Media release

Applications are open for Equity Leadership Initiative

The goal is to continue building a pipeline of leaders of color for positions of influence throughout the state

The Rhode Island Foundation is accepting applications for the 2023 class of its Equity Leadership Initiative (ELI). The deadline to apply is April 19.

“ELI seeks to advance people of color in greater leadership and decision-making positions within our state by identifying, mentoring and supporting a steady stream of accomplished leaders. Organizations and teams thrive when they’re led by diverse leaders to meet diverse needs,” said Angie Ankoma, vice president and executive director.

The year-long program supports existing leaders of color who work in the public, private or nonprofit sectors and demonstrate a commitment to racial equity and social justice. Applicants must be residents of Rhode Island who identify as Asian, Black, Hispanic or Latino, Indigenous or multiracial.

This will be the initiative’s third class, which is scheduled to begin in September. Those interested in applying must be able to participate in monthly leadership and program activities. Up to 30 applicants will be invited to participate. There is no cost to apply or participate.

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.

“Finding spaces where your whole self is accepted can be challenging as a leader of color. This initiative allows us to share our struggles, gives us a sense of belonging and encourages us to be unapologetically authentic. The experience has profoundly impacted my personal and professional development and provided invaluable tools and lifelong friends,” said Jessica Vega, senior policy analyst at R.I. Kids Count and a member of the current class.

An informational session via Zoom is scheduled for April 6 at 9:30 a.m. For more information about the program or to register for the informational session, visit

ELI 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.

The work also includes a $2 million grant program to address structural racism through its new Racial Equity and Social Justice Program, creating a capacity-building program to support nonprofits led by Asian, Black, Latino or Hispanic, 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.

“This is the third year of this very successful program. Addressing the root causes of inequality and working to eliminate disparities are two of our core organizational values, and they continue to be a major focus across all of our work in the community. We consider racial equity when making decisions about allocating resources to improve health, educational success and economic security among other crucial issues,” said Neil D. Steinberg, president and CEO of the Foundation. “Only by increasing our determination to eliminate disparities and achievement gaps can we achieve a better future for all Rhode Islanders.”

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 more than $75 million in gifts and awarded nearly $84 million in grants last year. Through leadership, fundraising and grant-making activities, often in partnership with individuals and organizations, the Foundation is helping Rhode Island reach its true potential.