A sampling of free-wheeling commentary, direct from some of the recently-held executive visibility venues worldwide.
Aspen Institute Ideas Festival
Aspen, Colo., June 29–July 5, 2010
From The Business of a Better World, by Kara Hartnett Hurst
Here at the Aspen Ideas Festival (where, at 8,000 feet in elevation, every idea has the propensity to seem lofty), I have spent the better part of the week talking and debating about "ideas that work." After a couple days immersed in this crowd, I think the next big "stimulus" effort this country should take on is restoring public trust in business. The challenges in building true political support to sustain a level of transparency and the right level of regulatory oversight should not be underestimated....
While the financial markets have dominated the discussion here, other conversations have been devoted to the equally challenging issues of creating the political will to support new directions in energy policy, fixing our broken health care system, creating safe and performing schools for our nation's youth, and reforming the food and agriculture industry in the United States to give consumers healthier options.
From rothkopf.foreignpolicy.com, by David J. Rothkopf
Aspen is emerging as the American Davos...absent the stultifying earnestness of the Alpine gabfest. While sometimes you look around a room (or a big tent) and it seems like all the people speaking are people you know from Washington continuing a conversation they were having hours before in the breakfast restaurant at the Hay Adams Hotel, the crowd is smart, unafraid to ask tough questions and the overall air really does seem to involve the search for ideas. And there is a certain lightness about it, humor and congeniality, that is special. All credit for this goes to Walter Isaacson, the jefe of Aspen who seems miraculously to be as good a leader of the Aspen Institute as he is a writer — which is saying quite a lot....
I attended a session this morning with Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg in which he gave a virtuoso performance, actually speaking with substance and thoughtfulness despite the constraint of being a senior government official. The topic was the Middle East and within the Middle East, the core question on the minds of those in the audience had to do with Iranian nukes. Steinberg was candid that the Russians have been slow to step up and be very helpful with reining in the Iranians but said he saw hope in China's tougher stand on North Korea....
The subtext of today's conversation and subsequent discussions I participated in with other participants was that goal seemed very difficult to achieve. Steinberg was quite forceful about the fact that the U.S. did not feel deterrence was an effective means of handling a nuclear Iran...in contradistinction to a point made earlier in the conference by former Secretary of State James Baker.
TED Global (Technology, Entertainment and Design)
Oxford, UK, July 21–24, 2010.
From hungrycitybook.co.uk/blog, by Carolyn Steel
Last week I gave a talk at TEDGlobal, the Oxford-based version of the international ideas conference dubbed the 'Davos of the Mind.' TED is a truly extraordinary phenomenon, bringing together lateral thinkers, movers and shakers from all corners of life, putting them together for a week and seeing what happens. Speakers this year included the director of the world's biggest fusion reactor, the astrophysicist who proved there is a black hole at the core of our galaxy, and the neuroscientist who has discovered the part of our brain that makes moral judgments. But the amazing thing about TED is that you not only listen to people speak, you get to have dinner with them too — I chatted to all of the above over the course of the week. After a week like that, many people apparently experience a TED-Crash, but I must admit I am still on a TED High. It really was the most extraordinary experience. I am still pinching myself.
From transitionculture.org, by Rob Hopkins
So, altogether, an extraordinary event. I think that TED is a bit like a really good record shop. As a teenager, I virtually grew up in Revolver Records in Bristol, one of the great independent record shops. The people who worked there were such music-obsessives, that usually when you went to the counter clutching whatever record you wanted, they would say "you don't want to buy that rubbish, listen to this," and then proceed to play you something extraordinary. They were usually right, and you usually went home with their record instead. In the same way, the speakers at TED create an eclectic list which, on first inspection, reveals no-one familiar at all. However, the skill with which they are picked, and the diversity of what they bring, and the professionalism of the whole event, is extraordinary. They are clearly quite an extraordinary organization, with a great power to communicate powerful ideas. I wish I had been able to make the whole thing.
From politicsofcreativity.blogspot.com, by Steve Boehlke
The TEDGlobal 2009 Conference was unquestionably the most stimulating and engaging professional conference I have ever been privileged to experience. Most notable to me was the diversity of talent, stories, projects, people, from all over the world. Immediate affirmation was everywhere of the power of contrast and differences to stimulate learning and deepen global understanding. I was working at spanning and bridging ideas in my mind all week long! Exhausting! And wonderful...
World Economic Forum Meeting of the New Champions
Dalian, China, September 10–12, 2010
From Yoko Ishikura's Blog, by Yoko Ishikura
I spent three days in Dalian for the WEF Meeting of New Champions. It was quite a stimulating forum in that we talked more about specific actions (rather than theory) for identifying and promoting the unique positioning of Asia in the face of the global economic downturn and the trend found toward protectionism. I also found the new format for the brainstorming, namely ideaslab, very interesting and exciting....I personally think these brainstorming sessions with active participation of the people provide unique value for the participants, as it gives "real" experience of developing ideas, specific action plans, arguing back and forth and presenting it.
From Reuters — The Great Debate, by Aron Cramer
As the WEF's "Summer Davos" meeting in Dalian, China, gets underway, it is a bit chilling to think back to how the financial crisis was unfolding in real time during last year's event. As the 1,000 leaders gathering for this year's event spend three days debating how to restore economic growth and social stability, the need to focus on a long-term transition to a more sustainable economy is clearer than ever. Doing this will require unprecedented cooperation among businesses and consumers. The companies that build new business models and innovative products and services will win in the reset world, and shape an economy that avoids disruptions like the one that erupted last fall....
There is little doubt that many of these [New Champion] companies will come from Brazil, China, India, the Middle East, and elsewhere in the developing world. But new champions will be determined more by mindset than by geography. Companies that keep their eyes on long-term trends, that meet people's needs within environmental limits, and that look at innovative collaboration will shape the future. Companies that don't will find that the financial crisis was only the beginning of their problems.
Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Annual Meeting
New York, N.Y., September 22–25, 2009
From Fast Company Expert Blog, by Alice Korngold
Today I attended the opening session of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) in NYC. It's my second year attending. In many ways, it's similar to other conferences, with plenary sessions, breakouts, networking, etc. In other ways, it's unique. To begin with, as former President Clinton said in his speech to us, "This is the only conference you'll ever attend where the gift bags are empty." Because CGI provides its members with the chance to give to others. There is a great deal of power at CGI. More than 60 current and former heads of state, 500 business leaders, and 400 leaders from NGOs and philanthropic organizations from 84 countries attend. As at most conferences, the real deal making happens outside of the sessions. What makes this conference different is that the pitching and buying is among NGOs and philanthropists/funders. And the matchmaker between the NGOs and funders is President Clinton and CGI.
From Drchelle's Blog, by drchelle05
I traveled to NYC this past week to attend the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative....No more than 200 attendees were shepherded by an equal number of CGI staffers to various break out sessions where non-profit leaders, business tycoons and Clinton operatives met to talk about five goals - harnessing innovation, strengthening infrastructure, building human capital and financing an equitable future. On the day I attended, the focus was investing in girls and women....
There were a parade of people entering and leaving the stage - from Visa Corporation to FIFA to the Carnegie Corporation to Duke Energy to Proctor & Gamble (even Brad Pitt and Ben Stiller got into the game). They were all there to make commitments to invest in and to lead specific projects that would help to achieve the five goals....
What struck me most about the day was...the call to action. Investing in young women reaps economic, social and political rewards for their families, their communities and their countries. Every story was followed by an investment of millions of dollars and countless hours by individuals, communities and corporations. Check out the web site to see the full list of commitment made at the annual meeting. It is awesome in size and scope — including 284 commitments valued at $9.4 billion and projected to impact more than 200 million lives.
From Business Week's NEXT Blog, by Reena Jana
The Fifth Annual Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting kicked off today in New York, a gathering of heads of state and CEOS such as Wal-Mart's Mike Duke and Coca-Cola's Muhtar Kent. They come together annually to discuss and then find solutions for humanitarian problems. The opening session, which included an address by President Barack Obama, focused on the importance of innovation in the world's recovery from the current economic downturn.
Clinton said this was the largest turnout in the event's history, which surprised him given the recession. He urged that everyone in the room had to go forward and prove that sustainability and the new business models that true sustainability requires are "good economics" to thrive. He turned to Wal-Mart's Duke and Coca-Cola's Kent for examples from the business world in the opening panel, which also included Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Chilean President Michelle Bachelet.
From One Blog, by Chris Scott
With all the intense hustle and bustle here at the 5th Annual Clinton Global Initiative Meeting, I haven't really had much of a chance to reflect on all the great things going on here. That's as it should be. What strikes me most is the overwhelming sense of uplift and optimism here. There's a genuine sense that some of the world's biggest problems can be legitimately, persistently tackled through vast cooperation and innovative thinking.