Think tank CEOs discuss populism in the shadow of the Parthenon

International leaders in the worldwide freedom movement met earlier this month to discuss populism and other current challenges facing the freedom movement.

Just days before the start of Atlas Network’s 2019 Europe Liberty Forum, a group of Think Tank CEOs from across the United States and Europe gathered in Athens, Greece to discuss populism and organizational change. Each prepared by reading and watching a range of materials including Timbro’s Authoritarian Populism Index, a fictional depiction of absurdity in elections, and Julian Birkinshaw’s “Building Ambidexterity into an Organization.”

The 2019 Transatlantic CEO Summit took place in Athens, Greece.

The transatlantic leaders met to talk about the state of the worldwide freedom movement. The discussion was centered around how the world has changed over the past year and what it means for Atlas Network’s partners. Topics included how populism and a focus on inequality are changing modern politics, and how free market think tanks should adapt without compromising classical liberal principles of individual liberty and limited government.

“There is a clear and direct correlation between these CEO Summits and my personal and professional growth, to the benefit of my colleagues, organization and contributions to the movement. It is the only professional activity for which I clear my calendar every year,” reported Michael Carnuccio, President and CEO of E Foundation of Oklahoma.

The group also revisited an idea diffusion model that was first introduced to during last year’s Summit, and discussed its validity in differing regions.

"As a movement, we have an opportunity to be much more strategic and intentional about how we create the environment where our policies and ideas can be adopted at a much higher rate," said Dr. Lyall Swim, vice president of training and events at Atlas Network. "It was really satisfying to see each of these CEOs wrestle with the ideas of innovation diffusion and find ways to apply the framework to enhance their efforts to drive reform in their respective countries."

This year’s CEO Summit hosted 20 individuals from various regions throughout the United States and Europe. The majority of those present have attended prior Atlas Network CEO Summits, and as a result the group was able to talk openly with the rest of the cohort—people they know, respect, and trust—about issues their organizations face.

Atlas Network Chairman Linda Whetstone observed, “It is a great opportunity for CEO's who trust and respect each other to get together and be very honest about the challenges they share.”

After a day of discussion, CEO Summit participants had time to enjoy Athens. Shown here is Matt Warner, Atlas Network’s President & Senior Fellow, taking a photo of Mark Littlewood (Director General, Institute of Economic Affairs, United Kingdom) and John O’Connell (Chief Executive, TaxPayers’ Alliance, United Kingdom).

Throughout the rest of the Summit, the cohort gave each other feedback in a crowdsourced format on various challenges and opportunities faced by the respective organizations. As part of the final day, the group also planned next year’s CEO Summit, which will take place alongside the 2020 Europe Liberty Forum in Kyiv, Ukraine.

John Tillman reflected on this year’s experience by saying, “The Transatlantic CEO Summits are a key part of my executive level training and growth. I am exposed to amazing thinkers, leaders and innovators. They help me see areas of opportunity that I would otherwise miss. They help me understand my work in my world within a global context. The personal relationships are just as important as all of that. Over the years we have developed a deep respect and personal bonds that allow us to share our challenges, frustrations and accomplishments with rare peers who understand the uniqueness of our roles.”

The 2019 CEO Summit in Athens, Greece hosted 20 leaders, representing 9 countries across Europe and the United States.