Architects of the Future




Latest News

Print article
Jul 04, 2016
by Louise Hallman
Register for our Newsletter and stay up to date
Register now
Architects of the Future

Since its founding by three Harvard graduates in 1947, Salzburg Global Seminar has demonstrated a unique commitment to investing in next-generation talent from all walks of life. Combining dedicated accelerator programs for young Fellows with topical sessions on key issues for youth around the world, we help rising professionals meet today’s global leaders on equal terms. We believe in engaging and empowering future leaders today to be the architects of more sustainable and just global systems tomorrow. Salzburg Global President STEPHEN L. SALYER (right) meets with AHMAD ALHENDAWI, the first-ever United Nations Secretary-General's Envoy on Youth.

When Clemens Heller, Richard Campbell, and Scott Elledge convened the first “Salzburg Seminar in American Studies” in 1947, they were reacting to a continent ravaged by two World Wars in just three decades. Inspired by the Marshall Plan for Economics, they sought to launch a “Marshall Plan for the Mind” to reinvigorate European and American intellectual capacity, strengthen connections across the Atlantic, and heal deep post-war rifts. 

Fast forward nearly 70 years and Salzburg Global Seminar continues to forge breakthrough ideas and collaborations that bridge global and local divides. Our mission to challenge current and future leaders to solve issues of global concern calls for courage and creativity across generations and sectors.  

Most of Europe may no longer be ravaged by war, unlike some regions, but it faces spiraling tensions that can only be resolved through youth engagement and long-term vision. The recent financial and Euro crises, as well as attempts to accommodate desperate waves of refugees crossing the Mediterranean in search of safety in the European Union, have pushed European institutions, governments, and communities to the brink. New solutions and new energy are sorely needed.  

“As a trusted neutral organization that has witnessed conflict on its doorstep for decades, Salzburg Global has the responsibility to think and act long-term beyond narrow interests,” explains Salzburg Global Vice President and Chief Program Officer Clare Shine. Our multi-year programs not only seek to address immediate problems facing individuals and institutions, but also systemic challenges, identifying levers for sustainable and socially just change at all levels. 

Many of Salzburg Global’s 2015 programs addressed critical issues faced by young people around the world. These included Youth, Economics, and Violence: Implications for Future Conflict, held in partnership with the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York, which tackled the interconnected problems and opportunities of burgeoning youth populations and marginalized youth in key cities and regions. Early Childhood Development & Education and Untapped Talent: Can Better Testing and Data Accelerate Creativity in Learning and Societies – both in partnership with ETS – examined ways to improve education and social care systems from early years to university to ensure that all young people have the opportunity to fully develop and realize their potential. Two off-site panel discussions in Vienna on Educating Young People for the Jobs of the Future and Washington, DC on The Immigration Crisis: A Preview of Things to Come? explored the need for labor markets and societies to accommodate technological disruption, changing demographics, and human mobility.  

In addition to youth futures in the areas of education, employment, and civic engagement, Salzburg Global’s 2015 programs also concentrated on finance and corporate governance systems that shape the prospects of – and will be shaped by – upcoming generations. It is vital to include rising and non-standard perspectives in these high-level dialogues, explains Salzburg Global Program Director Charles E. Ehrlich: “They question conventional thinking, enabling established participants to reassess today’s systems in the light of global challenges.”  

Younger professionals need to be at the table not only because they broaden perspectives, but also because they will be the architects of transnational systems on which future prosperity, environmental protection, and the achievement of global agendas such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals will depend. Engaging fresh talent on equal terms is the way Salzburg Global leverages new voices, new brains, and new geographies. 

“By bringing smart young voices to the center of interdisciplinary discussions, Salzburg Global empowers next generation leaders to influence current policymakers and affect positive change into the future,” adds Ehrlich. 

To equip youth from all backgrounds to become effective leaders, it is critical to invest in their human capital development. Salzburg Global not only opens up opportunities for informal mentoring and network growth through attending sessions on topics from health care innovation to the future of financial regulation, but also runs dedicated capacity-building programs, such as the Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Innovators (YCI Forum), the Salzburg Academy on Media and Global Change, and the now-independent Global Citizenship Alliance

Participating in the annual YCI Forum in Salzburg helps teams of innovators from city hubs around the world develop new skills focused on intra- and entrepreneurship, the latest digital resources, new business models, risk-taking and innovation, the psychology of leadership and emotional intelligence, and cross-cultural communication and negotiating skills. They leave “turbo-charged” to expand their work in their communities. This motivation and upskilling is all the more valuable, as many of these city hubs face significant economic, political, cultural, and/or racial stress.  

Reflecting on his participation in the YCI Forum, David Olawuyi Fakunle from Baltimore, MD, USA, said: “I will look back on Salzburg as the five days that changed my life. It gave me a glimpse into what the world can be when everyone is driven by understanding, cooperation, and social good. It is comforting and personally it has strengthened my purpose. Just as importantly, I left with a plan for action. That is what I needed, and the fact that I received it will take my efforts to provide healing in Baltimore to the next level.” 

Dafni Kalafati from Athens, Greece added: “What I took back home was a heart full of joy and a mind full of inspiration. Bringing together so many innovative minds can only create a better world to live in.”  

Heller, Campbell, and Elledge would likely agree.