Skip to content

Announcing the 2023 Winners of the McNulty Prize

The 2023 Prize Winners are three leaders and organizations advancing economic mobility, mental healthcare, and a sustainable future—for all.

The McNulty Foundation and the Aspen Institute today announced the three winners of the 2023 John P. McNulty Prize, each of whom will receive $150,000 towards their organization.

Their transformative social ventures address three of the most important issues of this generation, from revolutionizing mental healthcare, to addressing the global plastic crisis, to restoring the promise of economic mobility.

These leaders have reimagined major parts of societal infrastructure—whether it’s tapping into the power of lay therapists, pioneering a holistic solution to plastic pollution, or ensuring college fulfills its promise to young people, these three winners are building a society where every generation can fulfill their potential.

Register here to join the winners for a dialogue on their bold visions on July 26th at 4pm MT at the Resnick Aspen Action Forum.

The 2023 Winners are breaking historic cycles of trauma and inequality, and replacing them with virtuous and sustainable systems rooted in the strengths of their communities.

McNulty Foundation President and Aspen Institute Trustee Anne Welsh McNulty

Since 2008, the McNulty Prize has recognized over 50 breakthrough leaders for their moral courage, bold vision, and deep, lasting impact. The award is given in partnership with the Aspen Institute, to recognize the exceptional leadership of their Fellows.

Meet the 2023 McNulty Prize Winners

Meet the Winners


Friendship Bench | Zimbabwe

Dixon Chibanda started Friendship Bench after witnessing the fatal effects of scarce mental health resources in his community. In Zimbabwe, where he is one of only 19 psychiatrists for over 14 million people (World Health Organization, 2022), not only are mental health issues stigmatized, but those struggling cannot easily access affordable and timely care. Friendship Bench addresses this gap by equipping community health workers, more fondly called "grandmothers" or “ambuya utanos,” to provide primary level care for individuals experiencing depression or anxiety.

These trained grandmothers use culturally appropriate screening tools and talk therapy sessions, proving that basic mental healthcare can be a community-based health service.

This is a solution that can close the mental health gap around the world—it's evidence-based, it's simple, it's cost-effective.

Dixon Chibanda, Founder & CEO, Friendship Bench

"Mental health is the silent epidemic of our time, and this vision to help communities fill gaps in care and provide interventions that can transform and potentially save lives is commendable,” said Darren Walker, McNulty Prize Juror and Ford Foundation President. This simple yet groundbreaking concept is already scaling beyond Zimbabwe in six countries and counting. Since 2016, over 280,000 people have received treatment through Friendship Bench, with 78% showing improvement. The impact of grandmothers has been proven in over 100 peer-reviewed publications.


Braven | United States

Aimée Eubanks Davis launched Braven after witnessing her former students work their way from humble economic backgrounds to college, only to find it extremely challenging to land strong first jobs upon graduation like their higher-income peers. Braven provides the skills, experiences, networks and confidence to land a job worthy of their degrees, through credit-bearing programs at large universities like Rutgers University-Newark and historically Black colleges like Spelman College.

Together in partnership with institutions of higher education and employers, I believe that we can see the wealth gap in this country shrink, and restore the American promise.

Aimée Eubanks Davis, Founder & CEO, Braven

The evidence is clear: Braven’s 7,400+ Fellows are seeing impressive results—their graduates outpace peers nationally in strong job attainment and receive higher salaries, and three-quarters are already out-earning their parents in their first job. “Few people are willing to address the complexity of what happens after graduation,” said McNulty Prize Juror Brizio Biondi-Morra. “Yet this moment is when economic mobility can truly begin.”

mirei-cropped.png#asset:3492Marea Verde | Panamá

Mirei Endara de Heras has dedicated her career to addressing environmental challenges, from establishing the Nature Conservancy in Panama, to serving as the first Minister of the Environment. She launched Marea Verde in partnership with her community to tackle the issue of plastic waste, particularly in rivers—a leading cause of ocean plastic pollution. A major champion behind Panamanian policy and joint programs with government, Marea Verde is moving to impact plastic reduction efforts and legislation on an international scale.

At Marea Verde, we see everything interconnected. We are very aware that one action will not solve the problem. Our ambition is to provide a model that can be replicated around the world.

Mirei Endara de Heras, Co-Founder & President, Marea Verde

“We need to elevate those working on environmental policy,” said Cheryl Dorsey, McNulty Prize Juror and Echoing Green President, “Marea Verde skillfully tackles this while also using technology, data, and community engagement to change hearts and minds.” Endara has persisted in the face of fierce cynicism where many have failed. Their holistic approach provides a global model: from a hydraulic and solar-powered water wheel that collects over 12,000 pounds of trash per month; advocacy and policy reform with government, the UN and others; and community programs to drive education and behavior change.

Follow the conversation on Twitter @McNultyFound and on Instagram @mcnultyfoundation with #McNultyPrize.

Register here to join the winners for a dialogue on their bold visions on July 26th at 4pm MT at the Resnick Aspen Action Forum.

About the Prize: Each McNulty Prize Winner receives $150,000 and support to amplify their efforts. Winners are selected by an international jury that includes Darren Walker, Cheryl Dorsey, Olara Otunnu, and Brizio Biondi-Morra. Previous juries have included Madeleine Albright, Richard Branson, Mary Robinson, and Bill Gates, Sr. The McNulty Prize is given in partnership with the Aspen Institute, to recognize exceptional leadership ventures undertaken by their Fellows.

view all ideas