Our 2008 Annual Report reflects on how we are working hard to ‘Innovate, Invest and Lead’ by identifying the ways that we can deploy all of our assets to “punch above our weight” and by influencing the way cities work and how people think about them.

The past year has been a pivotal one for Living Cities. In may 2008, the Council on Foundations recognized the goundbreaking work we did during our first fifteen years with its Distinguished Grantmaking Through Collaboration Award.

We also began laying the foundation for our future by defining a compelling role for the organization in improving low-income people’s lives, not just neighborhoods; providing leadership on current, pressing issues like the subprime mortgage crisis and climate change; and raising Living Cities' profile throughout the country by engaging new members, elected officials and policymakers.

As you will see in this report, we are working hard to Innovate, Invest and Lead by identifying the ways that we can deploy all of our assets to “punch above our weight” and by influencing the way cities work and how people think about them. Living Cities is supporting new approaches that bust down traditional silos and show how services in such areas as education, jobs and wealth-building can be integrated for the benefit of low-income people. We are defining through our American City Agenda the policies that cities need to reestablish themselves as our country’s economic engines. We are creating opportunities for socially responsible investors to become a part of the renaissance in their cities through such vehicles as the Living Cities Catalyst Fund, which we launched this year.

Finally, we are bringing new voices to the table. We have added additional foundations and corporations to our partnership, including Citigroup and the Surdna, Skillman, and AARP foundations. This year, we appointed our inaugural class of Living Cities Distinguished Urban Fellows–former Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson and former Portland, Oregon City Commissioner Erik Sten–to bring real-world governing experience to our decision-making. We also added grantees from the municipal sector, such as Cities for Financial Empowerment and from the nonprofit sector, including the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities.

In short, by leveraging Living Cities' assets–our members, our track record, our new vision, our resources and our long-term partnerships with the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) and Enterprise Community Partners–we are creating a new level of excitement about Living Cities and the future of cities in the 21st century.

I believe that we are at a special moment in American history. Unique forces, from globalization and global warming to changing presidential and municipal leadership, are converging to give us the chance to not just rethink cities but to re-engineer them for the benefit of low-income people and our nation as a whole. Taken together, these forces of change, and the current economic crisis, create both an unprecedented opportunity and an urgent need for action. Simply put, there has never been a more important time for Living Cities to Innovate, Invest and Lead.

We hope you will be excited by what we have done in 2008 to position us for the future. We look forward to working with you in 2009 as our nation sets a new course for our country, our cities, and those neighborhoods and individuals long isolated from the economic mainstream.