Independent Sector Honors Megan Jacobs with 2019 American Express NGen Leadership Award

Truth Initiative Managing Director recognized for applying groundbreaking technology to programs designed to help teens quit vaping

(CHICAGO, November 14, 2019) – Independent Sector is excited to announce Megan Jacobs as the recipient of the 2019 American Express NGen Leadership Award.

Presented annually since 2010, the award recognizes one emerging changemaker, 40 or under, who has demonstrated transformative social impact through collaborative leadership. Megan will accept the American Express NGen Award Thursday, on November 14 in Chicago during a reception happening as a part of Upswell, an annual gathering of changemakers powered by Independent Sector.

“Megan’s work is a profound example of the variety of ways changemakers all over the country are being responsive to actively manifest the health and equity outcomes we want to see,” said Daniel J. Cardinali, president and CEO of Independent Sector. “Megan’s contributions are an example of the kind of life-changing innovation we often see in civil society organizations. We are proud to honor her work at Truth Initiative this year.”

Megan was selected for the award for outstanding contributions throughout her career to addressing public health challenges, particularly through the application of technology. In service of Truth Initiative’s mission of making tobacco use a thing of the past, Megan has most recently overseen the modernization and day-to-day operations of Truth Initiative’s existing efforts to help young people quit tobacco, as well as the launch of a new program called This is Quitting (TIQ) to help teens quit vaping. Launched earlier this year, TIQ’s launch comes amid rising use of e-cigarettes among minors, and a rising number of vaping-related deaths and illnesses nationwide.

Prior to 2011, when Megan joined the Truth Initiative, she applied technology to help people make healthy behavior changes while serving various roles at the University of Michigan Health Service, DC Department of Health, and the National Vaccine Program Office. She also teaches mHealth product development at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at The George Washington University.

“Megan consistently demonstrates the power of meeting people where they are and having meaningful dialogue,” said Timothy J. McClimon, president of the American Express Foundation and member of the Independent Sector Board of Directors. “Her work at Truth Initiative is just the latest example in a career guided by those principles, and is exemplary of this award, which recognizes emerging leaders whose work demonstrates what can be achieved through ingenuity, collaboration, and staying the course.”

Megan was among 52 outstanding emerging changemakers who applied for award consideration from a larger pool of nearly 120 nominees. A selection advisory group, comprised of 15 impressive leaders from across the nonprofit and philanthropic community, committed a significant amount of time to carefully review and consider applicants to select six finalists for this year’s award.

The other finalists selected by the selection advisory group are:

  • James Dold, CEO & Founder, Human Rights for Kids
  • Rochelle Keyhan, CEO, Collective Liberty
  • Silvia Paz, Executive Director, Alianza Coachella Valley
  • Lindsay Torrico, Senior Director of Policy and Advocacy, United Way Worldwide
  • Caroline Whistler, CEO and Co-Founder, Third Sector

Each of the finalists created a short video to introduce themselves to Independent Sector and Upswell’s national audience, and also participated in a live Twitter chat with the public in August.

This year’s American Express NGen Leadership Award was designed by Chicago-based artist Chad Kouri. With what the artist calls a “warp zone” style, the aesthetic of the physical award draws from Upswell’s branding and Kouri’s own emphasis on color and materiality to mirror the liminal space between conceiving an idea and effecting real change in the community.

Learn more about the American Express NGen Award.


About Independent Sector
Independent Sector is the leadership forum for nonprofits, foundations, and corporations whose member networks collectively represent tens of thousands of organizations locally, nationally, and globally. Learn more at

About American Express’ Leadership Initiatives
One of American Express’ three philanthropic platforms is Developing New Leaders for Tomorrow. Under this giving initiative, which recognizes the significance of strong leadership in the nonprofit and social purpose sectors, American Express makes grants focused on training high potential emerging leaders to tackle important issues in the 21st century. More than 100,000 emerging nonprofit and social sector leaders worldwide have benefitted from American Express leadership programs, including the American Express Leadership Academy. For leadership journey stories and additional resources, visit

Types: Press Release
Global Topics: Civil Society, IS Board, IS Member, Upswell