Ladder to Leadership: Developing the Next Generation of Community Health Leaders is a collaborative initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL).


This initiative aims to enhance the leadership capacity of community-based nonprofit health and health-related organizations serving vulnerable populations.  RWJF is commited to leadership development and improving the health of all Americans, particularly those in the most vulnerable communities – where people are often economically disadvantaged and have limited educational opportunities and inadequate access to health services.

Ladder to Leadership focuses on developing critical leadership competencies for 240 early- to mid-career professionals through an innovative, 16-month leadership development curriculum.

The program will be delivered in eight priority communities on a staggered schedule over the next four years. Each phase of the three-part curriculum includes a mixture of face-to-face training sessions, individualized executive coaching and mentoring, and team project work – all anchored within the context of the communities in which these leaders live and work to maximize the application and impact of the program concepts.


Only one applicant from each organization will be considered. Qualified applicants must:

  • Be an early- to mid-career professional with one to five years of supervisory experience;
  • Be an employee of a community-based, health or health-related nonprofit or government organization that serves vulnerable populations;
  • Work in one of the priority communities targeted by the initiative;
  • Commit to the 16-month leadership development initiative and curriculum
  • Have the support of their organization’s executive director or senior leader and their board of directors; and
  • Be a citizen or permanent resident of the United States or its territories at the time of application.

Selection Criteria

Applicants will be chosen based on the following criteria:

  • Demonstrated record of accomplishment within the nonprofit sector.
  • Potential for assuming leadership roles in the nonprofit health and health care field as evidenced by prior experience, accomplishments, membership on external boards and committees, references, etc.
  • Proven commitment to serving vulnerable populations and improving their health outcomes.

Total Awards

Up to 30 fellows will be selected to participate in the program in each of eight targeted communities across the United States: Central New York (Cayuga, Cortland, Herkimer, Jefferson, Madison, Oneida, Onondaga, Oswego, and Thompkins counties); Cleveland, Ohio; Birmingham, Alabama; Albuquerque, New Mexico (Bernalillo County); Eastern North Carolina (Edgecombe, Halifax, Nash, North Hampton, Warren, Wayne & Wilson Counties); Portland Metro Area (Multnomah, Washington, Clark (WA), and Clackamas counties); Greater Newark Area (Cities of East Orange, Elizabeth, Hillside, Irvington, Newark, and Orange); and Kansas City Area (Kansas City, MO, Kansas City, KS, Jackson County, MO, Cass County, MO, Lafayette County, MO, Wyandotte County, KS, Johnson County, KS, and Allen County, KS)

The program will support travel costs.

Background and Program Information

Watch and Hear the Video of how Ladder to Leadership is Making a Difference.

How to Apply

This program only accepts applications submitted online. Click here to apply.