May 2015

HILTON HEAD INSTITUTE:Bringing Hilton Head island Courageous Conversations

Author: Special to CH2

How do we cope in a world where change occurs so quickly, creating uncertainty about our future? That’s just one of the questions being posed and explored by the Hilton Head Institute, a unique organization right here on Hilton Head Island that brings together some of the most astute minds in the region—and the world—to address today’s most critical issues and engage in the thought-provoking conversations that few are having.

The Hilton Head Institute, which from May 14-16, will be hosting The Forum, a unique three-day event at the Westin Hilton Head Island Resort and Spa, featuring an array of fascinating presenters and speakers, is unlike any other organization on the island, and perhaps the country. The Institute was created to ask the questions that others haven’t dared to ask and dig deeper than other organizations to have the “courageous conversations” that will have an impact not only on our world today, but on generations to come.

Drawing on Hilton Head’s residential base of executives and leaders, whose global experience spans a broad range of economic and social sectors, the Institute is an organization designed to bring enlightened conversations to the island and to offer people the opportunity to come together on a regular basis for stimulating discussions about America’s future.

Jim Allhusen, vice chair of the Hilton Head Institute, who led Visa’s businesses in Asia and more recently in Canada as the president of Visa Canada Corp. until retiring in 2014 and moving to Hilton Head Island, discusses what makes the Hilton Head Institute such a unique organization and how people can get involved.

CH2: Why was the Hilton Head Institute created and what is the mission of the Institute here on Hilton Head Island?

Jim Allhusen: As more and more people have fallen in love with the island and are choosing to live here, we wanted to find a way to make Hilton Head Island even more intellectually stimulating. Many of today’s business leaders and global thought leaders now call Hilton Head Island home and are looking for that opportunity to participate in engaging and enlightened conversations about some really important issues. At the Hilton Head Institute, we’ve created an environment where people can come together on a regular basis to engage in these thought-provoking and challenging conversations with others also seeking to dig deeper into the issues that shape our world today. Our conversations are “courageous” because we don’t mind asking the difficult questions, and we strongly believe that change can often begin with a single conversation. There’s no political agenda. Our focus is on influences on societal values and studying America’s place in the world. So far, the response to the Institute has been tremendous—we already have more than 150 members and are just beginning. People are welcoming this opportunity to engage in challenging discussions with others who share their interest in exploring today’s most critical global issues. Participants are excited about the opportunities to network with other thought leaders, many who they may not have realized live right here on Hilton Head Island.

Jim Allhusen,Vice Chair of Hilton Head Institute

CH2: What are some of the most significant and timely global issues that the Hilton Head Institute is hoping to address in the coming year?

J.A.: Our May event, The Forum, will be laying the groundwork for some of the topics we will be focusing on later in the year and addressing a wide variety of important issues impacting our world today as presented by some of the country’s top thought leaders. We are excited to have Chuck Todd, political director at NBC News and host of Meet the Press, address the topic of gridlock in Washington, D.C. and moderate a panel discussing the question of whether Washington can work across the aisle. In addition, our speakers at The Forum in May represent some of today’s leaders in the area of education, economics, politics, healthcare and business, all addressing a range of topics impacting our lives today.

In addition to this first May Forum event, we will be holding two “deep dive” programs throughout the year, looking closely at two of the most critical and rapidly-changing issues in our world that are sure to impact not only our lives today but the lives of future generations: education and healthcare. In November, we will be joined by some of the country’s leaders in education for a comprehensive and in-depth look at issues surrounding our educational system in The Future of Education; and in January 2016, we will join with many of our nation’s top healthcare experts to address the complex issues involved in our changing healthcare system in the program The Future of Healthcare. These two programs will be digging deeper into these issues than ever before, exploring questions such as how technology is expected to change healthcare in America in the years to come and providing a fresh look at what we should be expecting from our educational institutions and processes of formal education.

CH2: Why is the Hilton Head Institute important to Hilton Head and the Lowcountry?

J.A.: Through the work and growing role of the Institute here on Hilton Head Island, we’re hoping to not only offer residents and visitors an opportunity to engage in thought-provoking and courageous conversations about world issues, but to make Hilton Head a draw for others seeking this type of intellectual stimulation—in one of the world’s most beautiful locations. We want to open people’s eyes to the myriad of changes happening around us, happening now, through conversations happening here. In addition, we would love to be able to encourage people to take personal action to help make a difference in the world as a result of some of the conversations held at the Institute, to help make a positive impact on future generations.

CH2: How can people get involved in the Hilton Head Institute and be part of these courageous conversations?

J.A.: The May 14-16 forum and the two additional “deep dive” programs on November 20, 2014 and January 29, 2016 are open to all members of the Hilton Head Institute. For information about joining the Hilton Head Institute and membership details, visit The website provides a complete list of speakers and topics for the May Forum event, as well as information about how to join us for this and all future events. 

For more information about the Hilton Head Institute and to view the program for The Forum and upcoming events, visit

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