Leadership is an innate quality entrenched in the DNA of 33-year-old Dane Richardson, who officially took the reins as chief executive officer at Digicel Foundation on New Year’s Day.
Digicel Foundation is a non-profit organisation that distributes and utilises funds on a charitable basis for the sole purpose of building communities and community spirit in Jamaica.
Richardson will be tasked with advancing the goodwill organisation by adding to the legacy achieved by his predecessor, Samantha Chantrelle.
The Wolmerian joined the foundation in 2013 as programme manager for education and quickly climbed through the ranks to be promoted to head of programmes in 2015, and, subsequently, director of operations in 2016.
Before joining the foundation, he was programme development manager and grants manager at the Jamaica AIDS Support for Life, one of the largest health care agencies in Latin America and the Caribbean, addressing the socioeconomic challenges facing, and advocating for, Jamaicans living with and affected by HIV and AIDS, STIs, and intimate-partner violence.
In speaking with The Gleaner about his ascension to the helm of the foundation, Richardson said: “Happy would be an understatement. Deeply ecstatic better sums it up.”
He added: “Receiving such an opportunity to lead an organisation has been a lifelong aspiration. Having witnessed and learnt from many outstanding development specialists, I have always wanted a chance to make my own mark contributing to positive changes in my home country.”
Richardson’s appointment comes on the heels of the foundation being awarded the Non-profit Organisation of the Year by the Council of Voluntary Social Services (CVSS).
Richardson contributed greatly to said recognition through procedural improve-ments and efficiencies, improved cost effectiveness, as well as increased scope in programme design and reach; his most noteworthy achievement being his leadership of the implementation of the foundation’s largest project with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) valued at J$600 million, which contributed to the achievement of the Ministry of Education’s goal of 85 per cent literacy in 2015 at the primary level.
Krystal Tomlinson, public relations and engagement manager at Digicel Foundation, expressed that upon hearing the news from outgoing CEO Chantrelle, she wept joyfully.
“He’s the most suitable and deserving person. Dane knows the foundation inside out. We are coming out of a three-year strategic plan and he wasn’t just a part of it, but he led it from the jump. He’s inclusive and he encourages a sense of creativity. He allows you to challenge his own ideas, and that style of leadership is ideal.”
Neville Charlton, fellow CVSS awardee (young leader award) and public relations and engagement assistant at Digicel Foundation, echoed similar sentiments.
“Dane is an optimist and a go-getter. He’s not the conventional leader; he tries to get everyone’s opinion. He’s very passionate about anything he does,” he told The Gleaner.
Foundation Chairperson Jean Lowrie-Chin also expressed confidence that Richardson’s passion and leadership strength would propel the organisation towards achieving more for communities.
Richardson credits his immediate family for fostering his growth and development while citing his mother as a daily tower of strength and motivation.
In speaking to his vision for the foundation, the shrewd executive said: “It is important that I build on our solid 12-year history. The former CEOs have created a fantastic platform for creating more positive change in Jamaica. I see Digicel Foundation contributing to a sustainable Jamaica for all. Through a shared-value proposition, the foundation can deepen its efforts in tackling serious national issues through alignment with key government and non-government agencies to ensure investments are impactful and sustained.”
The end of 2016 saw more than
J$3 billion invested by the foundation in communities islandwide, impacting more than 580,000 Jamaicans since inception.