There’s a new kind of board at LISC, composed of a diverse crew of younger professionals who are leaders in their fields. Their mission? To bring fresh perspectives, networks and attention to LISC’s work and help us achieve even greater impact in the communities we care about.
LISC has faced an interesting paradox since its inception: we are one of the country’s largest organizations working to connect people and places with opportunity, and we’ve had a profound impact in helping America’s underserved communities. Yet we are relatively unknown to younger audiences, particularly those outside the world of community development.
As LISC celebrates its 40th anniversary year, and with our work as imperative as it has ever been, we are launching a group aimed at broadening our audience and impact. “If one of LISC’s strategic priorities is to advance ‘next generation leadership’ in the CDFI sector, we’ve got to build a roster of champions and ambassadors outside of our orbit,” said Maurice A. Jones, LISC’s president and CEO. LISC’s Strategy and Innovation team was tasked with researching candidates who would form the nucleus of the new consortium.
Known as the Emerging Leaders Council (ELC), the group is composed of 16 (and growing) accomplished rising professionals and leaders from a variety of industries and backgrounds. Their diversity is reflected in professions ranging from financial services to arts and media to public health, as well as in geography. Members come from Miami, FL, Cincinnati, OH, San Francisco, CA, and San Antonio, TX.
Over the course of the next two years, ELC members will be charged with supporting LISC by expanding its network of supporters and advocates, and with learning about community and economic development in order to serve as ambassadors to their respective networks. By sparking dialogue and partnership across sectors and silos, the group ideally will help bring new ideas and donors into the LISC fold.
The ELC will also undertake at least one specific project on LISC’s behalf, leveraging their professional skills and networks to support our mission.
When the group met for the first time this past June, they spent the day learning about LISC, and about each other. Maurice Jones offered a primer on our work, as did LISC board chair Robert E. Rubin and several other members of LISC’s senior leadership.
At the top of the agenda was a discussion about how to engage millennials –a generation set to inherit $30 trillion in wealth over the next 30 years – in the community investment sector. Patrick Duhaney, Cincinnati’s city manager, pointed out that younger generations think about giving differently than many of their predecessors. “They want to participate in what they are giving to,” he said. “We are the tinkering generation.”
Esther Uduehi, a doctoral student at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, pointed to the role of personal agency in motivating individual giving. Tapping into people’s emotions and sense of agency is critical to appealing to donors, she said, citing a ream of academic literature on the topic. Alex Glustrom, a filmmaker who specializes in stories about social justice, talked about the role that virality—the phenomenon of going viral--plays in sharing information and motivating interest. The first 10,000 people, he explained, are harder to reach than the next 900,000. How do organizations like LISC share their message in a fragmented and highly competitive media environment?
Eva Alligood, LISC NYC’s interim executive director, described how LISC approaches its work from an “asset-base” perspective, focusing on a community’s strengths and positive qualities. How can LISC appeal to funders and investors in today’s media environment, which tends to react almost exclusively to negativity and outrage? she asked. For Udehi, pinpointing an ‘identifiable victim’ is in fact a critical element of appealing to donors. Finding ways to harness the positivity and strength of the communities we work with to unlock additional capital poses both a challenge and an opportunity that LISC and the ELC will continue to grapple with.
The group will also explore LISC’s programmatic activities and determine where they might offer the greatest benefit. Impact investing surfaced high on the list. Jenna Nicholas, who co-chairs the ELC, noted that “the impact investing space has a lot to learn from CDFIs and organizations like LISC.” As CEO of Impact Experience, she should know. Her organization builds relationships between funders, innovators and marginalized communities and its mission dovetails with our own.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Adem Bunkeddeko, Strategy and Innovation Officer
Adem Bunkeddeko works with LISC's national Strategy and Innovation team. Prior to coming to LISC, he worked as a grassroots organizer, as associate director for business initiatives at Brooklyn Community Services, as a leadership fellow at the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, and at the Empire State Development Corporation, where he managed public-private partnerships to revitalize underserved communities throughout Brooklyn. Bunkeddeko holds a BA from Haverford College and an MBA from Harvard University.