” are shifting our culture away from hyper-individualism focused solely on personal success to an inclusive culture where meaning comes from relationship and connection. This topical dialogue will explore the values of weaving and will engage Fellows and youth participants on how to continue spreading the movement. In this multi-generational dialogue, we’ll explore questions like: When did you first feel part of community? What does it mean to you to be a Weaver? And what could relationalism, as a way of life, look like for all of us?


One Belt, One Road: China's Growing Influence in an Interconnected World
Partner: China Fellowship Program

Beijing’s trillion-dollar Belt and Road initiative – a grand plan to connect 71 countries throughout Asia, Africa, and Europe that account for half the world’s population and a quarter of global GDP – is one of the most notable examples of China’s rising economic power and undeniable ambition. The country has offered multi-billion dollar low-interest loans to develop global trade and transportation infrastructure. What are the implications of building infrastructure at such an unparalleled scale? How is this changing our understanding of borders, rules, and institutions? Who is set to benefit most, and who might be taken advantage of in the process? Is this simply part of a shift in the global balance of power, or a form of neo-colonialism? Where is the borderline between economic cooperation and political strategy? And how might this impact how we do business, relate, and connect with each other, today and in the future?  This session will feature perspectives from China, Africa, the Middle East, and India. 


Pursuing The Good Life: Living a Life of Meaning
Partners: Keith Berwick & Heather Sonn

There are pivotal moments in all of our lives that cause us to pause and reflect on how to live a life of greater meaning. What has been your journey of 'becoming' the person you are today? And the person you hope to become?  There are often recurring patterns or themes in our lives that no longer serve us, that if we took some time to reflect we could confront and address them. Sometimes, borders need to be erected or dismantled to get us there - to achieve greater joy and purpose. Sometimes, we need to peek around our own internal boundaries to ask what is possible and needed of us. How are you building a life - and legacy - of meaning? Join this special “Pursuing the Good Life” mini-seminar hosted by Keith Berwick and Heather Sonn.


Stepping Up Together: An Immersive Simulation on Collaborative Leadership πŸ”·
Partner: High Resolves and The McNulty Foundation

Change is a team sport. Easier said than done, right? How do leaders collaborate to achieve a shared goal, putting aside their own individual needs, incentives, or interests? What are you willing to compromise for a bigger shared purpose? How do you define success – in the absolute or relative? Where have you as a leader faced questions such as these? Through a high-energy immersive simulation, this session will explore how to work across divides on issues of shared concern and urgency. Using High Resolves’ award-winning signature experience, you’ll roleplay national ambassadors from 40 countries that have signed a global treaty of reducing C02 emissions, but compliance remains voluntary in nature. This multi-generational session is sponsored by the McNulty Foundation, which awarded High Resolves the 2018 McNulty Prize for this bold and innovative work. 

Prep Materials and Agendas

Select your session from the table below to download an agenda and any pre-materials you need for the session. You can view the full descriptions for all of the Topical Dialogues here
Beyond Borders: Collective Leadership in Times of Humanitarian Crisis  Carrying the Torch Together: Leadership Across Generations  Financial Security: Making the Digital Economy Work for Everyone, Everywhere 
Healthy Boundaries: Well-being for Leaders Living vs Being Alive: Longer Lives… to What End?  Moving from “Me” to “We”: Weaving Thick Bonds to Mend the Social Fabric 
One Belt, One Road: China's Growing Influence in an Interconnected World Pursuing The Good Life: Living a Life of Meaning Stepping Up Together: An Immersive Simulation on Collaborative Leadership