By: Timothy Schettino

As an inaugural member of the Military Leadership Circle (MLC) I had the blessing to attend the Milken International Global Conference (MIGC) twice, and as readers have gleaned from the last few MLC posts, there is no way to fully encapsulate the sheer whirlwind of powerful interpersonal interactions and ideas that everyone experiences in just a few days at the MIGC. In the afterglow following this experience, a sort of euphoria descends. While new inspirations impact daily observations, there already sparks a question: How can I give something back to this opportunity that has given me so much?

Sometimes the most profound message is not new message, but simply the timely reutterance of well-founded wisdom. For me, the answer to the question at hand was to ‘give back’ and produce a tangible deliverable for the benefit others. I can testify that the members of the MLC are also driven by this challenge. Over the last few years there have been a growing list of MLC members and their network largely derived from attending the MIGC, that has developed initiatives to address a variety of issues across innovation within the Department of Defense, Gender Equality, Life Coaching, and Veterans Affairs. Indeed, the entire MLC organization grew out of Matt Driskill’s individual opportunity and vision, that he and his network associated with the Milken Institute cultivated in response to this exact question: How do I give back?

Personally speaking, this contribution has to be vectored through each person’s talents, skills, and station in life. In my case, I was able to channel my initial exposure at the MIGC to Parag Khanna’s geopolitical theory of Connectography through my academic research. More specifically, I was able to build off MIGC inspiration to better ascertain the environmental trajectory of the Russian Far East in relation to Russia’s own efforts to develop the region, as well as China’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) megadevelopment initiative.

Drawing from the Milken Institute’s considerable effort to make each year’s panels available online, Khanna’s theory was combined with principles of Chaos and Complexity Theory to provide a theoretic foundation, which I then expanded with several data modelling techniques, using tools like TagCrowd’s word-cloud generator and choropleths derived from Global Database for Events, Language, and Tone (GDELT), along with traditional research methodologies. These evaluations became cohesive as Activity Evaluations, providing diagnostics to compare against Khanna’s “connectographic body systems,” composed of infrastructure networks, such as, Ground Lines of Communication and petrochemical pipelines. Finally, the outcome of this series of analyses were further contextualized against the landscape ecology (i.e. how different ecosystems sustain themselves) and environmental protection regime, such as National and Provincial Conservation Lands, found in the Russian Far East. The result was an emergent understanding that many locations currently considered “at risk” are, in fact, better protected than some areas, such as Yakutia, which are quietly being developed with little to no environmental counterbalances in place.

In summary, it seems to me that the responsibility that is inherent to having the opportunity to experience something like the MIGC is a subsequent call to action to take things beyond the mind-space for the benefit of others. For me personally, that led to integrating ideas and conversations first encountered at the MIGC into my academic studies, but others will find different approaches and endeavors.

As the Readers of this blog reflect on how they can best nurture the MIGC and similar experiences, I encourage them to take advantage of the Milken Institute’s online video portal. In addition, for anyone interested in learning more about Parag Khanna, they can explore it here, while those wanting a deeper understanding of the aforementioned study on the Russian Far East can contact me via LinkedIn or via email at: tschettino[at]fulbrightmail.org

*This blog does not constitute an official endorsement of Parag Khanna by the Military Leadership Circle, any entity within the Department of Defense, or the Milken Institute.

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