From Aspire Summer to Aspire Digital 2020 – A New Beginning

Aspire Digital is one of the projects that have been born during the pandemic, as means to stay in touch with our community, inspire, empower and continue to develop their skills and knowledge. Our digital initiative debuted on June 24th with an inspiring session with professor Steve Jarding about Leadership of the Future and it comprised 12 workshops, seminars and webinars with our core professors as well as a couple new names.  

The Aspire Digital series brought together over 600 participants, both part of our Aspire community as well as potential members. During the past 3 months we have learnt about leadership, design thinking, venture capital, negotiations, sustainability and entrepreneurship from leaders and experts in the corresponding areas. 

At Aspire, we teach and value leadership skills, innovation and entrepreneurship and Aspire Digital could not be any different. We have grouped our sessions and workshops into 3 categories:  


The Aspire Digital leadership pillar spotlight sessions from Harvard, Stanford and Georgetown professors on topics such as: 

  • Leadership of the Future – Steven Jarding, Harvard  
  • Leadership in Tough Times – Sam Potolicchio, Georgetown University 
  • 2 sessions on Bargaining Styles and Negotiations Fundamentals – Janet Martinez, Stanford University 

Top 3 things we learnt during the digital sessions on leadership:

  1. Leaders are not born, they are formed” Sam Potolicchio. Challenging situations and going outside your comfort zone will build your skills, resilience and will form you as a leader. Don’t avoid to “get your hands dirty”! 
  1. We are the most educated generation, having a high understanding of technology and data. We need to bring together all our knowledge to create a new leadership paradigm solving the issues of the world – excerpt from Steve Jarding’s session.
  1. Don’t go to a negotiation without knowing your objectives, long and short goals and your BATNA – Best alternative to a negotiated agreement – excerpt from Janet Martinez’s session.

“I appreciated that the workshop was well-structured, it provided us with general lines for tackling both external factors and personal challenges in negotiations. It went from a macro picture, that allowed us to view the negotiation from above and understand its structure and how to influence it, to a micro setting, where tweaking our individual styles helped shape the discussion. In this sense, I felt this inside-outside approach made me think more comprehensively about the problem at hand. Thank you very much for your help, I look forward to longer sessions next year!”

– Anonymous on Bargaining Styles and Negotiations Fundamentals

A New Beginning- From Aspire Summer to Aspire Digital 2020


The COVID-19 crisis exposed a big gap when it comes to innovation. We realized that our lives were not adapted and prepared for such a change to happen and we suddenly faced major changes job, school and life-wise. In the same time, it also proposed a time for reflection, evaluation, analysing our surroundings and make changes. Aspire Digital proposed a series of workshops that used design thinking principles to evaluate specific aspects such as the current voting system, climate change or the COVID waste, as well as a more spiritual and personal aspect, redesigning your life in terms of the current normal. The Innovation pillar was formed of 4 sessions detailed below: 

  • Introduction into Design Thinking, followed by a design thinking challenge on redesigning the voting system – Luciana Herman, Stanford University  
  • 2 sessions on Designing your Life – Luciana Herman, Phil Malone, Stanford & Celia Malone, Nueva School and Stanford University  
  • Design Thinking challenge on sustainability – Dara Olmsted Silverstein, Stanford University & Celia Malone, Nueva School and Stanford University 

“The Designing Your Life session was incredibly revealing to me. I enjoyed the guided self-reflection exercises, as they helped me adjust my perspective on my own life. I feel like I regained the control upon the trajectory of my story.”

– Georgia Canura, Aspire High School 2018


An Aspire series would not be complete without an entrepreneurship pillar. Crises are a moment for disruption and innovation, a moment of redesign and reinvention and entrepreneurship is the engine behind emerging new trends. Through the Aspire Digital entrepreneurship pillar we have brought together entrepreneurs and professors for a series of 4 sessions and workshops focused on innovation and entrepreneurship, touching both planning aspects such as design thinking, building a start-up, testing and prototyping your ideas, as well as more pragmatic aspects such as fundraising for your business: 

  • Breaking into VC – Sergio Marrero, founder of Rebel One  
  • Fundraising from VCs and Angels – Sergio Marrero, founder of Rebel One  
  • Design Thinking challenge focused on entrepreneurship – 3 sessions module – Alain Heureux, serial entrepreneur and professor at Gdansk University & Phil Malone, Stanford University  
  • Creativity, Curiosity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship are key ingredients to reinvent our world! – Alain Heureux, serial entrepreneur and professor at Gdansk University  
The Aspire Digital Design Thinking challenge focused on entrepreneurship brought together young professionals with university students and offered them the chance to work together on improving an existing product or service used during the first wave of COVID-19 or create a new initiative from scratch. The teams have been helped by professors Phil Malone and Alain Heureux, who, using design thinking principles, have helped them turn their ideas into a project and pitch it at the end of the challenge. 

“For my team, it felt good to be challenged to come up with an idea to help with a potential second wave of Coronavirus. The Aspire Digital sessions were like a crash course, from experts, that was easy to understand and made so engaging. We were so motivated to not just take part in this challenge but to make the most out of it. The sessions with Alain and Phil were so inspiring that we put the same energy back into our work, their feedback, enthusiasm and positive encouragement were so helpful and motivating for me and my team!

Lastly, I’d like to say that I’m grateful to be a part of Aspire Academy! The business challenge was my first engagement with Aspire, and I absolutely cannot wait to take part in future events.”

–  Samiksha Raviraja, future participant at Aspire Academy 2021

“The Aspire Digital Business Challenge has been a very unique experience for me. As for someone majoring in international relations, it has been something totally new to explore. I have learned that hundreds and hundreds of ideas are born in different minds every day but it is not even a beginning. You have to go to action, put your time and effort, connect with relevant people to make these ideas see the real world. Now I think, I can better see the whole picture.”

– Tamar Tkemaladze, future participant at Aspire Academy 2021 

The Aspire Digital has been a new, innovative beginning for us. It has been born out of the need to adapt and support our community in these difficult times, yet it proved to be a needed addition to the Aspire experience. Online experiences are here to stay and we are excited to be part of this movement.

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