New York, NY and Washington, DC, October 24, 2018––The McNulty Foundation and the Aspen Institute today announced Mehrdad Baghai and High Resolves as the recipient of the 11th annual John P. McNulty Prize for extraordinary leadership. Baghai is being honored for creating High Resolves, which delivers learning experiences to inoculate students against hatred and galvanize them to take action in their communities. Co-founded with his wife Roya, High Resolves is bringing immersive, experiential citizenship education to thousands of youth across Australia, North America, Asia and South America.
“Around the world, we are seeing a rise in hateful discourse in communities and at the highest levels,” said former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, chair of the McNulty Prize jury. “High Resolves is tackling these pressing issues head on by training the next generation to resist propaganda and division and stand up for what’s right. It is a program we urgently need right now.”
What began 13 years ago in a single school, is now in over 350 schools across Australia, and expanded to hubs in Oakland and New Orleans, and in Canada, China and Brazil. In Australia alone, the program has engaged over 200,000 young people, or 4% of all high school students, and is on track to reach 50% of all Australian high schoolers in the next five years, impacting the next generation at an unprecedented scale.
“We’ve all been taken aback at how prejudices we thought were on the way to extinction have been revealed as alarmingly prevalent. High Resolves has done the very difficult task of building a self-funding model that challenges that kind of thinking at its roots, before it can take hold and corrupt,” said McNulty Foundation President and Aspen Institute Trustee Anne Welsh McNulty.
Founded by Anne Welsh McNulty to honor her late husband John’s legacy of advancing leaders and his commitment to expanding opportunity, the $100,000 McNulty Prize recognizes leaders who harness the innovation and excellence that characterized their career success to create replicable, sustainable models for addressing seemingly intractable global challenges.
Inoculating Young People Against Hate
Whether reflecting on childhood experiences facing discrimination in Iran, doing doctoral research at Harvard, advising companies as head of McKinsey’s global growth practice, or writing As One, his international bestseller on the emergence of cooperative strategies, Baghai has spent his life fascinated by the question of what influences individuals one way or another towards collective action or prejudice.
His research at Harvard with Nobel Laureate Thomas Schelling informed High Resolves’ programs, which are designed to lead students toward collective action. The exercises put students in morally ambiguous situations where they must make decisions, and asks them to reflect on their choice and its consequences. By generating peak experiences, or “ah-ha” moments that shift belief and motivation, and hard-wiring them into long-term memory through repeated practice and real-world application, the program leaves a lasting impact in students, exposing bias and greater awareness of how their actions affect others.
Mehrdad and Roya Baghai realized they needed to impact a critical mass of the population in order to truly be effective, and they have worked tirelessly in recent years to scale the program, with great success. In Australia, the nonprofit venture has already achieved financial sustainability, paid for by schools that have recognized the value of its offerings. Graduates of the program report a shift in their lives, attitudes and choices, whether influencing them to run for student government, pursue careers in government or public health, or advocate for victims of domestic violence or other causes.
“Hate, prejudice and inequality are universal afflictions. High Resolves has designed a powerful and proven system to stop these destructive forces, starting with young people. We can be as systematic about citizenship education as we are about core subjects, and given the state of the world, we have no choice but to do just that,” said Mehrdad Baghai.
The John P. McNulty Prize was founded by Anne Welsh McNulty in memory of her late husband, to recognize the boldness and impact of individuals using their expertise and entrepreneurial talents to address the world’s toughest challenges. A distinguished jury, including Secretary Madeleine Albright, Ugandan statesman Olara Otunnu, international development expert Brizio Biondi-Morra and Ford Foundation president Darren Walker selected the 2018 winner. Previous juries have included Mary Robinson, Bill Gates, Sr. and Sir Richard Branson, among others.
Henry Crown Fellow Mehrdad Baghai was one of four McNulty Prize Laureates selected from the Aspen Global Leadership Network. The 2018 Laureates include Hope Azeda for Ubumuntu Arts in Rwanda, Govindraj Ethiraj for Boom, IndiaSpend and FactChecker in India, and David Gilboa for Pupils Project in the US. Each Laureate receives $25,000. The 2018 Winner and Laureates will be honored at the annual McNulty Prize celebration in New York on November 7.
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The Henry Crown Fellowship seeks to develop the next generation of community-spirited leaders, providing them with the tools to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Each year, 20-22 leaders engage in a journey to move beyond success to significance, and are called on to learn, teach, and stretch themselves further than they thought possible. It is named for Chicago industrialist Henry Crown (1896-1990), whose career was marked by a commitment to integrity and philanthropy.
The Aspen Global Leadership Network (AGLN) is a growing, worldwide community of more than 3,000 high-integrity, entrepreneurial leaders from over 60 countries who share a commitment to enlightened leadership and to using their creativity, energy and resources to tackle the foremost societal challenges of our times. Fellows convene annually at the AGLN’s flagship event, the Resnick Aspen Action Forum. For more information, visit agln.aspeninstitute.org.
The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. The Institute is based in Washington, DC; Aspen, Colorado; and on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It also has offices in New York City and an international network of partners. For more information, visit aspeninstitute.org.
Contact: Nina Sawhney
The Aspen Institute