Leadership Network - AEI

The Leadership Network (LN) is an exclusive policy education and professional development program for state-based, mid-career executives in the public, private, and non-profit sectors. This program represents a unique opportunity for leaders around the country to participate in our work and help us to increase opportunity for our fellow citizens.

LN members kick-off their involvement with a three-day summit in Washington, DC, focusing on issues of poverty alleviation, education policy, free enterprise economics, and effective messaging, and then carry these principles back to their own communities through virtual and regional programming.

Our membership now includes more than 400 state and local leaders from diverse professional and ideological backgrounds, who are working to make a difference in their communities and are keenly interested in how public policy can help create the conditions for greater human flourishing.

Where are we located?

In 2018, we are focusing on building out cohorts of Leadership Network members in 15 priority states, shown on the map below, although we also welcome a number of at-large members from other states around the country. Additionally, we are developing regional Leadership Networks to reach an even broader group of leaders in the Southeast, Mountain West, and Midwest. We hosted our first LN Southeast Summit in October 2017 and look forward to hosting two additional regional summits in 2018.


What are our members saying?

“My experience with AEI’s Leadership Network, particularly the Summit in DC, was eye-opening. Arthur’s views on intersection of education, free enterprise, and poverty crystallized my thoughts on why I am a conservative. After attending the AEI Leadership Network Summit, I knew I needed to stand up and be an advocate for free enterprise approaches to improving education and addressing poverty—AEI inspired me to run for the Georgia State House!” —Meagan Hanson, Fall 2015 LN Class, elected to Georgia State House on November 9, 2016


"It is rare to find an organization that lines up with your values and vision on free enterprise, freedom, and opportunities for all Americans, especially the least of these. Our country is desperate for leadership, and compassionate people who seek to understand and listen first, then move into action to affect change for the better. The AEI Leadership Network is exposing us to first rate public and private sector experts along with talented AEI staff to give us the tools we need to be more effective, knowledgeable and impactful leaders in all of our diverse spheres of influence.” —Paris Dennard, Fall 2014 LN Class, CNN Contributor


Frequently Asked Questions

What is the role of the External Affairs team at AEI? AEI’s External Affairs team connects our scholars with the right audiences both in Washington, DC, and around the country. In particular, we work to build relationships with other think tanks and research institutes, non-profits, grassroots and advocacy organizations, business groups and associations, state legislatures, and governors’ offices. The primary avenue for our state and local outreach is the Leadership Network, which is a policy education and professional development program for mid-career executives in the public, private, and non-profit sectors.

Who works with federal government officials at AEI? At AEI, our Government Relations team works with lawmakers on Capitol Hill, members of the Executive Branch, and other federal government officials. To connect with our Government Relations team, contact John Cusey at [email protected].

Who works with members of the media at AEI? Our Media Department works with print, broadcast, and online journalists and writers both in DC and around the country. To connect with the Media team, visit our press page here.

What is AEI’s Leadership Network? AEI’s Leadership Network (LN) is a policy education and professional development program for state-based, mid-career executives in the private, non-profit, and public service sectors. LN members participate in a three-day summit in Washington, DC, focused on issues of poverty alleviation, K–12 education, free enterprise economics, and effective messaging, and then carry these conversations back to their communities through virtual and regional programming.

What are the goals of the Leadership Network? The LN seeks to connect thought leaders at the state and local level with AEI’s scholars and research, with the greater goal of advancing effective public policy that increases opportunity for all Americans. The LN also allows AEI scholars to better understand local issues and to learn from entrepreneurial solutions coming out of the states.

What are the benefits of being part of the Leadership Network? LN members participate in a three-day, all-expenses paid ideas summit in Washington, DC, and receive ongoing virtual policy education, including monthly conference calls with AEI scholars and curated resource mailings. We also work with LN members on regional events and programs that help bring AEI to the states. Moreover, LN members benefit from joining an interdisciplinary network of talented professionals, and can connect with their fellow members both locally and across the country to partner on the causes that are most important to them.

What is the time commitment for the Leadership Network? On average, LN members spend 5 hours per month engaging with AEI resources, recommending new members, and participating in regional programs as available.

Which policy areas does the Leadership Network focus on? Our LN programs focus on poverty alleviation, education policy, and free enterprise economics more broadly, especially with respect to jobs and economic growth. We also include training on effective messaging and the importance of communicating with diverse audiences. These are our core issues because we believe they are particularly relevant for state leaders, but we often highlight other areas of AEI scholarship in our monthly conference calls and newsletters.

What is the profile of a Leadership Network member? Ideal LN candidates are talented, ambitious, and open-minded state-based executives in the public, private, or non-profit sectors. They have at least 10 years of experience and are known in their personal and professional lives as leaders. They believe strongly in creating opportunity for others who may not have been as fortunate. They hold a diversity of opinions on politics and policy but have a deeply held commitment to and willingness to engage in the competition of ideas and are intrigued by arguments about how free enterprise can ensure human flourishing through earned success.

Do I have to have a policy background to participate in the Leadership Network? While all of our members are interested in increasing individual opportunity in their communities and believe that public policy has a role to play, many come from business or non-profit backgrounds and do not have significant policy experience.

How much does it cost to participate in the Leadership Network? There is no cost to participate in the program, and transportation and lodging are inclusive for our kick-off summit.

In which states is the Leadership Network active? Our priority states for 2018 include Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin. We also have a number of “at-large” slots available for members in other states.

How can I join the Leadership Network or nominate someone to join? Contact the External Affairs team at [email protected] for more information about our nomination and recruiting process. Program space is limited and the recruiting process is very competitive, but we make every effort to get interested candidates involved with AEI in some way.

How can I stay updated about AEI’s state and local programs? You can stay in touch with our team by subscribing to Free Enterprise 360, our monthly newsletter with hand-selected resources from AEI and our state-based partners. Click here to subscribe

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