Report: Aspen Young Leaders Program 2023 October

We are thrilled to share that the October 2023 edition of the Aspen Young Leaders Program (AYLP) was a huge success! After much preparation, we welcomed 28 young leaders from all over Central Europe to Czechia, where we spent three days in dialogue about values-based leadership. We were so impressed by the diversity of the young leaders, the work they do, and their willingness to engage in difficult and crucial discussions.

We kicked off the first evening with opening remarks from the program moderators Uršula Králová (CPO of Bloomreach) and Milan Vašina (Executive Director of Aspen Institute CE). They shared background information about Aspen Institute CE and its priorities and gave participants an overview of the AYLP program. We then had the pleasure of getting to know each other during the “warm up” session where everyone introduced themselves, shared why they signed up for AYLP, and what they expected from the program.

On Friday morning, the cohort hit the ground running with an open discussion on values – personal values, professional values, and the values we expect of great leaders. Participants shared how they define values such as respect, authenticity, empathy, honesty, integrity and courage. The moderators challenged participants with thought-provoking questions, asking them to consider scenarios from different perspectives. The group of young leaders debated tough questions such as whether values can be acquired, and whether values should play out differently in different contexts.

The second Friday session was a moderated discussion on Leadership in Business & Society with Pavel Řehák, President of Aspen Institute CE and founder of Direct Family. Pavel shared inspiring lessons he learned throughout his long and varied career in business and philanthropy. He and the young leaders discussed the importance of discovering your ‘why’ – that is, what motivates you in work and life.

For our third Friday session, we were joined by Anett Mádi-Nátor, Vice President of Strategic Business Development at Cyber Services Plc and President of the Women4Cyber Foundation. In her session on Technologies, Cybersecurity and Values, Anett emphasized the importance of digital literacy as a way to combat disinformation in the digital age. Anett and the cohort further discussed the unique challenges posed by the rapid advancement of technology, and why they should be addressed with scientific, communication-based and policy-based solutions.

The fourth Friday session, Leadership in Sports, featured guest speaker Pavel Chadim, Coach of the Czech National Baseball Team and neurologist. He shared the values that he lives by, his thoughts on the importance of vision in achieving success, and why he prioritizes balance as a leader. Pavel inspired the cohort by answering their questions on topics such as selecting a team and guiding a team during a loss.

We concluded our first full day with a reflective session, where leaders shared the knowledge they took away from the day. We were thrilled to hear that the Friday sessions were inspiring and impactful for our participants!

On Saturday, we started with an interactive session, “Would You Get on the Train?”, led by legal expert, former judge, educator, and columnist Jarosław Gwizdak. He guided the cohort through a lively discussion on the role of values such as trust, integrity, and wisdom in the judiciary system. Jaroslaw then asked participants to read and discuss a case study in small groups. Jarosław reconvened the full group, and, drawing from the case study, the leaders debated whether and how to operate in a judicial system that does not align with one’s personal values.

Next, we hosted the first panel of the program, “Journalism & Society in Central Europe: Media Bias, Information Integrity & a Divided Society.” We were joined by Dániel Róna (Director of the 21 Research Center) and Anna Wójcik (Fellow at Max Planck Institute and Assistant Professor at the Polish Academy of Sciences). Dániel and Anna shared how values guide their work and advised the cohort to resist pressure and intimidation when doing the work they believe in. The young leaders eagerly engaged our guest speakers with questions on topics such as establishing and measuring credibility, and the dynamics that play out between government media and independent media in Central Europe.

The AYLP cohort spent Saturday afternoon at Empowerment Training, a four-hour interactive workshop focused on emergency preparedness. After receiving formal training on how to respond to medical emergencies, the participants divided into small groups and practiced their new skills in simulated emergency scenarios. This unique opportunity to respond to emergency simulations in real time gave the leaders newfound confidence, and they left the session feeling empowered to save lives.

At the Saturday reflective session, the cohort shared how the day’s sessions will influence their lives going forward. We were thrilled that day two proved just as inspirational and informative as day one.

On Sunday morning, Pavlína Hlučková – sports consultant, coach, and crisis interventionist – led a workshop on mental health. She shared her background in ice skating and professional dance, emphasizing that her performance in these sports was deeply connected to her mental health. Drawing on her research in mental health, coaching, and sports psychology, Pavlína guided the cohort through exercises for managing stress. Pavlína invited participants to think through their priorities and rituals, and guided participants through deep breathing and posture exercises.

During the final reflective session, participants shared that they appreciated the diversity of the cohort, the challenging dialogue, and the forward-thinking focus of the program. We’re glad that the leaders learned so much; we learned a lot from them as well. We can’t wait to see where their journeys take them! The participants also agreed that the networks they’d develop during AYLP would be one of the most valuable takeaways of the program.

We are honored to welcome the October 2023 Aspen Young Leaders to our Alumni network.

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