Equity Leadership Initiative cohort members

David Dankwah and Monsurat Ottun selected for inaugural Equity Leadership Initiative class

Goal is to build a pipeline of Asian, Black, Hispanic or Latino, Indigenous and multi-racial future leaders in established positions of influence throughout the state

David Dankwah and Monsurat Ottun of Pawtucket have been selected to participate in the inaugural class of the Rhode Island Foundation’s Equity Leadership Initiative (ELI). Through the program, the Foundation will build a pipeline of Asian, Black, Hispanic or Latino, Indigenous or multi-racial future leaders for positions of influence throughout the state.

“I am excited to get to work to cultivate the next generation of industry leaders – bank presidents, hospital CEOs, leaders in academia and kindergarten through 12 education, corporate executives, policy-makers, judges and more – who are people of color,” said Angie Ankoma, ELI executive director and a vice president at the Foundation.

Dankwah is an associate pastor at the Empowerment Temple Assembly of the International Central Gospel Church in Pawtucket. As a co-founder and Director of Faith and Religious Community Engagement for the World Day for Child Sexual Abuse Prevention, Healing and Justice, he mobilized clergy and public health experts to partake in the inaugural symposium.

Dankwah earned a BA in Economics at the University of Ghana and an MBA at Clark University. He represents the faith and minority communities on the Pawtucket Memorial Hospital Trust Advisory Committee.

“I want to grow in my capacity to have a broader impact as a pastor and as a transformational leader and advocate for equitable policies."

- David Dankwah

Ottun is an Associate City Solicitor as well as the Chief Information Security, Data Privacy and Risk Management Strategist for the city of Providence, where she works on a broad range of civil and criminal litigation as well as contract matters. She also serves as the Muslim American Liaison for the city of Providence.

“As a visionary, advocate and entrepreneur, I’m looking forward to the expansive network of thought partners I will get to engage from a lens of equity, leadership and social justice."

- Monsurat Ottun

Prior to joining the City Solicitor’s Office, Ottun worked briefly for Rhode Island Legal Services handling matters in Family Court. She earned her JD at Roger Williams University School of Law and her BA in Human Development and MS in Cybersecurity from Boston College. In addition, she cultivates the strategic growth and development of individuals, organizations and businesses through her coaching and consulting initiative, MOCCA.

“I am a visionary and social entrepreneur who has been an active member of my community since the time I was young. I seek to change the course of community and economic development practices by offering innovative strategies to small business development, partnerships and collaborations,” she said.

Dankwah, Ottun and the other members of the inaugural class were selected from nearly 100 applicants. Members identify as Asian, Black, Hispanic or Latino, Indigenous or multi-racial. Nearly 75 percent identify as women. Members of the cohort work across a variety of sectors.

The 12-month leadership development initiative is scheduled to begin in September. In addition to monthly half-day group meetings, participants will receive regular one-to-one coaching sessions, will develop a personal leadership vision and goals; will be matched with a mentor and will make high-level connections across industries.

The other participants are Adetola Abiade, Adewole Akinbi, Rose Albert, Janelle Amoako, Ana Barraza, Doris Blanchard, Madeline Burke, Michael Cancilliere, Krystal Carvalho, Angelyne Cooper, Steve Craddock, Rupa Datta, Yvonne Heredia, Teddi Jallow, Stacy Jones, Silvermoon Mars LaRose, Francisco Lovera, Weayonnoh Nelson-Davies, Ray Nuñez, Nwando Egbuche Ofokansi, Alisha Pina, Manuela Raposo, Juan Rodriguez, Victoria Rodriguez, Rosedelma Seraphin, Kajette Solomon, Edward Tavarez, Carla Wahnon and Kilah Walters-Clinton.

The leadership program is just one facet of the Rhode Island Foundation’s broad, 3-year, $8.5 million plan to advance diversity, equity, inclusion and access – with a first focus on racial equity – above and beyond its traditional yearly grant-making.

Recent work includes creating a capacity-building program to support nonprofits led by Asian, Black, Hispanic or Latino, Indigenous or multi-racial executive directors or other decision-makers within an organization; and launching a grant program to help nonprofits create anti-racist organizational cultures.

“Eliminating disparities and inequities is among our core values, and is a major focus across all of our work in the community. We use a racial equity lens while making decisions about allocating resources to improve health, educational success and economic security among other critical issues."

- Neil D. Steinberg, Foundation president & CEO

The Rhode Island Foundation is the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island. Working with generous and visionary donors, the Foundation raised $68 million and awarded a record $87 million in grants in 2020. Since its centennial five years ago, the Foundation has awarded more than $284 million in grants and has raised more than $328 million. Through leadership, fundraising and grant-making activities, often in partnership with individuals and organizations, the Foundation is helping Rhode Island reach its true potential.