LISC National

Work on the Ground

Healthcare | Sports & Rec | Leadership | EducationOpportunity Zones


Health Is a Matter of Equity

That a person’s zip code predicts their life expectancy is a fact that has, at long last, become part of the conventional wisdom of our industry, and it shapes the way we approach all of our work at LISC. Just over two years ago, we announced a 10-year, $10 billion commitment to investing in access to quality jobs, good schools, safe streets, quality housing and the many other factors that influence physical and mental health and wellbeing.  

To that end, in 2019 we launched more than a dozen partnerships with health systems, which include a $40 million investment from Kaiser Permanente in support of our affordable housing initiative, Partnership for the Bay’s Future. We have also forged a $100 million alliance with Sentara Healthcare to bolster the positive social determinants of health in Virginia and launch LISC's presence in the Hampton Roads region of the state. 

We also built a system with longtime partner ProMedica to assess and document the health impact of projects we support, from housing to small business development.

To build more and stronger bridges between the healthcare and community development sectors in an effort to upend the negative social determinants of health, we’ve teamed up with the American Hospital Association, the Democracy Collaborative’s Healthcare Anchor Network and the Root Cause Coalition. These are all entities with world-class expertise and insight into what is required to close the life expectancy gap that exists in virtually every city and rural county in the country. 


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Sports & Recreation—Keys to Flourishing Communities

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that LISC’s 2019 investment in sports and recreation knocked the cover off the ball. For starters, we marked 20 years of partnership with the NFL Foundation Grassroots program. This collaboration has achieved a total of $61 million invested ($3 million in 2019 alone), and 376 community football fields—all across the country—restored to vital, daily use by tens of thousands of people.  

Since the inception of the ESPN Homecourt program, we have injected $575,000 into neighborhood basketball courts in dozens of underinvested communities. And ESPN, together with Under Armour, is also our partner in the RePlay initiative, a national effort to revitalize vacant spaces for sports, recreation and play. Last year, through RePlay, we invested $265,000 (for a total of nearly $600,000) to help restore 13 play spaces in five cities.

In Chicago, Hoops in the Hood, a summertime safety and community-building basketball program, celebrated its 14th year and 300,000 young people served, all through continual investment from LISC and State Farm. 


And our rookie initiative, Play Ball Again, a collaboration with Maestro Cares, the Cubs Foundation and UNICEF, is already making a critical impact in post-hurricane Puerto Rico. We renovated nine of 25 targeted ballparks across the island—gathering places that formed the social heart of small towns and rural communities until they were decimated by the storms in 2017. At a grand opening ceremony of a field in the town of Loíza in December, Cubs’ All-Star Javier Báez and Latin music icon Marc Anthony helped us mark the occasion.  

Speaking to the crowd gathered at the field that day, LISC CEO Maurice A. Jones summed up the goal of all our work to make sports and recreation facilities accessible to everyone. “We have renovated this park so that these great young people have a place to play,” he said. And that “promotes health and discipline and teamwork and growth in the community.” Talk about a win-win. 


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Strong Communities Grow From Strong Leadership

Strong, thoughtful and effective leadership in our field is the special sauce that helps link people and places with opportunity. LISC’s commitment to investing in and nurturing that kind of leadership, in local organizations and across the community development sector, is a fundamental strand of our mission, and we do it through an array of initiatives. 

For one, LISC welcomed its third cohort of Rubinger Fellows in 2019, an extraordinary group of mid-career community developers with diverse areas of expertise, geographic locations and life experiences. They will be using their $40,000 awards to carry out projects that range from creating employment opportunities in the film industry for formerly incarcerated women in Louisiana, to educating seniors living on low incomes in Atlanta about real estate, tax relief and wills so they can pass on their assets to the next generation. 

In 2019, we were pleased to launch our Emerging Leaders Council, a group of young professionals and entrepreneurs from a range of fields who are lending their expertise and insight to LISC’s work.  

We also continue to nurture and scale leadership through initiatives such as our Housing Development Training Institute, an intensive capacity-building program for community development professionals to learn the ropes of property development. And we conceived and run local programs, too, like Associates in Commercial Real Estate or ACRE, an industry-supported initiative that recruits and trains people of color for careers in commercial real estate. 

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. We invest so intensively in building the field’s next generation of leadership because those are the very people—the directors of local organizations and public agencies, the developers and entrepreneurs—who build the strong, inclusive communities everyone deserves. 


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Education Paves the Way to Opportunity 

The entirety of LISC’s mission—connecting people with the opportunities that make it possible to enjoy a healthy, fulfilling life—hinges on the fundamental requisite of education. And that ranges from quality early childhood and elementary age learning, to adult training and certification for 21st-century jobs, and everything in between.

In 2019, we doubled down on all of these. A $10 million partnership with Citi Foundation enabled us to expand our Bridges to Career Opportunities initiative, which helps job seekers build math and literacy skills and enter training programs to land quality placements in industries that offer room for growth. Together with Citi, we’re supporting 40 local partners to target some 10,000 workers for skills development to prepare for jobs in growth industries like health and solar energy, and for the financial, health and housing services that improve quality of life. 

Meanwhile, our charter school financing efforts made $22 million in loans and guarantees to high-achieving schools across the country to support the expansion or renovation of their facilities. This financing is keeping critical dollars in the classroom and increased access to quality educational facilities. 

We also launched, with support from the Walton Family Foundation, the Spark Opportunity Grant Program which is awarding $2 million in predevelopment grants to K-12 charter schools renovating or building new facilities. And we were proud to inaugurate SchoolPrint, a free charter school real estate development resource to simplify the facility development process.


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Working in the Opportunity Zones

In 2019, LISC made important strides in tapping the Opportunity Zones tax incentive to spur economic development and job creation in the communities where we’ve long worked. We collaborated with old and new partners and investors to plan and execute smart, inclusive investment that galvanizes opportunity for the people who live and work in these zones and at the same time generates solid return on investment. 

For starters, we are thrilled to have partnered with The Rockefeller Foundation to implement their $5.5 million Opportunity Zone Capacity Building Initiative in six U.S. cities, building pipelines of responsible development projects and business investments to attract private capital to communities. 

Our affiliate National Equity Fund also joined forces with Fifth Third Bank in a $25 million fund to support housing developments for working families. And in Washington, D.C., we manage a $2.8 million Opportunity Zones investment in the groundbreaking MLK Gateway development, part of a $23 million project that LISC has supported in a variety of ways and which is projected to create more than 400 good-paying jobs for local residents. 

On the education front, LISC and the Walton Family Foundation unveiled the Spark Opportunity Grant Program, a $2 million initiative to provide planning grants to support the creation of affordable facilities for schools in Opportunity Zones and other under-resourced communities.  

And to top it all off, we also published an Opportunity Zones playbook for community developers and other local stakeholders looking to navigate the tax incentive and promote community-serving projects in their markets.

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