Obama Foundation Leaders Program is a fully-funded leadership development program dedicated to inspiring, empowering, and connecting emerging leaders who drive positive change within their communities and regions.
Each week, participants will participate in a virtual program facilitated by Foundation staff and external subject matter experts, where they will develop their values-based approach to leadership while forging relationships with like-minded peers.
Introduction to the Obama Foundation Leaders Program
The Obama Foundation Leaders Program offers an unforgettable journey to foster lasting and positive change in communities and regions. As part of this fully-funded program, a regional cohort of leaders gather together in an intensive experience designed to hone their skills while connecting with like-minded peers – all while making real strides towards creating meaningful change.
The Obama Foundation Program brings small group support, leadership coaching, debate of critical issues, and practical skill development for social change to leaders of diverse backgrounds. Participants gain an increased grasp of values-based leadership while creating a supportive network post-program to sustain their efforts and maintain relationships beyond. Workshops, virtual sessions, and dialogue sessions with top thought leaders across sectors bring participants into connection with one another and connect them with a broader network of Obama Foundation Program participants.
Columbia World Projects Opens in a new tab serves as the cornerstone of Columbia research into action by uniting researchers and scholars at Columbia with global partners from governments, organizations, businesses and communities to address crucial challenges. Leaders should actively participate in Columbia World Project activities throughout each academic year.
Once their journey with Leaders ends, Leaders return home and continue on their path of service. Armed with skills and connections gained during the program and access to a network of Fellows’ expertise to accelerate their work over the long term, Columbia University Obama Scholar Oksana Matiiash uses support provided by this program to rebuild Ukraine’s education system.
Key Objectives and Goals of the Program
The Obama Foundation Leaders program seeks to unite, empower and encourage local groups of changemakers to bring about long-term, constructive change within their neighbourhoods and across their regions. Up-and-coming leaders ages 24 through 45 who have demonstrated their dedication and passion towards building societies where everyone feels welcome to contribute their best and thrive are eligible to apply.
The values-based leadership development program designed by Obama Foundation Leaders provides participants with the tools and skills necessary to quickly address local and regional issues of concern, helping them better serve their communities and countries. After completing this six-month journey, participants become Obama Foundation Leaders – joining a global network of over 1,000 like-minded individuals dedicated to building communities based on shared values.
Through weekly virtual sessions, individualized leadership coaching, group conversations with thought leaders and mentors, and various workshops, this program aims to strengthen Leaders’ practical tools for transitioning from hope to action and supporting them in their endeavours to advance their work. Participants will create ideals that will guide their lives forever while connecting with fellow changemakers to find more inclusive, long-lasting solutions and tackle systemic problems head-on.
Other key program components include audited courses at Columbia World Projects, personal and professional development workshops, thought leadership speaker series events hosted by CWP in partnership with the Obama Foundation, and tailored programming crafted by CWP specifically for this cohort.
Eligibility Criteria for Participation
The Leaders program is open to young adults ages 24 through 45 working to bring positive change to their local communities or an eligible nation or territory. Applicants should possess at least three years of experience working on their issue area and demonstrate the potential for high-impact leadership with system-wide change potential.
Participants, known as Obama Leaders, are given the space and time to hone their leadership abilities through weekly virtual meetings with trainers, experts and peers; audited coursework; thought leadership speakers; collaborative learning experiences; and audited coursework auditing. Furthermore, participants receive one ongoing executive coach support while attending mid-program convenings.
Leaders participating in this virtual experience will engage with other changemakers nationwide and worldwide while broadening their understanding of values-based leadership as a powerful way to accelerate their work. Once completed, Leaders will return home equipped with new ideas, tools, and relationships for building more inclusive societies and advancing issues at a systems level.
This program is fully funded to accommodate 100 participants and is currently available across Africa, Asia Pacific and Europe, expanding to the US in 2024. Obama Foundation Leaders will begin their virtual leadership journey beginning September 2024 and concluding on May 1st 2025; weekly sessions include practical skill building for social change, coaching for leadership development, discussions of critical issues, and small group support.
The Obama Foundation’s fully-funded 2024-2025 Leaders program invites rising leaders from Africa, Asia-Pacific, Europe, and North America to hone their skills and network while tackling global challenges. Over six months, this experience includes full-time residence at Columbia University or the University of Chicago, six-month residencies, immersive leadership development programming led by the Foundation, weekly seminars on inequality, technological developments, diffusion of power issues, population movements and climate change.
Participants, known as Obama Leaders, gain a deeper understanding of values-based leadership and how it can accelerate progress in their communities and regions. Participants build a supportive network and gain the tools necessary for ongoing work, ultimately becoming part of an expanding global network of changemakers.
Aspiring applicants should carefully read through and adhere to the requirements before submitting their applications by the deadline. To be considered a leader, two letters of reference from individuals who can attest to your strength as a leader should be obtained at least four weeks before the submission deadline – it’s recommended that their letter writers are familiar with professional, academic, and community service activities of applicant in terms of leadership capacity and don’t include family or friends among their ranks as letter writers. Applicants should also provide a personal statement and two examples that showcase his or her ability as a leader.
The Obama Foundation Leaders Program seeks to engage, empower and connect emerging leaders from around the globe. Obama Scholars selected for participation are young changemakers committed to making positive and long-term impacts in their communities, regions and beyond. Participants typically fall between 24 and 45 years of age, with at least three years of experience creating real impact within an issue area.
Applications to the US-based program require applicants to demonstrate an unwavering commitment to core values such as humility, integrity, inclusivity, and stewardship and a plan for building upon existing work to increase its impact. They should be able to show how their efforts focus on positively impacting local communities or eligible US states or territories within a regional framework.
The selection process for the Obama Foundation Leaders Program 2024 begins with an application that requires two letters of recommendation and an essay detailing why you wish to join. Finalists will be interviewed to ensure a comprehensive understanding of their current work, leadership aspirations, commitment to social change, and legal restrictions that would impede their participation in virtual Foundation programming (if applicable) or travel.
Program Duration and Structure
The program is a six-month virtual leadership journey in which participants, known as Obama Leaders, develop their capacity to affect positive change within their communities and regions by learning values-based leadership skills through weekly cohort sessions facilitated by regional cohort leaders. Sessions provide ample opportunity for personal coaching sessions with thought leaders and diversity-related learning experiences.
Each regional cohort will also enjoy a customized curriculum adapted to their local contexts, drawing upon expertise from Columbia and the University of Chicago. Furthermore, scholars will participate in Foundation-led activities, including welcome orientation programs, mid-program convenings and graduation ceremonies.
The University of Chicago will offer Obama Scholars its innovative interdisciplinary approach as they look to make an impactful contribution through their work. Through its many tools and strategies, these scholars can make real organizational changes that create lasting change and drive real, measurable impact. Samantha Siers of the University of Chicago Obama Scholar is increasing access to social support services and direct cash transfers for needy families through her “Mama Love” initiative. The Obama Foundation stands firm in its commitment to supporting world leaders as they work toward more equitable futures for everyone. Their programs and partnerships support civically engaged individuals. The Foundation has invested in over 900 leaders through its programs in Africa, Asia-Pacific and Europe. Going forward, its vision is to foster an ever-evolving network of leaders to fulfil its mission of inspiring, empowering and connecting individuals for greater impact in our world.