Leadership Reimagined: Letting Your Community Take the Lead (Vichi Jagannathan)

October 2023

Are you a mission-driven leader in the nonprofit sector with more passion than answers? Vichi Jagannathan was one such leader, and in episode #231 of Your Path to Nonprofit Leadership, she shares what it means to let your community take the lead and provide the answers you need as the nonprofit leader. Vichi explains how building on design-thinking ideas from across the country brought clarity to the challenges she faced in a rural and under-resourced community. She discusses the biggest challenges she had to overcome in running a small nonprofit, and the solutions she found when building staff, volunteers, and a board of directors. 

"Practice authentic communication with your community; so much wisdom exists in those with lived experiences." 



Entrepreneur, strategist and social change leader who applies innovative ideas in unlikely settings to catalyze impact and community transformation. Vichi began her career as a high school science teacher in Northampton County, NC through Teach For America. She then spent two years on the West Coast leading the expansion of Microsoft's TEALS computer science education program into California. In 2016, Vichi participated in the Innovation Next accelerator, where she received coaching from IDEO in human-centered design to develop a mobile sex education app called Real Talk, which has been downloaded over 10,000 times in over 100 countries. She also interned with SelfHelp Credit Union in Durham, NC where she created the strategy for Self-Help's branch expansion into Eastern North Carolina. In 2017, Vichi co-founded Rural Opportunity Institute (ROI). ROI builds the capacity of rural communities to support people's healing from generational trauma to achieve health, safety, connection, and self-determination. Based in rural Eastern North Carolina, ROI has grown from a small, grassroots effort to an influential organization that affects over 20,000 people in 15 states. ROI's innovative approach has captured the interest of national state funders including New Profit and the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust. Vichi holds a Master of Business Administration from Yale University School of Management, a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University, and a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University.