Jefferson Innovation Summit :: 2011

Sixty leaders in innovation and entrepreneurship from business, government, academia, media, public service, and the arts convened for the Jefferson Innovation Summit in October 2011 to grapple with how best to create and sustain a society of entrepreneurs and innovators. The two days of purposeful conversation yielded bold and original ideas that were integrated into a Declaration of Principles, a guiding framework to improve the nation’s innovative capacity and entrepreneurial ecosystem. To build on these Principles and promote further action-oriented dialogue, the Batten Institute, the Summit Delegates, and other partner organizations have committed to undertaking a robust set of initiatives over the years to come.

Watch the Jefferson Innovation Summit :: 2011 in brief


The signature event of the Jefferson Innovation Summit was the Rotunda Dialogue, a unique exchange among thirteen thought leaders about the power and promise of entrepreneurship and innovation. Moderated by CNBC’s Tyler Mathisen, a carefully selected group of innovators, entrepreneurs, policymakers, authors, and creative thinkers worked through a provocative hypothetical scenario highlighting the challenges of strengthening a nation’s innovative capacity and entrepreneurial ecosystem. Developed by Fred Friendly Seminars in collaboration with CNBC, the Summit’s official media partner, the Dialogue took place in the Dome Room of Jefferson’s iconic Rotunda.

The Rotunda Dialogue was modeled on the award-winning Fred Friendly Seminars, created by the late president of CBS News and producer for Edward R. Murrow. In a seminar, a diverse group of participants are asked to respond to a fact-based hypothetical scenario. They are given no scripts or materials to prepare; instead, with guidance from an experienced moderator, they work through the decisions the scenario presents, taking on roles consistent with those they play in real life. The focus throughout is not “What do you think?” but “What would you do?”

View video shorts of the Rotunda Dialogue captured by CNBC here.


Following the Rotunda Dialogue, Summit delegates and invited guests enjoyed a rare dinner on the grounds of Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s historic home. This event, developed in partnership with the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, a major sponsor of the Summit, gave participants the opportunity to continue the discussions incited by the Rotunda Dialogue’s thought-provoking seminar. To guide the working session on the morning that followed, each Delegate submitted one significant “Area of Opportunity” for empowering entrepreneurs and innovators in our society.


On the following morning, invitees participated in a plenary session at Montalto, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation’s mountaintop retreat overlooking Monticello. During this working session, participants arranged themselves in small groups around seven key “Areas of Opportunity” identified the night before. Through facilitated brainstorming sessions, the groups formulated constructive recommendations on their chosen subject that were then reported out to all participants for feedback and further discussion.

The input gathered from these discussions laid the groundwork for the Declaration of Principles created by the Summit Drafting Committee with support from the Batten Institute. This culminating document ensures that the outcomes of the Summit’s fruitful exchanges will be sustained as these discussions continue within the public and private spheres. The Declaration seeks to provide a meaningful framework for all stakeholders to improve the nation’s innovative capacity and entrepreneurial ecosystem.

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