Equity Leadership Initiative cohort members

Nwando Egbuche Ofokansi 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

Nwando Egbuche Ofokansi of Woonsocket has 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.

Ofokansi is a project officer with the Rhode Island Department of Health’s Health Equity Zones Initiative, where she provides support to Health Equity Zones across the state to address social determinants of health inequities.

“I am looking forward to learning from the mentors how to enhance my capacity for positive social impact. I can't wait to get to know my fellow cohort members who are some of Rhode Island's most promising leaders of color and who share my commitment to racial justice."

- Nwando Egbuche Ofokansi

In Woonsocket, Ofokansi co-founded a community organizing group called the WATCH Coalition, which addresses violence, racism and discrimination by building intergenerational leadership, engaging in political action and providing community resources. Her background includes sexual health education, health coaching, HIV/AIDS prevention work in African immigrant communities, youth mentoring, racial equity consulting and relationship violence prevention education.

“I use intersectionality and critical-race theories to unravel the impact of culture, identity and oppression on health outcomes,” she said.

She earned a BA in Sociology, Philosophy, and African & African Diaspora Studies at Boston College; a graduate certificate in Nonprofit Leadership Strategy at the University of Pennsylvania and a master's in Social Justice and Community Organizing at Prescott College.

Ofokansi, 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, David Dankwah, Rupa Datta, Yvonne Heredia, Teddi Jallow, Stacy Jones, Silvermoon Mars LaRose, Francisco Lovera, Weayonnoh Nelson-Davies, Ray Nuñez, Monsurat Ottun, Alisha Pina, Manuela Raposo, Victoria Rodriguez, Juan 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 presidentn & 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.