Regional Leadership Institute (RLI)

The application period has ended. Applications are no longer being accepted for 2023. 

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    Purpose & Goals

    The Regional Leadership Institute (RLI) immerses participants in key issues facing the metro region. To do so, participants delve into topics ranging from housing affordability, transit and transportation planning, economic development, and workforce development. The program’s content is connected to the ARC’s core functions and key priorities. Over the course of the program, participants hear from some of the region's top leaders and subject experts while exploring policy from an intersectional lens and regional approach. This program examines how structural inequality has shaped our region and offers leaders  the tools and approaches to employ. In addition to exploring core policy issues facing the region, leaders are invited to be reflective about who they are as leaders, what tools and approaches they currently use, and what has informed their leadership.

    Program Goals

    1. Educate leaders about core challenges impacting the region using a regional lens.
    2. Create a space for inquiry, discussion, and sharing of knowledge, approaches, tools, and other resources to help leaders better tackle a range of regional policy concerns.
    3. Foster a network of regional leaders across sectors invested in working collaboratively to create an equitable and inclusive region that serves all its residents.

    Program Pillars


    We recognize that regional challenges require us to bring in multiple lenses and sectors to address the complexity of the challenges we face.


    RLI examines how multiple regional challenges have resulted from structural inequality. To address those challenges and their impact on communities, regional leaders must understand the root causes and move with equity-centered approaches.


    We carefully bring together a group of diverse leaders across the region and sectors. Bringing together such a diverse group means exploring a range of key policy areas for which some leaders will have greater familiarity and expertise and others less. The program encourages leaders to share their expertise and perspectives, and to be curious and open to seeing new connections in policy areas they may already be immersed in. In our selection of a cohort, we look at individual candidates while also thinking about how the class comes together as a whole to create an impactful community of regional leaders.

    Fostering a space to build community, requires an exploration of self from different vantage points and lenses. In this program, we look at the whole leader and ask that participants bring their full selves, talents, and personalities into the space to co-create a region where all of us may thrive.

    “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, Chairwoman, Gwinnett County Government - Class of 2016

    “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

    “The Regional Leadership Institute was a necessary and transformative experience for my leadership development and impact in the region. Oftentimes, we lead in silos, and RLI is an amazing opportunity to understand the collective action of our work. This experience offers the network to connect and learn from some of the region’s most impactful leaders. I am a stronger leader because of this program. Thank you Atlanta Regional Commission.”

    Eshé P. Collins, Chair, Atlanta Board of Education - Class of 2021

    Program Description

    New Look. New Location.

    From 1991 to 2022, RLI was held outside of Atlanta, mostly in Savannah. We are excited to bring the program to the metro region. In 2023, RLI will be hosted in downtown metro Atlanta (ARC offices) and at Legacy Lodge at Lake Lanier. Program days are a combination of speaker presentations, group discussions, leadership activities, interdisciplinary and interactive panels, as well as mindfulness and leadership activities. Participants are expected to participate in all program days.

    What changes can you expect?  The program will be broken into two parts over a three-month period.

    Part One (late August)

    August 29th -30th 2023

    There will be two consecutive program days held at the ARC office in metro Atlanta (229 Peachtree St., Atlanta, GA 30030.

    Part Two (October)

    Retreat days October 8th -11th 2023

    Programming during these days will be held at Legacy Lodge at Lake Lanier. Program days will generally run from 8:30- 4:30 pm with some evening programming while participants are at Legacy Lodge Lake Lanier.

    Peer Groups

    Peer groups are in an important part of the RLI program and allow participants to reflect on the experience and program content with a smaller group of peers. Between the first and second parts of the program, participants are required to meet with their peer group to discuss and review a pre-assigned task.


    Applications are solicited from eleven counties in the metro Atlanta region – Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Forsyth, Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry, and Rockdale. RLI intentionally brings together leaders across a diverse range of sectors, fields, and industries including education, arts, planning, civic and community advocacy, business, engineering, real estate, sustainability, parks, food systems, entertainment, and economic development to name a few.

    Each cohort is intentionally composed of leaders who are diverse in sector, experience, background, geography, and expertise. Given this emphasis on diversity of experience, sector, and knowledge, we are looking for leaders who:

    • Possess a willingness to learn, even in areas where they have the expertise.
    • Leaders with a desire to build relationships and share their knowledge, perspective, and resources.
    • Have a commitment to building a network of leaders who have a regional approach and focus even as they act locally.
    • Seek to expand their leadership toolkit and capacity to lead.
    • Value equity as a core value and approach to shaping our region’s future.
    • Are invested in their continued growth as a leader.

    “During this course, you will be immersed in the key issues facing metro Atlanta today and have the opportunity to hear from some of the region’s top leaders and subject-matter experts. Expect your horizons to be broadened, your assumptions to be challenged, and your understanding of the region you call home to be deepened.”

    Anna Roach, Executive Director & CEO, Atlanta Regional Commission

    RLI does not provide “answers” to regional challenges but creates space for regional leaders to learn, discuss, and network.

    RLI Alumni