A generation of young people resolving to make a positive difference to the world
One person acting alone may not be able to transform a society or combat global trends, but we believe that if a critical mass of individuals aligns their everyday actions with the long-term collective interest of society, a tipping point will be reached where we will create a more inclusive, just and optimistic world.
Our logo is a manifestation of our vision with the use of basic shapes and negative space challenging people to “see beyond what is and build what could be.”
High Resolves history dates back more than thirty years ago.
Seeds of an idea
The catalyst and proof of concept
Validation of market demand
Systemizing delivery at scale
In the 1980s, co-founder Mehrdad worked under the supervision of Nobel laureate Tom Schelling at the Harvard Kennedy School to study the emergence of cooperation using simulations.
To better understand the factors that go into real life decision-making and collective behavior, Mehrdad and his colleague Edward Parson developed a multi-party asymmetric prisoner’s dilemma simulation around the topic of climate change negotiations. The two collaborators played the simulation dozens of times with Harvard undergraduate and graduate students and it eventually became part of the negotiation courses offered at the Business School, Law School and Kennedy School.
Mehrdad began to explore what impact these lessons about cooperation and collaboration might have for the next generation of high school students. The simulation was packaged and incorporated into Ontario’s curriculum with around 120 Canadian schools rolling it out in their classrooms.
In 2005, Mehrdad was nominated as a Henry Crown Fellow at the Aspen Institute and charged by Keith Berwick and Ben Dunlap to create an enduring enterprise that makes a significant contribution to society. Reflecting on what this could be, Mehrdad and Roya recalled the old simulations. Unsure if they would have the same impact that they had years before, Mehrdad and Roya approached their son’s school in inner city Sydney to see if they could pilot these learning simulations. The initial trials showed that students were highly engaged by the content, but support was needed to flesh out the activities into a comprehensive curriculum. Then high school teacher, John Bush, was brought on board, and he assisted Mehrdad to turn many of his old ideas into new High Resolves activities.
The pilot grew organically from one school to six to twelve to twenty, and an Advisory Board was formed as demand for the program escalated faster than anyone predicted. Mehrdad and Roya funded the entire operation as a family social action project and recruited additional facilitators to grow the program. Importantly, all services were provided to schools on a complimentary basis. The curriculum also grew during this period covering a broader range of themes and beginning to incorporate social action projects as a project-based learning component.
In 2009, Paul Kelsey joined High Resolves as CEO and brought his private sector discipline to systematize the delivery model to work at scale in all types of high schools. We tried to introduce professionalism and business thinking into our not-for-profit and purpose-driven social venture. As an example, we made a strategic decision to introduce pricing for our services in order to be able to grow our impact and reach a wider range of schools. During the next few years, we expanded from 20 schools to over 100 schools and opened new hubs in Melbourne and Brisbane.
In 2016, High Resolves made a major pivot in our business model. This pivot allowed us to transform from a financially vulnerable not-for-profit to a financially self-sufficient social enterprise. We had to make some painful decisions to discontinue geographic expansion and certain services that were not economically viable. We adopted new financial disciplines that more closely aligned expenses to revenue. As a result, we were fully self-funding in 2017. That marked a major new milestone as we earned the right to grow through major new global initiatives.
Building a self-funding earnings engine has enabled us to pursue global growth opportunities. In 2016, the first full-scale international pilots had been carried out in Canada and China. Building on that learning, in 2017, we received seed funding from Omidyar Network to pilot the program in New Orleans, Maine and California. The initial success led to a significant investment from Omidyar Network to establish High Resolves in the American market. In 2018, we embarked on an aggressive new growth strategy with a major reorganization to drive it forward. Mehrdad stepped away from his business interests to take over as Global CEO with Paul shifting from his Australian focus to take on the Global COO role. We drove a revolution in the High Resolves offering, including the development of a complete complimentary offer for all components of our mastery formula. At the same time, Roya dedicated herself to developing Videos for Change as a special initiative, adding an important new pillar to the High Resolves group.
To learn more about our growth and plans for the future, see Our strategy.