Radical Reinvention

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Jun 18, 2018
by Louise Hallman
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Radical Reinvention

“Change fixes the past. Transformation creates the future.” With seven decades of experience to inform its leadership, Salzburg Global Seminar has the vision to inspire breakthroughs that can not only change but truly transform systems. CREATIVE COLLABORATION. In Salzburg, Young Cultural Innovators work in their “hubs” to build structures, which helps build teams that can effect positive, creative change in their communities.

Dynamic peaceful societies need strong foundations. As technologies advance and trust erodes, current systems of government, finance, health and education are coming under increasing strain and scrutiny. Preparing our communities and economies to meet the needs and wants of growing, aging and mobile populations, and to restore planetary health, has become an urgent concern in every region of the world. 

As Ron Ashkenas, co-author of the Harvard Business Review Leadership Handbook writes, transformation — unlike change — “doesn’t focus on a few discrete, well-defined shifts, but rather on a portfolio of initiatives, which are interdependent or intersecting.” Salzburg Global Seminar puts transformation at the heart of its work, connecting our major initiatives to locally-driven movements and globally-set milestones. 
We are an active partner in efforts to achieve the “Global Goals” by 2030 (the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals approved by 193 countries). Progress toward the Global Goals cannot be met by any organization, sector or country in isolation. Open exchange is essential between people and institutions that imagine, deliver, fund, regulate and report on new approaches, as is forthright critique of failures, inefficiencies and inequities. In this vein, we are helping to pioneer cross-cutting innovation at critical crossroads among conflict, climate change, health and education. 

Salzburg Global’s multi-year program series complement and inform one another, incubating ideas and generating expanding ripples of impact. We accelerate learning and research (Salzburg Seminar in American Studies Association; Salzburg Academy on Media and Global Change) and harness creativity for a digital, urbanizing world (Young Cultural Innovators Forum; Culture, Arts and Society; Education for Tomorrow’s World). We support integrated action for wellbeing (Health and Health Care Innovation; Parks for the Planet Forum) and for social justice and pluralism (Salzburg Global LGBT Forum; Holocaust Education and Genocide Prevention). We work at the highest levels to improve foresight and inclusiveness in the spheres of finance (Philanthropy and Social Investment; Salzburg Global Finance Forum), governance (Salzburg Global Corporate Governance Forum; Public Sector Strategy Network) and the rule of law (Salzburg Cutler Fellows). 

Systems transformation calls for listening, co-creation and radical reinvention. Salzburg Global’s experience in tackling global issues and inputs from our Salzburg Global Fellowship yield exceptional insights as we test theories of change across very different cultural, economic and environmental contexts. Whether convened in Salzburg or around the world, our programs create the conditions to reframe complex questions, reflect, share ideas, test strategies and prioritize next steps. Fellows and partners can explore their differences and identify new possibilities for collaboration as we re-imagine the systems within which they operate. 

Strategy in Action

In 2007, in the midst of a threatened pandemic of avian flu, public health officials, clinicians and veterinarians gathered in Salzburg to address the growing convergence and interdependence of humans, animals and environment and the increasing risk of pandemic disease outbreaks. After six days, the 50 Fellows had forged a new level of mutual understanding and committed themselves to work beyond their normal silos. 
Fast-forward a decade and many of those Fellows are engaged in the San Francisco-based NGO, Ending Pandemics, which evolved directly from the 2007 Salzburg program. In November 2018, Ending Pandemics and its global partners will return to Schloss Leopoldskron. They have chosen to collaborate with Salzburg Global on a program that will seek to establish a consistent global framework for recognizing and taking swift action to stop pandemics whenever and wherever they arise.

“Ending Pandemics is a prime example of Salzburg Global’s strategy in action,” says Salzburg Global President Stephen L. Salyer. “In 2007, leaders in veterinary and human medicine who had never met, came to Salzburg to address an urgent challenge. From that Salzburg meeting, research and program collaborations were launched, philanthropic support was raised and national plans were adopted in numerous countries. But more than a decade later, much remains to be done, including establishing global norms that can overcome local pressures to obscure or conceal outbreaks lest tourism or trade be disrupted. It is this unfinished work on system transformation that brings outstanding talent together again at Schloss Leopoldskron.”

Looking Forward

Over seven decades the world has changed in many ways beyond recognition. In other ways, the present evokes a disturbing sense of déjà vu. There is no sign that change will be less sweeping in the years ahead, or that the accompanying risks and opportunities will be anything short of dramatic and fundamental. 

Salzburg Global Seminar marked its 70th anniversary as one would expect: not only affirming our independence and belief in free expression but also asking how we might reach higher levels of program excellence and global inclusiveness. 

We emerge recommitted to Margaret Mead’s belief in the power of “thoughtful committed citizens” even as we work with diverse thinkers to question conventional wisdom and the assumptions that underlie it. With partners from every region and background, and from both public and private sectors, we imagine ways to overcome obstacles in the way of peace and progress. Our unique Salzburg Global Fellowship — many thousands strong — continues to grow, debate, innovate and collaborate to shape a better world. These core values and practices will not change, even as most everything else does.


Opening quote from Chris McGoff, author, The PRIMES; CEO and founder of The Clearing, Inc.; adjunct professor, Graduate School of Public Policy, University of Maryland, USA.