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Civil Society Fellowship

Seminar Experiences and Ventures

The Fellowship Experience

Civil Society Fellowship Seminars

Seeking personal community, and national breakthrough, Fellows learn, gain new tools, grow their networks, pioneer, and problem-solve. This transformative leadership journey is a catalyst for Fellows to reach new levels of impact. 



Like other Aspen Institute Fellowship programs, the Civil Society Fellowship is structured around a series of seminars. Each class will participate in five seminars over a period of two-and-a-half to three years, with seminar experiences based on the classic Aspen Institute model. A venture in the tradition of the Aspen Global Leadership Network (AGLN), will also be completed by each Fellow to allow them to develop their existing work in the incubator created by the Fellowship. 


Seminar One

The Challenge of Leadership (5 days in Aspen, Colorado) — “The Challenge of Leadership” serves as Aspen’s traditional opening seminar for the Henry Crown Fellowship as well as other prestigious Aspen programs. The coursework grounds its participants in a pedagogy that examines values, challenges preconceptions and predicts challenges often faced by leaders in order to develop an effective and enlightened leadership skill set. Taking place at the scenic Aspen Meadows campus in Colorado, “The Challenge of Leadership” transforms young leaders’ perspective and lays the foundation for each successive seminar.

Seminar Two

The Aspen Seminar (5 days in Aspen, Colorado or the DC area) — The signature seminar of The Aspen Institute, where timeless readings are explored in the concept of the “good society.” Attendance is a mix of participants from various Aspen Fellowships as well as individual public enrollees with no prior Aspen affiliation. The looser scheduling structure of “The Aspen Seminar” allows Fellows to accommodate their own busy schedules while benefiting from meeting Fellows across programs who will also become their AGLN peers upon graduation. 

Seminar Three

Values in Tension (7 days in Western Europe) — Fellows travel to Amsterdam, Berlin or Paris to learn how community and civil liberties issues play out in a non-American context and observe how a liberal society wrestles with a range of issues including the cultural and social challenges of immigration, civil unrest, Values in Tension and terrorism, both foreign and domestic. The complex motivations for these issues as well as the considered response required of leaders with varying backgrounds and beliefs will be a central point of discussion and investigation in the seminar.

Seminar Four

Challenges of Civil Liberties and Security (7 days in the Middle East) — Fellows travel to Israel and Palestinian Territories to continue their examination of civil liberties challenges in a global context. Israel was initially heralded by some as a triumph of a prosecuted minority group. Over time, Israel has fallen in international standing because of policy decisions that have placed security and self-defense above universal civil liberties for citizens and non-citizens. Examining the tensions between civil liberties and security from a comparative perspective, within the context of a different government structure, legal history and culture, can shed light on the challenges and possible solutions Fellows are facing in their American communities.

Seminar Five

The Promise of Leadership (5 days in the American South) — Fellows travel to sites in the American South where some of the most divisive and violent moments in our country’s history took place during the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. In this context, they will consider the sacrifices of leaders who sought immediate impact to address systemic bias and the continued struggle to sustain change in the region and across the country. Fellows' final Aspen seminar will center on their personal journey as a leader, with lenses on legacy, life balance and the quest to move from action to impact.


Ventures are a key point of growth in Aspen Institute leadership programs and a pillar of the Fellowship experience. Meant to be rooted in a Fellow’s lifetime societal work, they provide an opportunity for Fellows to practice the solution-oriented problem-solving skills they have honed and advanced through their experience in the Aspen Seminars. With over 3,000 ventures launched, Fellows have already made significant strides addressing some of the most intractable problems facing our world today. Fellows are using their businesses and organizational platforms to close educational achievement gaps, improve access to health care, raise financial literacy, fight domestic violence and build new pipelines of ethical leadership. 

The Challenge of Leadership
The Aspen Seminar
Values in Tension
Civil Liberties and Security
The Promise of Leadership
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