Aspen Leaders Action Forum Preview

As 350 members of the Aspen Global Leadership Network gather for the inaugural Aspen Leaders Action Forum, distinguished professionals and innovators from around the globe will focus their attention on some of the most pressing global challenges -- committing as a group to move further along the path from "success to significance," the network's credo.

I am excited to be joining my colleagues in the network during these precious few days where our dialogue will shift from one of shared learning and reflection to the potential for action. In our respective fields, we've shown we can take individual action to lead, create, and innovate. I see the possibility of exponential impact stemming from our dialogue and commitment to directing our collective energy toward solutions that can yield sums that are greater than their parts.

These admittedly ambitious goals require some honest introspection and self-assessment. I first began this process as a 2010 Catto Fellow in Environmental Leadership, where we wrestled with the questions both of personal leadership and collective effort to mitigate the plight of ocean plastic.

It became clear over the course of our two years together that those of us dedicated to restoring the environment, through business, non-profit or political channels, need to develop a new way of communicating with our audiences if we are to be relevant beyond the "choir."

One important way is to use more accessible and adaptive language, and to use tools and messages that "meet people where they are," encouraging them to relate to environmental issues in more personal ways. Another key learning from that work was how challenging indeed it can be to collaborate around competing priorities and interests. And perhaps my most powerful epiphany -- the discovery that 'connecting the dots' of organizations working on adjacent goals is one of the most important opportunities of our time.

Inspired by the Action Forum's new Action Pledges, I have transformed these key lessons into a personal pledge " work to make sustainability education mainstream."

While this goal is grounded in my own business ­-- a global immersion training program and on-line education platform for triple bottom line innovators -- its true potential lies in the strength of the Aspen Global Leadership Network and the web of networks I'm privileged to be a part of.

By visually committing, I open myself to the insights from a broad scope of professionals and visionaries, and to the serendipitous ideas and connections that can arise from that. From a writer advocating for an up-cycling consumer culture in China, to an attorney reducing the rate of child abuse in San Francisco, to an entrepreneur improving access to credit in Tanzania, each of us draws from a specific context of challenges whose lessons might be more easily transposed onto our individual work than we might have imagined.

However diverse on the surface, challenges in sustainability, social justice, and personal economic security are receptive to a more interwoven set of solutions if we think of them from a systems perspective. And the sooner we are able to identify and highlight those interdependencies, the more powerfully we can design sets of actions that honor them.

Whether in interactive roundtable discussions or on a morning hike in the crisp mountain air, we are fortunate to have this time to continue to probe these big questions and to look for answers in unlikely places, in order to best serve where we are needed most.