United Way’s Lanre Ajakaiye ’95 to discuss Black ambition, inclusive community development

Alumnus featured in URI Honors Colloquium ‘Not Business As Usual: Business for the Common Good’

KINGSTON, R.I. – Nov. 20, 2023 – Rhode Island business and community leader and social entrepreneur Idrees “Lanre” Ajakaiye ’95, chief development officer of the United Way and the visionary behind 25 Bough Street, will discuss Black ambition and inclusive community development while reducing inequalities and driving economic growth at the 2023 University of Rhode Island Honors Colloquium Tuesday, Nov. 28.

Ajakaiye has had success across a non-linear path across his career, while never forgetting his immigrant roots. He is a leader, brand architect and change marker throughout New England. 

Ajakaiye will speak at 7 p.m. at Edwards Hall on the Kingston Campus, as part of the University’s fall Honors Colloquium, “Not Business As Usual: Business for the Common Good.” The talk will also be streamed live (video links are available the day of each event, at the link above).

Since October 2022, Ajakaiye has been the chief development officer of the United Way of Rhode Island, leading a team of 30-plus across donor and corporate relations, data, customer relationships, operations, marketing and communications, and volunteer engagement. He is responsible for the United Way’s growth and innovation as it embarks on providing community and resources to build racial equity and opportunities for all. Under his leadership, the agency is reinvigorating its brand, bringing in technologies for automation, ushering in dashboards and visualizations and embarking on multi–channel engagement strategies to for scaled, community impact.

He is also the developer of the 25 Bough Street community initiative in Providence’s Olneyville neighborhood, which has been featured in The Boston Globe, Afro Tech, Yahoo Finance and more.

Ajakaiye is also the mind behind family-oriented events such as the New England Family Fun Festival, drawing more than 6,200 people across 40,000 square feet at the state’s largest venue, the Rhode Island Convention Center. And when Ajakaiye realized his city did not have a youth basketball team, he created Team Providence Travel, which has now gone on to win two New England championships and four state championships.

Ajakaiye is a member of the City of Providence Hall of Fame and the Classical High School Hall of Fame, Leadership Rhode Island Class of 2017, and named a ‘2021 Who to Watch’ recipient by Providence Monthly. He was also a semi-finalist in Pharrell Williams’ Black Ambition competition.

Ajakaiye is proud to be an alumnus of URI, where he was part of efforts to drive social change that resulted in the development of the Multicultural Student Services Center in the middle of campus and of Africana Studies as a major, recently covered on Rhode Island PBS.

The URI Honors Colloquium is free and open to the public. Hosted by URI’s Honors Program, this is the University’s premier lecture series and marks the centennial of the College of Business. Lectures will be held Tuesday evenings through Dec. 5 and are also available online. Register for updates here or email urihonors@etal.uri.edu.