President & CEO
Local Initiatives Support Corporation
The histories of Living Cities and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) have been closely connected for 20 years.
Back in 1991, community development had already taken root and was having a positive impact on distressed neighborhoods. But our toolbox then was somewhat limited. Community development was mostly about housing, and still on a modest scale. It was a challenge to fully engage the private sector in what for many felt like a high-risk proposition. It was not yet clear to some that this work would be a path to social and economic stability in troubled places.
The National Community Development Initiative (now Living Cities) was a game changer. It helped energize community development by attracting key national partners to a strong long-term, public-private collaboration. It helped elevate the work as a valuable business and philanthropic investment.
It significantly increased the capacity, production, and influence of its two original partners: LISC and the Enterprise Foundation.
Most importantly, Living Cities capital was, and is, flexible. By not being explicitly prescriptive, Living Cities has seeded innovation and fueled projects that otherwise would never have gotten off the ground. It has meant that we could take a chance on the most promising ideas and build the capacity of the most creative community-based groups, even if their projects or programs didn’t fit within traditional models or top-down government funding programs.
We have certainly seen that with our Building Sustainable Communities work. Instead of driving individual projects focused largely on the built environment, we began supporting holistic plans that integrated a range of critical community connections to each other. From safe streets and quality schools to family financial stability and green development, we saw a way to drive sustainable change in new and compelling ways. And Living Cities dollars helped make it possible.
That strategy, today, is turning theory into reality. Places once largely marked by intense blight and social dysfunction are now safer, healthier, more vibrant communities. Living Cities is one of the important reasons why.