The Ascend at the Aspen Institute Fellows have bold ideas that can move the needle on health and well-being and offer concrete economic and social mobility pathways for children and their families.

They are visionary leaders with big ideas, ready to make a quantum leap forward toward breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty for America’s children and families. Fellows bring an inventive spirit, commitment to justice, and an inclusive mindset, recognizing they are on a lifelong journey to expand their skills and understanding around equity and inclusion as well as ensure that families are at the center of change.

About the Ascend Fellowship

The Fellowship is an 18-month journey of thought-provoking reflection, inspiration, and action based on the Aspen Institute’s 50-year history of leadership development. It provides the space and support to bring Fellows’ big ideas to life and scale.

The focus of the third cohort is on solutions that build political will, influence policy and practice, and shift behaviors and mindsets in one of the following areas of innovation:

  • Two-generation approach / whole family development (including early childhood development, postsecondary and employment pathways, health and well-being, economic assets, and social capital);
  • Brain science and executive function;
  • Trauma-informed care;
  • Behavioral science and the economy;
  • Role of the private sector;
  • Culture and narrative.

Each class is selected through a highly competitive nomination and application process. Fellows commit to participating in four forums and to creating and implementing an action plan that improves the lives of families and communities. In return, they get the space, inspiration, and support to develop something meaningful and have the Aspen Institute use its influence and reach to amplify their leadership.

About the Colorado Children and Families Fellowship

The Colorado Children and Families Fellowship seeks to make Colorado the best place to have a child and raise a healthy, thriving family. The Fellowship is designed to fuel the trajectory of exceptionally talented, results-oriented leaders who are making, and will continue to make, a significant impact on the lives of children and families with low incomes in Colorado. The Fellows:

  • Lead health and human services in five of Colorado’s rural and urban counties, serving 1.4 million Coloradans;
  • Steward almost 12 billion in resources; and
  • Direct the state’s programs in Medicaid, early childhood, and public health
  • Head policy, research, and early childhood organizations
  • Support students and their families across Denver’s public schools
  • 35% people of color
  • 60% women, 40% men

View the 2017 Colorado Fellows Brochure.

From Reflection to Results

Using a cohort approach, each class of Fellows takes a personal and collective leadership journey that is grounded in the Socratic method, which calls for a critical examination of how one lives their life. More specifically, in the Ascend Fellowship, the Socratic method translates into a deliberate, reflective consideration of personal values and the attributes of leadership. Having grounded themselves in the values that drive their leadership, the Fellows move ahead to focus on vision, legacy, and strategies for increased impact and innovation that drive toward results for children and families.

We sincerely appreciate the generosity of the Bezos Family Foundation, Catto Shaw Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, Merle Chambers Fund, and the ZOMA Foundation for their generous support of the Ascend Fellowship programs.

Building on a legacy of leadership

 Since its founding in 1949, the Aspen Institute has invested in the world’s leaders. The Aspen model is based on enduring values and providing a nonpartisan venue for addressing the critical issues of the day. Aspen Institute Fellowships:

  • Cultivate leaders to tackle the great challenges of our times;
  • Consist of 17 Fellowships spanning regions and issues;
  • Include global, entrepreneurial, business, education, and policy leadership programs; and
  • Leverage the creativity, energy, and resources of strong leaders and organizations.