Aspen Institute’s Global Leadership Network

June 15, 2009

The Aspen Institute's Global Leadership Network

Just returned from the Aspen Institute’s Global Leadership Network. This was the second gathering of the alumni from all the Aspen Institute’s Leadership initiatives from around the world. Of the 900 members, there was a very strong showing of support with 150 members in attendance. If you spend any time at the Aspen Institute you know you get a ‘rocky mountain high.’ Both the conversation and the network is amazing. And for those of us who have been going for better than 6 years, it has begun to feel like a global family. And the most amazing of all is the work this group is doing around the world.

We heard from Dele Olojede one of the fellows from South Africa. He is the founder of Timbuktu Media, which is building a platform-agnostic information company in Nigeria and the rest of Africa, including newspapers and digital products. He is the only African to win the Pulitzer Prize and a former foreign editor at New York Newsday. Dele spoke to us about what it takes to speak truth to power in a country like Nigeria, where bribery is not even under the skirt of innuendo but direct and overt. His news paper is the only one to not take bribes in the entire country. This is a country that if you’re part of the power system you can create a total blackout of any news story you want. If you are a politician in Nigeria, you will be one of the best paid politicians in the world. They have pay and benefits of over $2 million per year. In order for the newspaper to make the story understandable to all readers they break down these numbers into tangible numbers that will be understood. Dele is an inspiration – his willingness to leave his comfortable life in New York to put is life at risk in starting a media company in Nigeria takes an amazing act of courage.

We heard from Jaqueline Novogratz who started and is now CEO of Acumen Fund, a non-profit global venture fund that uses entrepreneurial approaches to solve the problems of global poverty. Acumen Fund currently manages more than $40 million in investments in South Asia and East Africa, all focused on delivering affordable healthcare, water, housing and energy to the poor.

We were discussing readings and many of us had very strong points of view on being ethical and holding to moral high ground not knowing that Nuhu Ribadu, a senior fellow, was part of the group. Nuhu was Executive Chairman of Economic and Fiancial Crimes Commission in Nigeria. He was responsible for bringing charges against those who were caught receiving bribes. On October 20, 2006, Ribadu told the BBC that over 380 billion dollars has either been stolen or wasted by Nigerian governments since independence in 1960. While testifying about corruption before a U.S. Financial Services Commssion against former Niger Delta Governor, Nuhu was offered millions in bribes in cash. Nuhu refused and tendered the cash as evidence against Niger Delta Governor. He is no longer safe in his country and is now living in England as an Oxford Fellow. Again the courage of his leadership and the strength of his values truly informed not only our discussion but the people of Nigeria.

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