Jason DaSilva

President and Founder, AXS Lab

How old is your organization? Founded in 2008
What sector do you work in? Nonprofit, disability rights
How long have you been working in this sector? Since 2001
How long have you been with your current organization? Since its founding in 2008

If you have worked with CRE in some capacity, what impact did it have?
I was part of the Leadership Caucus. It gave me a strong network to move forward and really got me to think about my organization from a leadership perspective, and all of the intricacies that come with being a leader in the nonprofit space. CRE has really been helpful in opening the window for me to see what is possible and where I fit as a nonprofit leader.

What has been the most significant development in your sector over the last 40 years?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) set a new standard for all people with disabilities or the aging to be treated equally. This has been an influence on organizations such as AXS Lab, and it’s on the backs of huge strides like the ADA that our work finds its mission.

Describe a key event (local, national, global) that has impacted your sector in the last 40 years?
Again, the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act. It made it so that people with disabilities were given the rights that they deserved, and followed other movements such as women’s rights, Black rights, and gay and lesbian rights. We followed in that line.

How have your sector’s needs changed (or those of your clients) in the last 40 years?
Keeping up with technology is a big deal for us these days. Making sure that all of the digital platforms that are a part of our daily life are accessible and disability-friendly is crucial.

What is the single greatest challenge you face today in your sector?
Fundraising. But specific to disability rights, it’s managing the business. That’s one thing with which CRE has helped me with, a person with a disability, who runs this organization. It’s important that business management and leadership are done properly. That’s what I’m focusing on these days — finding an Executive Director to work side by side with me in our organization.

What opportunities exist now for nonprofits to break through into success that did not exist 40 years ago?
A lot of the online systems were just not around. There weren’t the databases or tracking systems for all of these organizations to work toward a common goal. We now can take advantage of advancements in technology.

What leadership qualities are necessary to succeed as a nonprofit executive today?
It’s crucial to be forward-thinking and that’s something I’m always working on myself, trying to predict the future. It’s also being goal-oriented. The challenge I’m combating is my disability getting worse, including not being able to see. I’m losing the ability to see while I’m trying to manage a nonprofit. That’s why I think it’s critically important to have a larger team.

What will nonprofits need to do to remain relevant and necessary to their clients over the next 40 years?
I feel like they need to adapt to technology that is always going to keep changing. So, over the next 40 years, they’d better adapt to changes in technology.

What skills do you believe are necessary for people to succeed as managers over the next few decades?
Perseverance and sticking close to your mission.

In what ways would others say you are a trailblazer?
I think that I’m in a unique space where I’m speaking as a person with a disability and I’m creating films about people with disabilities from a participatory perspective. And I don’t think that is being done to the extent I’ve done it for the past 20 years.

What was your breakthrough moment in becoming a leader?
I think that CRE was a great way to see where I fit in with the large landscape of nonprofits and leaders in nonprofits. It got me thinking about where I fit in place, and I didn’t have that vantage point before.

What were the biggest challenges you faced in your career?
I feel like I face challenges every day. The biggest challenge is being a person with a disability. I have MS, a progressive disability that is always getting worse, as I’m trying to manage this organization and grow it. I can keep doing what I do, and do it well, but I’m looking for right people to add to our team to grow what we can do.

Name three qualities that are inherent in being a strong leader.
Honesty, integrity, and being forward thinking.

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