Organisation: Salzburg Global Seminar
Based: Salzburg and Washington
Staff: 75 in Salzburg and Washington
Annual programmes: 20 in Salzburg
A crucial member of the team at Salzburg Global Seminar, an Austrian-based think-tank, is its headquarters. The 1736-built Schloss Leopoldskron serves not only as its base but also as a revenue-generating lakefront hotel. “This building has so much history,” says Stephen L Salyer, the organisation’s president and ceo of the hotel, which not only survived the Second World War but also served as a setting for the Oscar-winning 1965 musical The Sound of Music. Today, however, it operates as both a cushy setting for Salzburg Global’s programmes and a cash cow for the organisation – meaning Salyer needs a strong team to help him keep things running smoothly.
Salzburg Global was founded in 1947 as a way to spread cultural ideas from the US to a demoralised Europe (its founder, Harvard graduate student Clemens Heller, described it as a “Marshall Plan of the mind”). “When this started it was a place for dialogue,” says Salyer. “At the time, just getting people together to talk was impressive.”
The seminar has been working on fostering conversation ever since, with a wide-ranging programme that spans media, urbanism, politics and technology. Fellows have included Kofi Annan, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Arthur Miller, and over the years Salzburg Global has welcomed more than 36,000 fellows from 170 nations. The idea is to build a network that can help, as Salyer puts it, “transform institutions”. “Off-the-record dialogue is a starting point, not an end point,” he adds. “We want to get deeper into issues.”
Five years ago the organisation decided to create a hotel brand out of Schloss Leopoldskron as a way to capitalise on its historic appeal and generate revenue for Salzburg Global, at which point Salyer’s remit – and his team – expanded. Today his capable crew help with everything from fundraising and recruitment to managing the hotel.
Yet Salyer is always looking for new ways to grow and adapt. “We’ll be doing a lot of experimenting,” he says. “One of my ambitions has been to implement a radio studio here.” If realised, it’s a dream that could see the Salzburg team – and its reach – grow even larger.
Stephen L Salyer
CEO and president
A former media executive, Salyer spent much of his career working in public broadcasting in New York. He served as senior vice-president of WNET/Thirteen before becoming president of Public Radio International – the organisation behind programmes such as This American Life – in 1988, where he stayed until he took the helm at Salzburg Global in 2005. Today he splits his time between the think-tank’s Washington and Salzburg headquarters. Under his tenure, Salzburg Global has expanded its focus on media and its impact on society; in 2007 the organisation launched the Salzburg Academy on Media and Global Change, which promotes media literacy and civic participation.