Ventures Overview


Leadership Ventures Guidelines

Undertaking a leadership venture during the fellowship period is an integral part of the experience. We encourage each Fellow to consider his or her venture an opportunity – to do what they’ve always meant to do but never found the time for. An opportunity to bring a fresh approach to a problem they see in their community and beyond. The ideal venture motivates and stretches the Fellow and has a meaningful impact on a compelling health care challenge.

Your Ideal Venture Will...

Motivate you 
  • By engaging your personal passions; it should focus on something about which you care deeply.
  • By being an expression of your core values – giving you the opportunity to do something you believe in.
  • By being a source of fun and joy. This should be an exciting opportunity to experiment, try something you've always wanted to, and have some fun. Not a duty, an opportunity.
Stretch you 
  • By challenging you to be creative. To be innovative. To look for distinctive solutions to existing problems.
  • By challenging you to be ambitious. To think big.
  • By taking you out of your comfort zone.
  • By challenging you to do something you wouldn't ordinarily do "but for" the Fellowship.

Make an Impact 
  • By being well designed and thought through. It should be both ambitious and realistic.
  • By leveraging your assets (resources, experience, ideas, platforms, and networks) to increase the likelihood of success.
  • By encouraging collaboration; engaging others' their good work and efforts to enhance the impact of your venture.
  • By focusing on a clearly identified problem or opportunity and creating a credible plan to address it.
  • By showing meaningful progress during the Fellowship itself, and measurable results over time.

Be significant 
  • By challenging you to assume a clear leadership role.
  • By focusing on something you consider to be a compelling need.
  • By ensuring the efforts can be sustained over time (financially, and organizationally).

Venture FAQs

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, however, expect Fellows to identify and commit to an idea within the first six months and to begin implementing the initiative during the two-year Fellowship period.

Why do ventures have to address a U.S. health care challenge?
The Health Innovators Fellowship aims to connect, inspire, and challenge health care leaders to create new approaches to improve the health and wellbeing of Americans. Given this mission, we require that all Health Innovators Fellows focus on a U.S. health care challenge as one expression of their commitment to moving the needle on the Fellowship's ultimate goal.

What counts as “U.S. health care” in the context of ventures?
The Fellowship defines "U.S. health care" broadly—a venture will fulfill this requirement as long as it aims to improve the health and wellbeing of Americans. Most Fellows don't have a problem designing a venture that fits our parameters, but our team is always available to talk through ideas if a Fellow is unsure if their idea meets our requirements.

How are ventures vetted and approved and by whom?
After the first seminar, the Health Innovators Fellowship executive director will discuss each Fellow's venture concept with them and, with the Fellowship team, actively support each Fellow to ensure that their venture is positioned to be successful. After concepts have been greenlit, Fellows are asked for regular written progress reports and their participation in update calls with Fellowship staff and fellow Fellows. Periodic updates are also required after the formal Fellowship period.

Does a venture have to operate as a nonprofit?
We have no preference regarding a venture’s legal status; ventures can be for profit, nonprofit, or government projects and can be programs, products, or organizations. The key is for the venture to make an explicit and positive impact on US health and health care.

Do ventures have to involve starting a new organization?
Fellows do not need to start a new organization, although some choose to do so. Ventures can take many forms, from launching a new organization to creating a new program or service within an organization to scaling an existing program so that it impacts more people.

Do venture ideas have to be original?
We believe that Fellows are innovative, mission-driven leaders who have the potential to devise breakthrough ideas. That being said, we strongly encourage all Fellows to learn about successful models that address the challenge they aim to tackle, if and where they exist. This includes models already launched within and outside of the Aspen Global Leadership Network. This ensures that ventures are additive instead of duplicative. While some Fellows have an original idea for their venture, others build on existing ideas to make them more effective or to move them in a new, more fruitful direction.

What if a Fellow's job is already a social/community program/venture?
Many Fellows are already social entrepreneurs or nonprofit or government leaders. In these cases, we want to challenge them to step back and see with a fresh perspective how they might augment their leadership in areas they are concerned about. Are there other approaches they have wanted to try? An experiment they’d like to test? We encourage Fellows to use their ventures as an opportunity to creatively engage in a different approach to the challenge they are addressing or as an opportunity to do something that they would not have started or done if not for the Fellowship.

Can joining a new board—or becoming chair of a board—count as a venture?
As leaders, we assume Fellows already sit on boards, so simply joining a new board would not count as a venture. If a Fellow were already a board chair when selected for the Fellowship, being the chair would not count as a venture. If a Fellow steps up as a result of the Fellowship experience, we would consider on a case-by-case basis whether becoming a board chair would count. The key is whether the Fellow, because of the Fellowship, has decided to play a more significant leadership role and truly apply their innovative energies to significantly remake or energize an organization.

Can Fellows do a class venture or a joint venture with a subset of their class?
While we strongly encourage and try to facilitate class-wide (and Fellowship-wide) collaborations on health care challenges, a class project or a joint venture between members of the same class cannot satisfy the leadership venture requirement.

Can Fellows team up with someone who has already implemented a venture?
This can work as long as a Fellow who is not in the same class as the venture's founder can find a discrete piece of meaningful work that stretches them and for which they can be held accountable. We support Fellows who find a way to leverage their unique skills or assets to help another venture achieve greater impact or scale.

Can a venture idea change?
We expect—and hope—that there will be modifications and changes to ventures throughout the process. It's also okay if a Fellow hits an insurmountable roadblock and needs to pivot to an entirely new idea.

Do ventures have to be completed/running/fully functional by the time Fellows complete the Fellowship’s four seminars?
Fellows need to be able to demonstrate significant progress toward their goal by graduation, as well as a clear plan for the future. We expect that the venture will live long past the two-year Fellowship period, and we’ll continue to reach out for updates and be available to provide support far beyond the fourth seminar.

Can ventures be publicized as initiatives of the Health Innovators Fellowship, the Aspen Global Leadership Network, or the Aspen Institute?
No, though Fellows are welcome to characterize their ventures as “inspired by” the Fellowship or the Aspen Global Leadership Network in their communications or marketing materials.

Can the Fellowship or the Aspen Institute help me raise money for my venture?
Unfortunately, we cannot help Fellows raise funds. However, once Fellows’ ventures have been running for two years, we encourage Fellows to apply for the John P. McNulty Prize (winners receive $100,000 and finalists receive $25,000 for their ventures) and/or McNulty Prize Catalyst Funding (up to $25,000 for ventures at key developmental stages).

If you have any further questions, please contact Rima Cohen, Executive Director, or Emily Rubenstein, Program Associate.