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5 Things You Should Know About the McNulty Prize

by Johnny McNulty

Every year, the John P. McNulty Prize recognizes the best in impact and leadership from Aspen Global Leadership Network Fellows and their ventures. If you are thinking about applying, here are 5 things you should know:
1. You don’t have to quit your day job.

All Fellows of the Aspen Global Leadership Network make a commitment to move from thought to action, and “from success to significance” — in large part through your leadership venture. For your venture to be successful, however, you need not quit your job and move to the Transvaal or the Himalayas (but kudos to you if you do). Many McNulty Laureates seize the opportunity to leverage their professional platform to make a significant contribution to the common good. They recognize how to create impact because of their full time job, not despite it. And they do it in the communities they know and come from.

The McNulty Prize

Adam Lowry co-founded Method, a home products company known for their innovation and sustainability. Adam’s venture, Ocean Plastic, evolved from a Catto Fellowship joint venture, and created a new process and supply chain for recycling plastic debris found in the ocean and on beaches. This process was adopted by Method, his company. Ocean Plastic demonstrated the feasibility of an innovative new way to combat one of the globe’s most pernicious forms of pollution.

Another Laureate who continues in her career while also leveraging it to make an impact is Gisela Sánchez, Director of Corporate Affairs at Florida Ice & Farm Co (FIFCo), a food & beverage company based in Costa Rica. Gisela founded a social business, Nutrivida (a joint effort between herself, her employer and Muhammad Yunus), to combat malnutrition in Central America. Drawing on her expertise as an industrial engineer, and her networks and corporate sustainability experience at FIFCo, Gisela is well-placed to make an impact.

2. You don’t have to re-invent the wheel.

The 2016 McNulty Prize Winner, CenteringPregnancy South Carolina, dramatically reduced preterm birth rates (where South Carolina ranked below many developing nations) and virtually eliminated the racial gap in birth outcomes. Helping mothers carry children to a full term has massive lifetime benefits for individuals and society at large.

CenteringPregnancy South Carolina | Amy Crockett

Dr. Amy Crockett did not originate the Centering model — it was developed by the Centering Healthcare Institute and tested at Yale. But after Amy ran a pilot program for her patients, she was so impressed by the results that she has made it her Liberty Fellowship venture to expand and scale the program. What makes Amy’s efforts so impactful is her ability to use her demonstrated success to achieve buy-in from major institutional actors — Medicaid and South Carolina’s largest insurance companies — making the revolutionary practice available statewide to countless mothers and advancing the model as a public health solution.

3. You don’t have to change the entire world (all at once).

Real estate developer KC Hardin created an organization that is serving as a model throughout his region but operates locally. KC has worked to revitalize the Casco Viejo neighborhood of Panama City for years. In order to succeed, this meant dismantling the persistent gang culture. His venture, Esperanza, engages gangs as a whole, rather than trying to pick off members one by one. The gangs served a social purpose, as violent as they could be, giving respect and agency to disenfranchised locals left out of the formal economy. By offering a path to integration, job training and support, entire gangs have begun disbanding, with rivals eager to follow suit now that the benefits are clear.

Esperanza | KC Hardin

Esperanza’s model is deep, rather than broad. But the thoroughness of KC’s venture makes it eminently replicable — and governments and NGOs throughout Latin America are watching and learning in an attempt to replicate his success.

4. It’s not just about the money.

While the Prize’s $100,000 in unrestricted funds over two years makes a big difference for many ventures, the non-monetary benefits can have an even bigger multiplier effect.

Through micro-documentary films exploring the human stories behind the ventures, and the series of case studies that shares lessons in leadership for Fellows seeking to make a difference, the McNulty Foundation invests in storytelling to amplify the impact of Laureates and bring visibility and support to their work.

Through coordinated efforts with the Aspen Institute and other partners, the Foundation works to bring Laureates to new audiences far and wide, from featuring them as speakers at the Skoll World Forum, Global Philanthropy Forum, and Aspen Ideas, to generating press and media coverage. Lana Abu-Hijleh and Youth Local Councils were featured on CNN's New Day, and Laureates have published op-eds in TIME Magazine, CNN, the National Geographic, Huffington Post, and more.

Youth Local Councils | Lana Abu-Hijleh

The Foundation also invests in communications coaching for each Laureate, focusing on their specific needs. This is a chance to sharpen your pitch, learn how to be memorable, and seize control of your message during interviews or panels.

An invaluable benefit of the Prize is the opportunity to reach individuals and groups with the commitment and resources to support your cause. For Patrick Awuah’s Ashesi University, the Prize has helped Ashesi find new donors to support its amazing success in revolutionizing liberal arts education and ethical leadership in Africa.

5. The Prize is just the beginning.

Laureates join a lifelong community, which the McNulty Foundation continually supports and encourages. Whether it is scholarships to the Resnick Aspen Action Forum or other leadership development opportunities, or special moderated seminars where Laureates build community and share learnings, challenges and best practices, becoming a Laureate opens doors to learn more, teach others, and leverage networks and expertise.

The inaugural Prize winner, Jordan Kassalow, has been an enthusiastic member of the community from the beginning. When Jordan won the Prize, he had delivered 200,000 eyeglasses through VisionSpring — now, that number is almost 4.5 million. Since that time, with the help of Secretary Albright, chair of the McNulty Prize jury, and others in the AGLN network, Jordan has gone on to found the EYElliance, a multi-sector coalition to address the world’s unmet needs for glasses. Jordan has also been an enthusiastic advocate for the Prize, always willing to share his insights with Laureates who have come after.

Just as Jordan pushed the goals of VisionSpring even further to found EYElliance, the Prize hopes to encourage all Fellows to constantly expand their vision and reach. You don’t have to start big, but if you keep following your own path, you may be shocked at what you achieve.

The McNulty Prize celebrates the boldness and impact of Aspen Global Leadership Network Fellows using their exceptional leadership abilities, entrepreneurial spirit and professional platform to address the world’s toughest challenges. The winning venture receives $100,000 and is selected by a jury that includes Secretary Madeleine Albright, international development expert Brizio Biondi-Morra, and Ugandan statesman Olara Otunnu. Laureates receive $25,000, and are announced at the Resnick Aspen Action Forum. Ventures (including Action Pledges) that have been running for at least two years are encouraged to apply.

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