Regional Leadership Institute (RLI)

Developing Informed Leaders to Address Regional Challenges

As metro areas drive the nation’s economy, as well as culture and policy conversations, it is critical that leaders from all backgrounds understand specific issues and challenges facing our region and how they are interconnected. The Atlanta Regional Commission’s Regional Leadership Institute (RLI) is designed to expose people who are already leaders in their organizations or communities to a regional framework for exploring issues from affordable housing to economic competitiveness and education.

RLI applications are closed for the 2019 class.

What are the benefits of attending RLI?

Today’s regional challenges require new problem-solving capacity and the ability to work across political, geographical and institutional boundaries. Through RLI, leaders develop a broader awareness of the region in which they live, work and play. They acquire greater knowledge of the interdependence of the diverse communities that constitute the Atlanta region and understand current trends, issues and opportunities. Participants build a meaningful network of leaders interested in working across disciplines and geographical boundaries to build a stronger Atlanta region.

The Regional Leadership Institute (RLI), is a weeklong interactive program which brings together business, civic and public leaders from across the 10-county Atlanta region to explore the issues and opportunities facing metropolitan Atlanta and facilitate discussion about how leaders can work together on these issues.

RLI is designed to accomplish three distinct goals:

EDUCATE LEADERS about the processes, programs, opportunities and challenges that impact the 10-county Atlanta region;

STIMULATE INTEREST and encourage leadership and engagement in regional affairs;

CREATE A NETWORK of community-minded leaders of diverse backgrounds and sectors who will lead in a spirit of collaboration that fosters regional prosperity.

Who participates in RLI?

RLI participants include existing and emerging leaders representing the public, private and nonprofit sectors of the 10-county Atlanta region. This includes elected officials, department heads, business executives and organization leaders. Since the program’s inception in 1991, nearly 1,500 leaders have participated in RLI.

“The Regional Leadership Institute experience has not only deepened my awareness of the challenges facing the region, but has allowed me to interact with fellow decision makers and seek out innovative solutions to move our region forward collectively. It was one of my best experiences!”

Nicole Hendrickson, Gwinnett County Government,
Community Outreach Program Director; Class of 2016

Program Details

The 50 participants selected for RLI meet for a week in Savannah, Georgia to learn together about the region’s issues. Sessions have included (among others): Building an Educated Workforce, Community Planning and Visioning, Systems, Policy, and Action: A Framework for Inclusion and Equity, and Housing Affordability, Access and a Growing Population.


  • $2,400 which includes accommodations and most meals (breakfast and lunch each program day; dinner on Sunday and Thursday).
  • Participants are responsible for their own travel to and from Savannah.

2019 RLI Schedule

  • Orientation reception: Thursday, September 12, 2019, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. (Metro Atlanta location)
  • RLI week begins: Sunday, September 22, 2 p.m. (Savannah)
  • RLI week ends: Friday, September 27, 11 a.m.
  • Follow-up event: Thursday, January 16, 2020, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. (Metro Atlanta location)

NOTE: Participants are expected to participate in all RLI events including the reception, follow-up event and every day of the program in Savannah.

Application Process

Applications are solicited regionwide. Interested individuals apply directly to ARC during the application period.

The online application for the 2019 class will open on February 18 with a deadline of March 18, 2019.

Selection Process

All applicants must complete the official online application. A selection committee will review applications and the final selection will be based on:

  1. Information in the application that indicates significant commitment to effecting positive community and regional change.
  2. History of civic engagement and potential for regional influence.
  3. Curiosity in deepening knowledge of regional issues and opportunities as well as desire to work collaboratively with leaders across geographical, political, and institutional boundaries.
  4. Leadership potential.

Review Process

The RLI Selection Committee is comprised of ARC staff and select RLI alumni. Each year the committee seeks to select a diverse group of individuals with regard to ethnicity, gender, geography, profession, community service, and demonstrated leadership. This is a competitive process. If you have questions, please contact RLI Program Manager Folashade Alao at

Participant Commitment

If selected, participants are expected to commit to the following:

Attendance – The Regional Leadership Institute is a week-long comprehensive program that consists of a half-day program on Sunday afternoon, four full-day programs Monday through Thursday, and a morning program on Friday. Full-day sessions are generally  held from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Participants are expected to arrive on Sunday, September 22 by 2 p.m. and attend all sessions each day of the program. The class ends on Friday, September  27 at  11 a.m. THERE ARE NO EXCEPTIONS.

“I am always impressed with the content of the program and the participants the Regional Leadership Institute. I am often asked to give speeches at other leadership programs around the region. I always end those by suggesting that participants’ next step as leaders should be RLI. I don’t think one can be an authentic and effective leader without first understanding the regional context. There is no better way to learn than going through RLI.”

Bill Bolling, Atlanta Community Food Bank, Founder; Class of 1992

RLI Alumni

RLI boasts more than 1,500 graduates and has an active alumni group that works hard to make the Atlanta region a better place to live – and has a little fun in the process.

Regional Leadership Institute Alumni