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Patrick Riccards: The Visionary CEO of Life After Hate in the Battle Against Extremism

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“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”

Patrick Riccards

When you envision what sets exceptional leaders apart, the qualities that often come to mind are those of inspiration, motivation, unwavering integrity, transparency, and masterful communication. These attributes were mentioned when Harvard Business Review surveyed over 300,000 leaders to identify the most crucial leadership skills. Remarkably, this extensive survey revealed that six of the top eight skills are rooted in Emotional Intelligence (EQ), while only two are associated with Intellectual Intelligence (IQ). In the world of outstanding leadership, one individual, Patrick Riccards, the CEO and Executive Director of Life After Hate, not only embodies these extraordinary qualities but also redefines the very essence of genuine leadership by tirelessly promoting compassion and understanding in a world all too frequently marked by division.

Patrick Riccards’ Inspiring Inception 

Patrick Riccards, the distinguished CEO and Executive Director of Life After Hate, emerges as a remarkable figure in the non-profit sector, celebrated for his strategic leadership, exceptional communication skills, and unwavering commitment to positive change. With a professional journey as diverse as it is inspiring, Patrick’s story takes root in the world of politics, where he first made his mark. A proud alumnus of the University of Virginia, Patrick ventured into the halls of Capitol Hill, where he engaged in shaping the political landscape on both the Senate and House sides, while also contributing to numerous federal campaigns.

This initial foray into the realm of politics catalyzed his unwavering determination to make a meaningful difference in the world. His career has been a tapestry of experiences, ranging from consulting and start-up companies to higher education. Notably, Patrick has left an indelible mark in the non-profit sector, with a track record that includes founding two of his own companies and helping establish two other non-profits.

At the helm of Life After Hate, Patrick Riccards champions the cause of violence intervention with unparalleled fervor, transforming lives and offering a path away from hatred. Simultaneously, he founded the Driving Force Institute for Public Engagement, a nationwide initiative dedicated to reshaping the teaching and learning of American history and civics through compelling video content for students and professional development for educators. This initiative is committed to inspiring today’s learners to “think like historians.”

His earlier roles include serving as a university vice president and acting as the chief communications and strategy officer at the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, where he played a pivotal role in crafting many of its signature programs, such as the High Meadows Graduate School of Teaching and Learning (subsequently acquired by the University of Kansas in 2022). Furthermore, Patrick’s leadership extends to his previous positions as the CEO of the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, Executive Director for Communications and Public Affairs at the American Institutes for Research, Chief of Staff to the National Reading Panel, and Executive Director of the Pennsylvania STEM Initiative. His career journey, which began on Capitol Hill and in political campaigns, reflects a rich tapestry of experiences that have uniquely equipped him to be the transformative leader he is today.

Patrick’s commitment to shaping a brighter future extends beyond his professional roles. He actively contributes to the betterment of society by serving on the Board of Directors for the Center for the Collaborative Classroom and for Project Tomorrow, as well as on the advisory board for the Education Writers Association. Notably, he has chaired the school board in Falls Church City, Virginia, demonstrating his dedication to educational excellence. As a member of the Forbes Nonprofit Council, Patrick regularly imparts his insights on nonprofit strategy and leadership.

In addition to his role as a dynamic leader, Patrick Riccards is an award-winning author, writing under the pseudonym Eduflack. His book, “Dadprovement,” a nationally recognized work, chronicles his journey of building a family through adoption. He is also the editor and contributing author of “Why Kids Can’t Read: Continuing to Challenge the Status Quo in Education” and the author of the recently released “Dad in a Cheer Bow.” His thoughts and expertise have found their way into countless publications, including USA Today, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and Education Week.

Patrick’s educational journey has been equally remarkable. He earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia and completed the Non-Profit Leaders Executive Education Program at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business. Patrick is also currently earning a doctorate at the University of Southern California. 

Life After Hate: Transforming Lives, Building Hope

Life After Hate, a beacon of hope in a world grappling with the shadow of violent extremism, stands as the nation’s preeminent organization dedicated to helping individuals disengage and deradicalize from violent extremist groups and online hate spaces. With unwavering commitment and a history spanning 14 years, Life After Hate exemplifies the power of compassion coupled with accountability, guiding individuals towards the transformation from lives mired in violent extremism to becoming positive forces in civil society.

This remarkable organization’s impact resonates through countless success stories, where thousands of lives have been profoundly improved thanks to the licensed social services and peer support it provides to those seeking to leave behind the darkness of extremism. Life After Hate’s unwavering standards and guidelines have not only set the gold standard within the industry but have also paved the way for change in the lives of those ensnared by radical ideologies. Families, friends, and loved ones receive invaluable support in their quest to rid their lives of the scourge of violent extremism, making communities stronger and safer for all.

The journey undertaken by Life After Hate is not for the faint-hearted. It is a complex, emotionally charged path for both its dedicated staff and the individuals it serves. Yet, it is a path that is unequivocally necessary, as it embodies the organization’s unwavering commitment to offering a second chance at a productive life to those many might give up on. Their work is a testament to the belief that building a stronger, safer community for all requires extending a lifeline to those in the grips of extremist ideologies, helping them transform and contributing positively to society.

For individuals seeking to support and make a positive impact with Life After Hate, the avenues are multifaceted. The foremost contribution lies in spreading the word about the invaluable work undertaken by this organization. In a world increasingly aware of the pervasive problem of violent extremism, recognizing the issue is just the first step. Understanding that there are actionable solutions to address the problem and that Life After Hate is at the forefront of tackling this pressing issue is crucial. The organization offers real solutions, and with belief and support, it can effect lasting change.

Life After Hate has also evolved in recent years, emphasizing professionalism, standards, and oversight in its operations and within the field. The commitment to data-driven practices and transparency underscores its dedication to the cause. What was once a peer-to-peer organization has now grown to include a team of social workers, licensed psychologists, and peer specialists. As they set their sights on the future, the organization is actively exploring opportunities to involve volunteers within their current model. The eagerness and warmth of those who reach out, expressing their desire to contribute to this important work, is truly heartening. With the ever-growing threat of violent extremism in society, Life After Hate welcomes all the help and support it can garner, for together, they can tackle this critical issue and pave the way for a more peaceful, tolerant world.

And in the heart of this remarkable journey stands Patrick Riccards, CEO and Executive Director of Life After Hate, a true embodiment of compassionate leadership, tirelessly working to eradicate the roots of hatred and transform lives.

Accolades That Inspire

Life After Hate, celebrated as the Extremist Intervention NPO of the Year 2023, proudly wears this prestigious accolade as a testament to the unwavering commitment and profound impact it makes on society. This recognition underscores the challenging and vital nature of their work, requiring not only good intentions but also rigorous training, unwavering adherence to professional standards, and an empathetic touch that guides clients along their transformative path. The dedicated Life After Hate team tirelessly strives to make communities safer and more positive, yet their remarkable efforts often go unheralded.

Ultimately, the true recognition of their work lies in the unspoken victories – individuals who disengage from lives of violent hatred, loved ones escaping abusive relationships, the prevention of violent hate crimes, and the diversion of potential extremists from the path of radicalization through brave counternarratives. Mental health professionals, law enforcement officers, and countless others who become more effective in their roles due to Life After Hate’s education programs are also living tributes to the organization’s tireless work.

Patrick Riccards, the driving force behind Life After Hate, embodies a belief that has been central to his professional journey: “If you can dream it, you can do it.” This philosophy fuels his strength in revitalizing businesses with strong missions that may be struggling operationally. Patrick’s unique vision enables him to see untapped potential where others might falter. For him, every professional opportunity is a canvas for what the organization can become tomorrow, rather than what it is today. Embracing Teddy Roosevelt’s wisdom to “dare mighty things,” Patrick is not content with the status quo. He is a catalyst for change, an advocate, and an agitator, firmly believing in the power of dreams and innovation. He views failure not as a setback, but as a learning opportunity, driving progress and personal growth. Patrick and the Life After Hate team never shy away from the demands of change, remaining steadfast in their pursuit of a better world and refusing to settle for the way things are.

Patrick Riccards’ Biggest Obstacles

In Patrick Riccards’ distinguished career, the most challenging obstacles have been rooted in the critical work of building trust. At Life After Hate, the team works with a population that inherently lacks trust in institutions, government, and those different from them. This challenge is compounded by the initial skepticism faced by Life After Hate as they endeavor to assist individuals disengage from violent extremism. Trust is a fragile foundation, one that must be continually nurtured and re-earned every day, knowing that once lost, it can never be fully regained.

Moreover, they operate in an environment rife with very real threats. The organization provides all social services online, with team members often identified by first names only. The need for anonymity is further underscored by the absence of staff or board member lists on their website. Life After Hate’s effectiveness is undeniable, but their mission exposes them to actual and implied threats from the groups they help people disengage from. Yet, they navigate these perilous waters because they understand the vital importance of their work and remain deeply committed to their clients, who often face life-threatening risks when seeking to leave lives of violent extremism.

For Patrick Riccards, success in the context of Life After Hate is a complex and evolving journey. He understands that the work of combating hate and fear will persist in society, for these dark forces have endured for centuriesmillennia. Success isn’t defined by a mission accomplished but by the unceasing effort to prevent the transformation of hateful ideologies into physical violence against others. The targets of hate and intolerance are ever-changing, and Life After Hate remains steadfast in confronting these harmful ideologies and demonstrating that change is indeed possible for those willing to put in the work and take accountability for their past actions. The organization embodies a philosophy of compassion with accountability, firmly believing that this approach can triumph even in the face of the most virulent hateful ideologies.

The Roots of Inspiration

For Patrick Riccards, the most significant source of inspiration is deeply rooted in his family. His parents have consistently instilled in him the drive to realize his full potential and to contribute to making the world a better place. His wife, Jennifer, serves as a constant reminder of the importance of maintaining a positive and flexible outlook, even in the face of adversity. However, it is in his role as a father to his children, Michael and Anna, that Patrick finds a profound sense of purpose. Being the father of two children of color has made the work of Life After Hate a deeply personal and compelling mission. Patrick believes he has a duty and the capability to create a safer society for his children and for all children who share their experiences and challenges.

Meeting Future Challenges and Opportunities

Patrick Riccards is currently at the helm of several impactful ongoing projects, with Life After Hate’s central program, ExitUSA, taking the lead. ExitUSA provides a crucial blend of case management, skills training, and peer mentoring to individuals seeking to disengage from violent extremism. It also extends case management and psychoeducational support to family members and friends dealing with loved ones ensnared in the web of violent white supremacy.

In a new and innovative initiative, Patrick and the team have introduced “The Daily Former,” an online platform designed to educate on the journey into violent extremism, the experiences within extremist movements, the process of exiting extremism, and the challenges and opportunities that come after exiting. This endeavor includes a podcast, “The Daily Former Podcast,” now gearing up for its second season. This podcast has been invaluable in sharing counternarrative stories and humanizing individuals who are either currently involved in or have recently left the violent far-right movement.

Looking ahead, Patrick Riccards and his team are preparing to launch two new initiatives in 2024. The first initiative is dedicated to U.S. veterans, recognizing the vulnerability of recent active-duty military personnel to violent far-right groups. They aim to provide veterans with the support and services they have rightfully earned, honoring their service to the nation through a specialized ExitUSA effort. Additionally, the organization is focusing on addressing the alarming rise of violent antisemitism in the United States. By leveraging public education and forging partnerships, Life After Hate seeks to contribute to building safer communities, knowing that every violent far-right extremism group in the United States is rooted in antisemitism.

In the long term, Life After Hate has set three main goals. First, their ExitUSA program aims to maintain its leadership position in violence intervention, continuously raising the bar in disengagement and deradicalization efforts while setting industry standards. Second, the organization remains committed to innovation, developing new programs and initiatives to meet the evolving needs of the field, particularly in the domains of public engagement and education. Lastly, a paramount goal is to better support the staff, ensuring they have the resources they need for professional growth and effective job performance.

Over the next three years, Life After Hate anticipates a significant increase in client cases, projecting growth of more than 60%. Consequently, they are diligently preparing to accommodate this expansion by securing the necessary human and financial resources to successfully address the associated challenges and opportunities. Patrick Riccards envisions a future where their mission remains at the forefront of fighting extremism and promoting a more compassionate and tolerant society.

Advice for Aspiring Leaders

For the next generation of aspiring leaders, Patrick Riccards offers sage advice: ‘Dare mighty things! Be willing to take risks, experience setbacks, and acknowledge failures that we all encounter. Each failure serves as a proof point that you are taking on significant challenges and striving to change the world.’

As a social entrepreneur, Patrick embraces the idea that he is, in a sense, a ‘failure demigod.’ He has consistently learned more from his failures than from his successes. Patrick aims to fail fast, fail forward, and avoid repeating the same mistakes. He recognizes that things will not always go as planned. As a leader, we must be nimble and open-minded enough to adapt, pivot, learn, adjust, and recover. Leaders need to acknowledge their own shortcomings. Ultimately, this kind of self-awareness is what distinguishes a leader from a boss. Aspiring leaders should all strive to become strong, effective, open-minded leaders.

Alejandro Garcia
Alejandro Garciahttps://twitter.com/Gracia_A141997
Alejandro Garcia, Entrepreneurship Writer at CEO Scoop Magazine. Sharing stories and strategies of innovative business leaders. Inspiring aspiring entrepreneurs with insights into building successful ventures.

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