Report:
Aspen Young Leaders
Program 2019 II.

The ninth edition of the Aspen Young Leaders Program took place on August 29 –
September 1, 2019. Thirty three  young Central European leaders from business, public administration, arts, academia, science, media and NGO sectors gathered in the Beskid Mountains in Poland. For four days the group engaged in interactive workshops, experience sharing, personal stories and moderated discussions about challenges today´s society is facing and the role they play in them.

The participants appreciated respectful discussions, diversity among the speakers and the young leaders as well as an exposure to new topics, which challenged and pushed them to self-reflection. We included empowerment workshops focused on developing leadership skills. The participants´ workshops provided a platform for sharing experience, which was a highlight of the program, 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 the peers that are facing similar challenges in their jobs and personal lives.

“This event and participants are a big impuls for my next steps. And my network gets bigger and more diverse. I am glad that something like Aspen Institute exists. In today’s world you need to know people and build your connection based on the same values. According to me, that is what Aspen does.”

The welcome remarks by Jiří Schneider, Executive Director of  Aspen Institute CE, were followed by an introductory session moderated by Pavel Řehák, Vice President of the Aspen Institute CE and CEO at Vigo Investments, and Pepper de Callier, Chair of the Supervisory Board & Founder of the Aspen Institute CE.

The first session of the program was led by Jan Olbrycht, Member of the European Parliament, who was speaking about the V4 common topics, the issues of Brexit, and about values politicians should have.

Branislav Kleskeň, Director at LEAF, a Slovak NGO focusing on the development of young people with the potential to grow into the shapers of Slovakia and Central Europe, engaged participants in a conversation about modern educational system based on respect and other values.

The workshop part of the program developing the leadership skills was organized by Institute Euroschola. It aimed to promote knowledge of effective leadership skills through practicing effective management behavior. The participants were supposed to take on different group roles (being a leaders / being led) and train crucial skills, such as communicating properly to be understood, giving up the leading role if necessary, relying on the others, taking responsibility for the success of the mission as well as engaging all team members in the activity.

A new feature of this program edition was screening of a documentary movie followed by a discussion with the author. The movie When the War Comes about a Slovak right-wing paramilitary group made by Jan Gebert, Journalist and Film-Maker, offered a convenient starting point for discussion about the key issue of rising populism and nationalism in Central Europe. The participants were searching the answer on the fundamental  question: Why is extremism appealing to decent people?

“I had a chance to stop my regular job and interact with other peers. New ideas and perspectives were inspirational.”

The Aspen Young Leaders Alumna Kateřina Vacková founded Loono after being diagnosed with a malign ovarian cancer at the age of 22. Thanks to the fact that she listened to the warning signals of her body, everything was detected in the early stage. As she cured, Kateřina has decided to run creative educational campaigns and workshops to spread awareness about breast and testicular cancer as well as other diseases. Besides sharing her personal story with the participants, she spoke about her way of leading people and the obstacles she had to overcome. Of course, a practical prevention workshop was part of her presentation too!

The young leaders also got the chance to facilitate themselves and share their projects during 5 participants´ workshops. Every group was chaired by one of the participants who presented their specific project highlighting the challenges they have to face. The objective of the workshop was to engage in dialogue and generate a set of actionable ideas and suggestion.

“I created some relationships that might be useful for my work. In terms of personal development I learned a lot new frameworks that will help me expand my perspective.”

Ruth Krčmářová, an expert on international migration, migrant protection and assistance, helped to clarify misuses of the terms in migration and focused on myth-busting in the  practical part of her presentation.

Balazs Vinnai, President of W.U.P., a strong entrepreneurship professional skilled in Digital Transformation, Retail Banking, Financial Software Business and EdTech explained how the financial start-ups disrupt banking system, what the role and the responsibility of the largest digital companies is, and how difficult it is to predict the digital market.

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