High Resolves is awarded 2018 McNulty Prize
The McNulty Foundation and the Aspen Institute 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 galvanizes 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 on 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.