Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will join names like Malala Yousafzai and Nelson Mandela as a recipient of the Gleitsman International Activist Award.

The Harvard Kennedy School's Center for Public Leadership award honours Jacinda Ardern for her leadership, decisive action, and commitment to reformative and inclusive policies.

The award comes with a $US150,000 (approx $NZ217k) prize money which Ardern has put towards a scholarship for a New Zealand student at Harvard Kennedy School.

Center for Public Leadership director and practice of public leadership professor Wendy R Sherman said Ardern had wielded a "steady and swift hand, an open mind, and a keen reflection of her entire community in meeting challenges of terror, earthquakes and now Covid-19".

"We are thrilled that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will accept this year's award.

"The prime minister reminds all of us that strength, compassion, science, clear communications, humility and activism go hand in hand to create positive results."