Report: Aspen Young Leaders Program 2021

The tenth edition of the Aspen Young Leaders Program took place on August 22-25, 2021. Twenty-nine young Central European leaders from business, public administration, arts, academia, science or sports sectors gathered in Hnanice, South Moravia, Czech Republic.

For four days the group engaged in interactive workshops, experienced sharing personal stories and moderated discussions about the challenges that today’s society is facing and the role they play in them.

The participants appreciated fruitful discussions, diversity among the speakers and the young leaders as well as exposure to new topics, which challenged and pushed them to self-reflection. The workshops provided a platform for sharing experience, allowing the young leaders to dive into meaningful conversations about their jobs, mission and values. The informal activities contributed to networking and recognizing the value of dialogue among peers that are facing similar challenges in their jobs and personal lives.

“This has been the most impactful development program in my life. I am already looking forward to implementing all the new inputs in my daily personal and work life.”

Two moderators guided the whole group during all the sessions while facilitating the moderated discussions: Milan Vašina, Executive Director of Aspen Institute CE, and Uršula Králová, Member of the Board of the Aspen Institute CE and a Chief People Officer at Bloomreach. 

The introductory day started with welcome remarks which were followed by a get to know each other session co-moderated by Pavel Řehák, Vice-President of the Aspen Institute CE and CEO and owner of Direct pojišťovna. 

The second day was launched by the Values-Based Leadership discussion, which set the basis for the whole program. The speaker of the next session in the morning was Pavel Řehák who shared with the audience his vast experience from business with an outstanding overlap to philanthropic and societal activities. 

In the afternoon, a workshop on the topic of Artificial Intelligence led by Sara Polak and Tomáš Mikolov took place. Sara is an AYLP alumna herself and a founder of the Paioneers AI lab at Paralelni Polis, where she teaches the nationwide free AI course Elements of AI with prg.ai, and works on other projects like the Astronaut Job Camp. Tomáš is a Czech computer scientist working in the field of machine learning. He is currently a senior researcher at the Czech Institute of Informatics, Robotics and Cybernetics with experience as a researcher at Facebook, Microsoft and Google. The workshop helped the participants to get an insight into the AI problematics – a topic that successful leaders in current times should be able to tackle.

“The AI workshop helped me to understand the AI processes more deeply.”

In the evening, a documentary movie was screened and followed by an interesting discussion. In the film When the War Comes, Czech movie documentarist Jan Gebert infiltrates among the members of a Slovakian paramilitary group “Slovenskí Branci” and follows their activities.

The former President of the Slovak Republic, entrepreneur and philanthropist Andrej Kiska started the third day of the Program by opening a discussion on the topic of Leadership in Politics. He shared his political, business and philanthropic experiences with authenticity, open-mind and vision including many challenges he had to tackle in his professional as well as personal life. This morning session full of inspiration was followed by a discussion on an article from Radka Denemarková: The Country Where People Trust Their Government and the Government Trusts its People published in the Aspen Review magazine.

“It gave me tools to rethink parts of my career life. It also inspired and encouraged me to ask myself difficult but crucial questions for my life and work.”

In the afternoon, three speakers – Andrea Basilová, co-founder of Sensoneo, Veronika Munk, editor in chief at Telex.hu, and Tomáš Mikolov held a panel discussion with a focus on the topic of developing the values-based leader within themselves. They shared their experience from their respective countries and backgrounds while dealing with many controversial topics including the freedom of expression on social media.

Later on, a moderated discussion with Radek Banga, the leader of the band Gipsy.cz and author of the book (Ne)pošli to dál  ((Don’t) Send it on), followed and was based on his strong personal story dealing with domestic violence and discrimination. Radek, by explaining the clash of values in decision-making, became a huge source of inspiration for the audience and started a discussion on the inequalities in society and the importance of never giving up in order to reach your goals.

The highlight of the very last day was an interactive workshop on the topic of Mental Health, led by Anna Kågström, a Swedish-American researcher at the Czech National Institute of Mental Health. In smaller groups, the participants discussed mental health in the workplace, learned how to cope with 21st-century stressors and dealt also with mental health first aid.

“The Aspen team did an incredible job at making us feel welcome and giving us the feeling of intimacy. This is the reason why the format was just right what the people needed”.

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