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We believe that small groups of brilliant and capable leaders can solve intractable problems.

Membership

Helena works alongside a small group of exceptional leaders throughout the year and around the world. We call these leaders Helena Members.

The Helena Members are united by a desire to do, not just to think. Each is among the world’s best in their chosen field; four-star generals, artificial intelligence experts, Fortune 100 executives, Nobel laureates, Academy Award winners, Olympic athletes, global NGO leaders, explorers, and more.

Every year, Helena selects a group of 30 members. Half of each Helena Group begins membership aged near or under 25, while half of the group begins over the age of 25. Each member represents a distinct field. Membership in Helena doesn’t expire; after a new Helena Group of 30 is formed, Helena’s membership simply grows.

 

A separate category of Helena membership is called The Brain Trust. Brain Trust members are global experts in specific and focused domains. The Brain Trust has no membership cap or quota, greatly broadening Helena’s knowledge base and increasing our capacity to affect change. Brain Trust members include cyber-intelligence experts, leading financiers, marine biologists, international human rights lawyers, counter-terrorism analysts, intelligence and special operations officers, historians, and more.

There is no functional difference in the activities between Helena Group members and Brain Trust members. Both collaborate throughout the year in Helena meetings and work on Helena projects together with similar vigor and frequency.

Helena operates meetings between our membership around the world and throughout the year.

 

The meetings are small and private. Helena meetings currently occur at a near-daily frequency.

Projects

Helena operates projects around the world. The projects focus on addressing issues of global importance and creating innovations that yield significant positive impact.

Our priority is to make sure that the best idea wins. We focus on identifying projects that are closest to the objective solution to a given problem, irrespective of whether that solution contradicts our assumptions or biases. We do not select projects based on issue area.

Because every Helena project is different, we challenge ourselves to operate them many different ways.

We often bring together expert technical advisors, conduct our own internal research, secure capital, join forces with or acquire existing organizations, tell a project’s story through original content or earned media, and bring project-specific operators onto the Helena team.

Each project is developed and led alongside Helena members, who collaborate globally and throughout the year. Members work on Helena projects in a range of roles. Some Helena members lead projects full-time alongside Helena’s team, some members split their focus across multiple Helena projects, and many members aid projects in an advisory capacity.

Helena projects are built for a range of purposes. While some projects are fully incubated and operated inside of Helena, others are geared to support the existing work of Helena members in new and unique ways. As projects become public, they are listed here.

Helena works with a small set of partners to execute individual projects. Together, the partners dramatically expand Helena’s operational capabilities. They give Helena the ability to call upon world-class experts in a specific issue area, and to act with greater scale when necessary. Current partners include the Boston Consulting Group and the Berggruen Institute.

Extended Information

Helena’s mission is to build an engine where the world’s most capable leaders come to materialize ideas that solve global problems and create exciting innovations.

Helena is a private organization independent from any government, corporation, or political party. We do not exist to promote the interests of any government, corporation, or political party.

Helena sometimes makes grants to other non-profit institutions. As a matter of policy, we permit a maximum of 10% of our grants be used to cover the overhead costs of these institutions.

Helena’s membership is merit-based, and members do not pay a fee, nor do they earn fees, for their participation. Helena Group Foundation is a registered not-for-profit corporation. Helena was founded in 2015 by Henry Elkus and Zachary Bohn.

Helena does not espouse or endorse any political, economic, or religious beliefs. Instead, we aim to represent viewpoints and experiences that may sometimes conflict or overlap, in order to establish dialogue and encourage innovative ideas.

An important element of Helena’s identity is found in its younger members. They are leaders in their respective fields; pioneering new social movements and technologies, expanding scientific and literary knowledge, and challenging the underpinnings of long-held orthodoxy.  

Yet they are not selected because they are young. We are also not a youth-focused organization. Helena does not choose leaders of this age group for the purpose of education, mentorship, or development. The younger members are not selected to disproportionately direct Helena’s focus towards the “next” generation or youth issues, nor are they selected due to their proximity in age to Helena’s executives.

Why then, does Helena select younger members? The answer reveals two essential tenets of our philosophy.

The Decentralization of Power

The digital age, manifested in the form of breakthrough communication technologies, has democratized information itself. More knowledge is available to more people, in more places, than at any time before in all of human history. This shift has enabled a set of leaders to procure unprecedented global influence before reaching the age of 30.

This trend is only picking up pace. Of the top 5 technology companies in history by market capitalization, four were founded by entrepreneurs under the age of 25. An 18 year old has taken home the Nobel Peace Prize, as young people around the world have toppled governments, pioneered decentralized currencies, influenced hundreds of millions through social media.

That is not to deny that younger leaders have made their mark on history for thousands of years – but never before in history has such a high concentration of young leaders inhabited positions of influence in such a wide range of fields. These individuals are not “in development” or “on the rise.” Empowered by the networks of the digital age, many are current counterparts to the leaders of our time. Organizations that seek to create an impact must factor this change into their thinking.

The Next 50 Years

We are living in an especially important time in history. Over the next 50 years, society will have to make decisions of epochal consequence.

Many of the leaders that are beginning to make these decisions, and many the leaders driving the underlying movements and technologies that contribute to these decisions, are currently quite young. The unfolding 50-year future of arenas like artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, synthetic biology, and energy production may hinge on technological developments that are only beginning to, or have not yet taken place. An unavoidable share of the leaders creating pioneering research, disruptive businesses, and policy developments in these fields are quite young.

For Helena to succeed in representing the leaders that will continue to be behind these developments, a proportionate membership of different generations is required.

There are two main ways we analyze prospective projects.

The first is philosophical. Although there is nothing wrong with working on solutions singular to one community, we’ve chosen to prefer projects with the ability to achieve global scale. This doesn’t mean we won’t take on a project that begins its journey locally — we will just do so with an eye toward replicating that model more widely in the future. We are also focused on selecting projects that seek to create change at a systems level. This means putting in the work to go upstream and treat causes, not just symptoms.

The second is operational. Like any organization, Helena’s structure is better suited for some projects over others. In our case, high-leverage strategies — projects that that yield the maximum result for the resources we put into them — win out. We also concentrate our energy on projects that we feel have been developed from first-principles, unmovatived by conflicting external interests or ideologies. Because Helena’s membership represents leaders from a range of belief systems, political ideologies and fields, it is essential that we express this intellectual diversity through the selection of our projects as well.

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