After reading the Aspen Institute’s “Overcoming Short-termism: A Call for a More Responsible Approach to Investment and Business Management” letter, I figured that I had to learn more about it. An organization that can assemble an all-star cast with individuals such as The Vanguard Group founder John C. Bogle and the “Oracle of Omaha” must have influence of some kind.

The Aspen Institute is an international nonprofit organization founded in 1950 by Walter Paepcke. Walter Paepcke (1896-1960) was a Chicago businessman that was inspired by the natural beauty of Aspen, Colorado and “envisioned it as an ideal gathering place for thinkers, leaders, artists, and musicians from all over the world to step away from their daily routines and reflect on the underlying values of society and culture.”

Today, the Aspen Institute lives up to its mission statement in four ways:

The Aspen Institute mission is twofold: to foster values-based leadership, encouraging individuals to reflect on the ideals and ideas that define a good society, and to provide a neutral and balanced venue for discussing and acting on critical issues.

  • Seminars, which help participants reflect on what they think makes a good society, thereby deepening knowledge, broadening perspectives and enhancing their capacity to solve the problems leaders face.
  • Young-leader fellowships around the globe, which bring a selected class of proven leaders together for an intense multi-year program and commitment. The fellows become better leaders and apply their skills to significant challenges.
  • Policy programs, which serve as nonpartisan forums for analysis, consensus building, and problem solving on a wide variety of issues.
  • Public conferences and events, which provide a commons for people to share ideas.

Along with the revenue generated from the seminars, the Aspen Institute also receives contributions from organizations and individuals.

Overall, the Aspen Institute’s objective lines up perfectly to our class. It addresses many issues with policies and programs. These programs and policies cover everything from Economic Opportunities to Homeland Security. The organization is actually so large that many programs and groups are their own entities all under the Aspen Institute umbrella. Although I have found information from other sites have labeled the Aspen Institute as nonpartisan, bipartisan, and centrist, the organization’s official site makes no direct political affiliation(or lack thereof). My guess is that this is done purposely because many contributions directly support a program or group within the organization. As we all know, it is hard to support certain issues neutrally. Also, many of the organizations that contribute funding to the Aspen Institute might support a certain party so, again, the lack of an affiliation will not deter anybody from providing funding.

Here are some numbers from findthedata.org that might surprise you:

Revenue (2008) $73,720,045
Expenses accumulated by think tank in 2008.

Expenses (2008)

$63,502,393
The total amount of contributions, gifts, grants and similar amounts received.

Contributions (2008)

$45,660,759
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One response »

  1. Jim says:

    It sounds like the Aspen institute does a pretty good job of bringing together important thinkers from many different viewpoints for discussion of contemporary issues. I think you make a good point when you say “As we all know, it is hard to support certain issues neutrally.” I remember once hearing someone complain once that a new station was “trying too hard to represent all of the points of view” and that if they had someone on to profess the world was round, they would also make sure to have someone talk about how the world was flat. It is important to me that various viewpoints be represented in discussions and I have to wonder what is the best way to decide what types of viewpoints we find legitimate enough to entertain and which should be put to rest (like the flat-world person).

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