LISC CEO Maurice A. Jones takes a hopeful look at the future in an interview with Philanthropy News Digest, pointing to the wealth of untapped talent in American communities as evidence that there are gains yet to come. "The question is, what do we do as a society to ensure that these people are able to fulfill their promise?” For LISC, that includes a range of local investments, from employment skills training to entrepreneurship to affordable housing development, all of which help expand economic opportunity and support a good quality of life.
The excerpt below is from:
5 Questions for…Maurice Jones
Philanthropy News Digest
Philanthropy News Digest: LISC works to equip underresourced communities with the resources — capital as well as knowledge and information — they need to thrive. In 2018, what is the one thing underresourced communities in America need more than anything else?
Maurice Jones: They need more investment in the talent that can be found in all these communities. And this investment needs to come in many forms.
We need to prepare people with the work skills and competencies they need for the work opportunities that already exist, as well as for the new opportunities that will be created over the coming years. This is true in every community we work in, whether it's urban or rural, large city or small municipality, town or county.
We also need to help people in these communities master the basics of finance — what people often refer to as "financial literacy," so they can break out of the cycle of debt and build wealth.
People also need to be better informed about the supports available to them. For example, a parent needs child care in order to devote hours to a job or to skills acquisition. That parent needs to know there are childcare funds they can take advantage of so that he or she can take the steps they need to achieve financial security and the kind of economic mobility so many of us take for granted.
We also need to develop more quality, available housing, and we need to find ways to attract more employers to more areas.
Everything I just mentioned is true in both the urban and rural areas in which we work, but there is one thing that is more acute in rural areas: a significant lack of development when it comes to broadband. In this day and age, if a community is going to grow in all the ways we want communities to grow, it's got to have this critical infrastructure. Broadband is like oxygen is to breathing. There are still significant swathes of rural America, however, which are inadequately supplied with high-speed broadband, and it's a problem. This underdevelopment of broadband is a huge barrier and challenge in terms of making both wealthy states and less wealthy states economically viable in the twenty-first century.
PND: What can we do to fix that?
MJ: We, as a country — the private sector, the public sector, states, localities, and companies — have to commit to getting broadband into rural areas. It's a commitment issue. And it will require significant investment. We all know that the market for broadband favors places that are densely populated. So, the economics of broadband are not favorable to rural areas. But we've simply got to figure out how to subsidize broadband in those markets and forge partnerships of providers schools, businesses, and other stakeholders to make the economics work and get that infrastructure laid. We just need the will to do it. If we commit to it, we can make it happen.