If you couldn't make the LISC Leadership conference in Houston last month, or need a refresher on what was said and done, here's a photo essay of the highlights. From Maurice Jones' speech about his bold vision for our work, to the community leaders who shared their strategies in "LISC Talks," to inspiring tours of LISC Houston neighborhoods, it's all below—or watch the videos!
Over two jam-packed days last month, some 300 LISC staffers, community development partners, philanthropic and corporate leaders and policymakers gathered in Houston for the 2016 LISC National Leadership Conference, “Building on Local Ideas: What’s Next for America’s Communities.”
CEO Maurice Jones delivered a rousing call to action—to ramp up partnerships, focus on living-wage jobs for low-income Americans and maintain high expectations for the neighborhoods where we work, and for our own contribution to those people and places. Community leaders described local strategies to upend poverty. There were neighborhood tours of LISC's work on the ground in Houston, a keynote address by New York Times columnist Charles Blow, and a dissection of voting trends by a Washington pollster.
All that, combined with scores of collegial conversations, brainstorming sessions, reunions with old friends and connections with new ones, left attendees energized and poised to plunge into the challenges ahead. It also reminded staffers from across the country how LISC is emphatically a unfied organization with a shared mission and drive: we are #OneLISC.
In his closing remarks, Jones reiterated that LISC must stand even more firmly on principle and double down on its work serving vulnerable populations, through new collaborations and by enlarging “the 'orchestra' that plays the music for our people. Yes, with passion; yes, with knowledge and recognition of all the factors that contribute to our neighborhoods being where they are now,” he said. But also “with grace and humility as we work together for progress.”
Denise Scott, LISC's executive vice president for programs, and Ana Novais (left), director of Rhode Island's department of health, field questions from the audience during the "LISC Talks" presentations. Novais explained how RI is now tackling health disparities with a holistic strategy inspired, in part, by LISC's comprehensive approach to community development.
Robert Rubin, LISC board chair and former U.S. Treasury Secretary, introduced CEO Maurice Jones to the Houston gathering. Rubin stressed how the work of connecting low-income neighborhoods to capital and technical assistance is imperative to stabilizing the national economy. “Investing in impoverished communities is an investment with a high rate of return," he said. “LISC understands this.”
Tours of communities where Houston LISC's Great Opportunity (GO) Neighborhoods initiative has injected funding and technical assistance were a highlight of the conference. LISCers and our partners took in the Near Northside, East Houston and Old Spanish Trail/South Union neighborhoods. Maurice Jones visits with Diana Garbis (right), executive director of Wesley Community Center, and Samantha Sherman (left), director of educational development. Wesley is an anchor social service agency in the Near Northside where a LISC-backed job readiness program serves hundreds of residents.
A group of 28 attendees took part in a LISC AmeriCorps service project at the Houston Food Bank. In a mere 45 minutes, they scanned 5,000 donated items and assembled 1,800 meals—setting a record for speed and efficiency, according to Food Bank staff. From left, the power trio of Matt Perkins, senior project manager with LISC Safety, Donayda Salomon of Jamaica Plain CDC in Boston and Margot Karoff-Hunger of The Steel Yard in Providence, RI.
On a tour of East Houston, Nory Angel (left), executive director and CEO of SER—Jobs for Progress, discussed a community and job-training campus her organization is developing with LISC support. Emilio Parker (right), formerly incarcerated in federal prison, described his personal transformation through SER's education and employment programs. He now coaches formerly incarcerated residents on the path of re-entry.
Juan Salgado, president and CEO of Instituto del Progreso Latino in Chicago and a 2015 MacArthur Fellow, explained the crucial task of helping clients build personal support networks as they work to transform their lives through education. Tedd Grain, deputy director of LISC Indy, said the talks reminded him of "the power of storytelling...I left the leadership conference inspired to bring more storytelling to our work in Indianapolis."
Throughout the leadership meeting, attendees had the chance to pose questions to speakers and each other. Ebony Walden, a program officer from the LISC Richmond office in Virginia (pictured above), counted those opportunities among the conference highlights. "I loved the mix of social time, so that I could connect with LISC staff and partners from around the country to get advice, best practices and share stories," she said.
On the last morning of the gathering, Washington DC pollster Anna Greenberg broke down the voting trends of the 2016 presidential election. Ashanti Hamilton, head of the Common Council for LISC Milwaukee, summed up the leadership meeting like this: “I go to a lot of conferences, but I’ve never seen such a large group of consistently committed, knowledgeable people working together. I'm very impressed."
The A Team: Houston LISC staff knocked it out the park, graciously organizing, planning and troubleshooting for months in advance—in tandem with the national conference team in New York. From left, VanNhi “Vonnie” Nguyen, program officer; Clare Duncan, program officer; Tamika Evans, assistant program officer; Amanda Timm, executive director; Kristal Barber, office administrator; Mayra Guevara Bontemps, senior program officer; Odin Zackman, consultant; and Iris Gonzalez, program officer.