About the Middle East Leadership Initiative

The Middle East Leadership Initiative (MELI) identifies and motivates proven business, government and civil society leaders from countries in the Middle East—encompassing all countries in the region, including those in the GCC—to apply their unique skills and platforms to solving pressing societal challenges in their communities and countries. Using the time-tested Aspen Institute method of text-based dialogue and building upon the Institute’s commitment to values-based, action-oriented leadership, the program provides selected “Fellows” with the impetus and perspectives necessary for effective, enlightened leadership in business and in society at-large.   

The Middle East Leadership Initiative has close to a hundred values-driven, action-oriented leaders from across the Middle East. They come from a variety of sectors, including from the arts, media, finance/banking, retail, telecommunications, real estate, technology, and many others. Fellows get nominated to this program based on strong ethical and professional references, and are selected by a panel through interviews. 

The program was founded in 2009 by Chadia El Meouchi Naoum and Shane Tedjarati in partnership with the Aspen Institute.

Our Approach


Building Fellowship

We provide an opportunity for a highly diverse community of proven, high-integrity, entrepreneurial leaders to pause, reflect, and refine how they lead in their homes, at work and in the world at large. Using the Aspen Institute's time-tested leadership seminar model, we challenge them to “paint their lives on a broader canvas” and to stretch and do more for their societies.

 About the Experience

Impact Through Ventures

Through their required leadership venture, MELI Fellows explore how to leverage their talent, experience, and access to address major societal issues in the region. From providing employment opportunities to women Saudi Arabia to inspiring civic engagement among youth in Palestine, MELI Fellows are moving the needle their communities' most complex challenges. 

Forging a Global Network

Through the partnership with the Aspen Institute, MELI Fellows are part of the larger Aspen Global Leadership Network (AGLN), a worldwide community of successful, high-integrity, entrepreneurial leaders committed to making the world a better place. MELI Fellows have an opportunity to meet other Fellows from around the world at the “Leading in an Era of Globalization”  seminar, as well as larger annual events like the Resnick Aspen Action Forum.

Program Funding

The Middle East Leadership Initiative is made possible by the generous support of The John P. & Anne Welsh McNulty Foundation, the Saudi Telecom Company, Booz & Co, Aramex, The Danny Kaye and Sylvia Fine Kaye Foundation, MELI Class II: Springhearts Constellation, and many contributions from the MELI Fellows.

For more information about the program, please contact: