At a time when data plays a more important role than ever in guiding our work—and telling our stories, a distinguished researcher will lead LISC in evaluating the strength of our investments to link people with opportunity.
David Greenberg, a prominent investigator in the field of community development and community change, has been named director of research and evaluation of the Local Initiatives Support Corp. (LISC).
Greenberg joins LISC after 11 years at MDRC, a nonprofit social policy research group focused on improving programs and policies that affect low-income Americans. While there, Greenberg led several of the field’s most intensive studies of community development and affordable housing initiatives, and honed a reputation for translating research findings into practice and policy reforms.
It is the potential for linking investigation to action that Greenberg says drew him to LISC. “LISC provides a platform to integrate knowledge-building into its daily work of supporting strong community organizations and effective community interventions,” said Greenberg. “I’m grateful to support the work of building on the collective wisdom of its 31-city network and its rural work, to take solutions from the ground up that can then feed into cutting-edge policy change.”
Greenberg succeeds Chris Walker, who retired in 2017 as head of LISC’s research and evaluation team, which is part of LISC’s national knowledge management department. He will be developing new ways to measure impact and share insight that can, in turn, inform the broader community development field. He will also support efforts to collect and interpret findings from our urban and rural offices. Indeed, he comes to LISC at a time when quantifying and communicating the power of our investments and programs is more important than ever, said LISC president and CEO Maurice Jones.
“David will help us get better at learning what’s working and what’s not working, and help us make adjustments as we go along,” said Jones. “Getting the research started at the outset of an initiative is of enormous benefit for refining our practice and our social impact. And being able to share that intelligence within the organization and with our partners—both funders and those helping us do the work on the ground—is key.”
Greenberg, in fact, became well-acquainted with LISC’s approach during his time as director of MRDC’s studies of the New Communities Program in Chicago, one of the largest community development initiatives in the United States. A $50 million partnership between LISC and the MacArthur Foundation, the New Communities Program supported local groups in 14 under-resourced neighborhoods across Chicago to develop quality of life plans, and then provided grants to address an array of issues pinpointed in those plans, including unemployment, gang violence and struggling schools.
Like much of Greenberg’s work, the study employed multiple methods, combining field research, quantitative data on community conditions, and a survey of organizational networks to see how local groups can partner to improve neighborhoods. Greenberg’s research on the program spanned 10 years and gauged its success as a model for federal policy and for similar initiatives in other parts of the country.
Working with LISC Chicago on the project inspired him as researcher, Greenberg says. “We were challenged to find new ways to assess the impact of community development on neighborhoods, on residents, and on the underlying economic conditions that lead to community problems,” he explained. “LISC thinks about whole neighborhoods and all their interconnected parts in a way that our research was trying to capture.”
Greenberg has also directed research on the Change Capital Fund, a community development initiative supported in part by LISC NYC, which helps public housing residents obtain jobs at living wages, and has helped public housing authorities develop housing desegregation initiatives. Prior to that, he led policy and advocacy activities for a coalition of 90 community housing organizations in New York City, worked for a trade association of CDCs in Massachusetts, and as an organizer with homeless men and women in New York's municipal shelter system.
Greenberg holds a Ph.D. in urban and regional planning from MIT, where he received a National Science Foundation fellowship and a HUD doctoral dissertation award. He also received an MA in poetry from Johns Hopkins University, and has been a part-time faculty member at Milano, the New School for Management and Urban Policy, where he taught a seminar on policy analysis.
“David has layers of expertise and a deep commitment to the work we do,” said Jones, “We are delighted he is joining our team.”