Giving Compass' Take:

• The MacArthur Foundation interviews Rebecca Riley, Andrew Mooney, and Carlos Nelson about the impact of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation on Chicago neighborhoods.

• What successful strategies can be emulated in other communities? 

• Read about the effectiveness of community democracy programs. 

Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC)/Chicago is the local office of the nation’s leading community development support organization, backing local initiatives in primarily low- and moderate-income neighborhoods to help forge resilient and inclusive communities of opportunity.

What was the state of the community development field locally when LISC/Chicago began?

Riley: After decades of unresponsive government leadership, neighborhood disinvestment, and racist housing policies and programs, communities drew upon Chicago’s robust local traditions of grassroots organizing to fight back. In the 1960-70s, nonprofits were created at the neighborhood level to tackle widespread housing and economic development challenges. A key problem for these organizations was the lack of resources.

The Ford Foundation, seeing this need as a crisis and an opportunity, launched the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) in 1979. This new national entity would provide grass roots development agencies, often in the form of community development corporations (CDCs), financial and technical assistance through a network of affiliated offices.

How did LISC/Chicago’s work shift in the 1990s?

Mooney: We convened the civic community in Chicago to undertake a critical review of the state of neighborhood development in 1996 during my tenure at LISC/Chicago. The Futures Committee issued a seminal report, “Changing the Way We Do Things,” that transformed the way that organizers, funders, practitioners, and residents of the city thought about the serious business of improving their neighborhoods.

What was the impact of NCP on the low- to moderate-income communities your organization serves?

Nelson: The New Communities Program really centered around community engagement; it was about convening residents, and not just homeowners and renters, but other stakeholders, like business owners.

Read the full article about Local Initiatives Support Corporation at MacArthur Foundation