5Q: David N. Cicilline

5Q: David N. Cicilline
CEO and president, Rhode Island Foundation / PBN PHOTO/TRACY JENKINS
5Q: David N. Cicilline
CEO and president, Rhode Island Foundation / PBN PHOTO/TRACY JENKINS

5Q: David N. Cicilline | CEO and president, Rhode Island Foundation


1. When you were named the foundation’s new CEO and president, you told us you plan to leverage connections to further impact the foundation in “a more prominent way.” What do you mean ­specifically when you refer to ­impact and how will you achieve that? I am already engaged with national ­organizations and foundations, as well as other community foundations to explore opportunities to both learn from them and to explore regional partnerships. I have had some early ­conversations with national foundations about some of my ideas. After we have fully ­developed the strategic framework for my time at the foundation, we will go back to some of the large national foundations to explore partnerships on some of these ­initiatives.

2. What community issue do you plan to address as your first priority as the foundation’s new leader, and why? An important priority for me is to be certain we engage the community and hear directly from the community. We must be mindful that our work reflects their priorities and their concerns. We are, after all, a community foundation. A good portion of my time over the past few months has been spent visiting our nonprofit partners and talking with donors, community stakeholders and policymakers.

3. What do you feel is the ­greatest challenge still ­plaguing the state, including Providence, and how do you hope the foundation will help address it? In many ways, the greatest challenge embedded in improving education, economic opportunity and health care are the incredible racial disparities that are holding so many in our state back. ­Making that a central part of our work is an important responsibility. For ­example, we recently awarded nearly $1.2 ­million in grants to increase the number of teachers of color in ­Providence, ­Pawtucket, Newport and Central Falls schools. Achievement gaps are real. Students of color can represent 80% of the enrollment in many urban schools, while just a small percentage of teachers are members of minority groups.

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4. Has the foundation recently identified areas of need within Rhode Island that had not been addressed previously? Housing is the most immediate ­challenge. Since 2019, single-family home prices have gone up more than 75%; rents are through the roof. We are last in the nation in housing production year after year. It’s unsustainable. Having a stable, affordable place to live and improving education, economic opportunity and health go hand in hand. We can’t achieve our goals unless we begin making serious strides in housing production.

5. Are there plans for any future collaborations between United Way and the Rhode Island Foundation to jointly support the community? United Way has been a great ­partner to me over the years. One of my first ­meetings after beginning at the ­foundation was with United Way [of] Rhode Island CEO and President Cortney Nicolato. The nonprofit sector is playing an increasingly crucial role delivering services across the state. She and I plan to meet monthly to make sure we are working closely together to support their efforts.

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