Founded in 1950, the Aspen Institute began as "ideal gathering place for thinkers, leaders, artists, and musicians from all over the world to step away from their daily routines and reflect on the underlying values of society and culture.". . It has evolved to being an organization "foster values-based leadership, encouraging individuals to reflect on the ideals and ideas that define a good society, and to provide a neutral and balanced venue for discussing and acting on critical issues."
- Seminars, which help participants reflect on what they think makes a good society, thereby deepening knowledge, broadening perspectives and enhancing their capacity to solve the problems leaders face.
- Young-leader fellowships around the globe, which bring a selected class of proven leaders together for an intense multi-year program and commitment. The fellows become better leaders and apply their skills to significant challenges.
- Policy programs, which serve as nonpartisan forums for analysis, consensus building, and problem solving on a wide variety of issues.
- Public conferences and events, which provide a commons for people to share ideas.
To conduct these programs, it uses "The Aspen Method of conducting meetings and seminars: a moderated dialogue in a small group setting where participants from various backgrounds and perspectives learn from each other through an interactive discussion of specific readings." The Method is used both in meetings among executives and in policy research.
Aspen Strategy Group
Another use of the Method is the Strategy Group policy program concentrating on strategic relations and arms control issues in various regions, co-chaired by Joseph Samuel Nye, Jr. and Brent Scowcroft.