On December 8, 2021, Aspen Institute Romania hosted and broadcast online the 11th edition of the ASPEN LEADERSHIP AWARDS.

The event was organized exclusively online and celebrated 15 years of activity of the Aspen Institute Romania, representing a special occasion for the Members of the Institute and for the beneficiaries of the Aspen programs to come together virtually and reflect on the impact that the Aspen community has on the development of the region.

The Aspen Leadership Awards are an opportunity to bring recognition to individuals who left their mark on the Romanian and global society, who were innovators and examples of ethical and professional conduct, in fields such as public service, research and innovation, sports or arts.

Through the Aspen Leadership Awards 2021, Aspen Institute Romania also brought recognition to the activities and initiatives of the incredible community of Aspen Fellows and Alumni. The Aspen community was the one to make nominations and to vote the winner of the Aspen Social Action Prize, a 1000 EUR grant awarded for a project initiated by an Aspen Fellow or Alumnus. During the event it was also announced the winner of the Aspen Fellows Network Grant, offered to a project initiated by the participants of the 2020-2021 generation of the Aspen Young Leaders Program.

The enthusiasm and energy of the Aspen Fellows and Alumni brought inspiration and joy, as many of them joined the event virtually and shared their thoughts on the Aspen experience.

The event also featured one of the most treasured moments of the Aspen Leadership Awards, the Diploma Ceremony of the 2020-`21 generation of Aspen Young Leaders Program, when we officially welcomed the newest Aspen Fellows to the Aspen community.

We thank all the Members of the Institute, the Aspen Fellows and Alumni and our Partners and Sponsors for their constant support, dedication, and willingness to contribute to the Good Society.

We thank the Partners of the Aspen Leadership Awards 2021 for their devotion to the Aspen Idea:

Award Sponsors RAIFFEISEN BANK, UNICREDIT BANK, EXXONMOBIL, Ms. Cătălina Iuga and Mr. Vasile Iuga

Aspen Social Action Prize Sponsor ALLIANCE HEALTHCARE ROMANIA

Gold Leaf Sponsors MERK CLASS and ORION

Media partner AGERPRES

With the support of DAVID SANDU JEWELRY and RHEA COSTA

The Aspen Leadership Awards constitute a source of financial support for the Aspen Leadership Trust, which was created at the beginning of the year 2020 as a structure aiming to support the Leadership Initiatives of the Aspen Institute Romania and to offer scholarships to join our Leadership Programs to high school students, university students, young professionals, public sector representatives and NGO representatives, in Romania and the region.

We invite you to support the Aspen Leadership Trust by joining us as Leadership Trustees or Individual Contributors, which will render a series of benefits in terms of promotion and visibility.

For more details regarding the Aspen Leadership Trust, the current Leadership Trustees and Individual Contributors and various possibilities to contribute, please click here or contact us via e-mail at [email protected] or [email protected].


  • The ”Mihnea Constantinescu” Values-Based Leadership Award: Mr. JENS STOLTENBERG, Secretary general of NATO

The ”Mihnea Constantinescu” Values Based Leadership Award is presented to a public leader or national organization that has excelled in his/ her/ its field of activity, by constantly supporting and promoting national and universal values.


Jens Stoltenberg became NATO Secretary General in October 2014, following a distinguished international and domestic career. As a former Prime Minister of Norway and UN Special Envoy, Mr. Stoltenberg has been a strong supporter of greater global and transatlantic cooperation.

Under Mr. Stoltenberg’s leadership, NATO has responded to a more challenging security environment by implementing the biggest reinforcement of its collective defence since the Cold War, increasing the readiness of its forces and deploying combat troops in the eastern part of the Alliance. He believes in credible deterrence and defence while maintaining dialogue with Russia. He has also advocated for increased defence spending and better burden sharing within the Alliance, and a greater focus on innovation. NATO has also stepped up its efforts in the fight against terrorism. He strongly supports a partnership approach, with cooperation between NATO and the European Union reaching unprecedented levels.

  • The Innovation and Technology Leadership Award: FintechOS

The Innovation and Technology Leadership Award is presented to a leader or an organization which brought significant contribution in the field of innovation and research, or in the entrepreneurial environment. Innovation stands a cornerstone to social and economic progress.


The FintechOS story begins in 2017. Two serial entrepreneurs, Teodor Blidăruș and Sergiu Neguț knew they had something good on their hands – a revolutionary product with a designated market. They decided to combine their skills and go into start-up mode.

FintechOS was born with a vision to power financials to become truly customer-focused – by adopting a datacentric approach and by consolidating critical data from multiple sources, banks and insurers can accelerate processing, adopt automation, deliver personalized experiences, and slash costs.

Fast-forward to today, and the founders’ dream is a reality, with over USD 100 billion under management, 350+ employees and 4 offices globally. FintechOS has already transformed day-to-day services for millions of people worldwide and the growth is exponential.

With a strong track record, they forge ahead, thinking differently, challenging the status quo and using their tech to push boundaries.

The 2021 Innovation and Technology Leadership Award is presented by ExxonMobil Romania.

  • The Arts and Society Leadership Award: Mr. CRISTIAN MUNGIU, Film Director

The Arts and Society Leadership Award is presented to an individual or organization who has significantly contributed to the enrichment of Romanian culture, promoted Romania abroad and supported the overall development of the country’s cultural patrimony.


Cristian Mungiu is a Romanian filmmaker born in Iaşi, Romania in 1968. His debut film, Occident, premiered in Quinzaine des Realisateurs in Cannes in 2002 and was a hit with audiences in Romania.

In 2007, his second feature, 4 months, 3 weeks, and 2 days, was awarded the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. The film received several awards for Best Film of the Year from various international associations of film critics. It won the European Film Academy awards for Best Film and Best Director.

He returned to Cannes in 2009 with the collective episodic film Tales from the Golden Age and in 2012 with Beyond the Hills – double awarded for Best Screenplay and Best Actresses. Graduation, his fifth film presented in Cannes, was awarded for Best Director in 2016.

He has produced and distributed a number of films, among which 6.9 on Richter scale, Lemonade, and The Father who Moves Mountains and worked with auteurs such as Jim Jarmusch, Nuri Bilge Ceylan or Andrey Zviaghintsev. He founded the festivals Les Films de Cannes a Bucarest and the American Independent Film Festival.

He is currently shooting his sixth feature film.

The 2021 Arts and Society Leadership Award is presented by UniCredit Bank.

  • The Service with Dignity Leadership Award: THE FORCE PROTECTION BATTALION “MARTENS”

The Service with Dignity Leadership Award is presented to a Romanian public servant that has proven constant effort to exemplary fulfill work duties and go beyond those, as a role model for the community. By their impeccable professional and ethical standards, those nominated for this award are seen as guardians of the Good Society, leaders among their peers, and as a source of pride and inspiration.


The 634th Infantry Battalion from Piatra Neamț was founded in 1994, on April 2, under the name of the 567th Infantry Battalion. On December 1, 1995, the 634th Infantry Battalion received its Battle Flag. Starting with February 14, 2020, the 634th Infantry Battalion from Piatra Neamţ received the honorary name of “Marshal Józef Pilsudski”. During its mission in Afghanistan the 634th Infantry Battalion was called the Force Protection Battalion “Martens” (“Jderii”, in Romanian).

In 2021, the last 100 Romanian soldiers from the Force Protection Battalion “Martens” left Kandahar Air Base. Thus, a period full of challenges and actions that changed the mentality of the Romanian military ended. Kandahar and southern Afghanistan were the places where the Romanian military managed to prove that they are those faithful, courageous, enterprising allies who responded present whenever needed.

The last Romanian soldier to leave Kandahar Air Base, after 19 years of continuous Romanian presence there, was the commander of the Jderii Force Protection Battalion, Lieutenant-Colonel Vasile Mironescu.

The 2021 Service with Dignity Leadership Award is presented by Ms. Cătălina Iuga and Mr. Vasile Iuga.

  • The Sports and Society Leadership Award: DAVID POPOVICI, Competitive swimmer, Olympian, World junior record holder

The Sports and Society Leadership Award is presented to an individual or a group who has transformed sports into more than a physical activity. The nominees for this award stand as a model of commitment, dedication and professionalism.


Born in Bucharest, he trained in his hometown since the age of 5, when his parents made the decision to take him to lessons following an orthopedist’s advice. He started swimming lessons at Bucharest Sport Club, where his first coaches were Bogdan Stroe and Bogdan Manea, followed by Doina Potolea. In 2013, after he joined Aqua Team Sports Club, he met coach Adrian Radulescu. This was the beginning of a fantastic professional trip, their team constantly reaching newer and newer limits.

David’s first big accomplishment was the age group record for 50m backstroke that he managed to break at the age of 10. It was the magic moment that made him addicted to being #1 and since then he made the best he could in order to achieve this level. During the last 8 years, David broke more than 70 Romanian records and currently holds 24 of them in competitions such as 50/100/200 Freestyle, 50m Butterfly, 200/400m Medley.

Today, David is the Junior World Record holder for 100m Freestyle, Junior European Record holder for 100m and 200m Freestyle and one of the most promising young swimmers worldwide.

The 2021 Sports and Society Leadership Award is presented by Raiffeisen Bank.

  • Aspen Social Action Prize 2021: AllGrow, initiated by Ms. Mădălina Bouroș, Aspen Fellow 2019

Aspen Institute Romania would like to bring recognition to the activities and initiatives that the Aspen Fellows and Alumni put forward in creating social and civic change, through the Aspen Social Action Prize. The Aspen Fellows and Alumni (the former participants in the Aspen Leadership Programs) are the ones to make nominations and to determine, through their vote, the winning project.

In recognition of their venture and vision, the Aspen Institute Romania would like to continue the tradition of the Aspen Social Action Prize, a 1000 EUR grant that will allow us to showcase and introduce to the wider Aspen Romania family those initiatives that have the potential of turning the lives of people that are falling between the cracks to the better.

Through this year’s Social Action Prize grant, the Aspen Institute Romania supports AllGrow’s effort of preparing children from under-served rural communities for tomorrow’s world, through using social innovation education as an educational model and increasing their level of civic participation.

The 2021 Aspen Social Action Prize is presented by Alliance Healthcare Romania.

  • Aspen Fellows Network Grant, for a project initiated by a team of the 2020-2021 generation of Aspen Young Leaders Program: TECH SISTERHOOD Project

The Aspen Fellows Network Grant is offered to a project initiated by participants of the current generation of Aspen Young Leaders Program.

By the end of the Young Leaders Program, participants are encouraged to initiate or endorse an original community service project that they will further develop, individually or in groups. This type of involvement illustrates their creativity and their talent for teamwork, planning, persuasion, delivery and overall leadership. Participants should aim to develop a project which can deliver a real benefit to society and which will continue after their direct involvement ceases, so it should be sustainable.

The project proposals initiated by the young leaders are analyzed by the representatives of the Aspen Fellows Network, who vote and decide the winner of the AFN Grant (1000 EUR).

The TECH SISTERHOOD Project is initiated by the following participants to the YLP 2020-2021: Patricia Couți, Ioan Istrate, Vlad Măcelaru, Andrei Moțoc, Mădălina Nan, Tudor Oancea, Vlad Roman, Claudiu Staicu, Veronica Ștefan, Mihai Tache, Matei Toader.

The project aims to change the face of tech specialists by empowering young women to meaningfully engage in the tech sector through a comprehensive personal & professional development program.