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Annie Donovan knows impact investing. She joined the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) last year, as COO, having built a truly remarkable career in community investment by embracing a pursuit of fairness in economics and finance. She found her way to this mission in part through her roots growing up in a working class family, where she was exposed to ideas of social justice early in life.
After a career working at the national level, she says what attracted her to LISC was its “deep, long-term connection to communities.” Previously, at the CDFI Fund, which provides capital to distressed communities, Annie worked on strategies to address local needs using programs like New Markets Tax Credits, CDFI Bond Guarantee Program, Capital Magnet Fund and the Healthy Food Financing Initiative.
A Pittsburgh native, Annie has described how community investment work ‘found her’ while she was serving in the Peace Corps after college. She says, “I learned powerful lessons about entrepreneurship and community finance – and about the capacity for community members to drive their own success if they have the right resources. I wanted to do more of that kind of work after I returned home.”
Annie has served as CEO of CoMetrics, a social enterprise that works with nonprofits to improve their financial management, and as a senior policy advisor in the Obama Administration. She has been a senior fellow at the Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation at Georgetown University, as well as at the Center for Community Investment at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. She also served as president of the New Markets Tax Credit Coalition.
Insights and Inspirations
- Annie likes toiling close to the ground. She is committed to ‘local.’
- She has a heart for social justice.
- Community engagement is of utmost importance to building equity.
- “You need to know the community where you build”, says Annie.
- We can’t solve the issues of inequity without thinking comprehensively – housing, schools, education, the lot.
- Disruptive capital is critical for solving these problems.
- What if lots of corporations, like Netflix, contributed their PR funds to helping small businesses instead?
Information and Links
- Annie has been deep diving into all the American history we never learned in school. She says Scene on Radio is a fantastic podcast, especially Season 2: Seeing White, and Season 4: The Land that Never has been Yet.
- And she recommends two books she is immersed in: The Color of Money, by Mehrsa Baradaran, and for spiritual food during this crazy year, When Things Fall Apart, by Pema Chodron.
Read the podcast transcript here
Eve Picker: [00:00:11] Hi there. Thanks so much for joining me today for the latest episode of Impact Real Estate Investing. My guest today is Annie Donovan, COO at LISC, an organization deeply rooted in the community. Annie has built a truly remarkable career in community investment by embracing a pursuit of fairness in economics and finance. She found her way to this mission through her roots in Pittsburgh, growing up in a working-class family where she was exposed to ideas of social justice early in life. In no particular order, she has served as a senior policy adviser in the Obama administration’s Office of Social Innovation, as the CEO of the social enterprise, Core Metrics, heading the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund, and she spent two decades at Capital Impact Partners, all before taking over as COO at LISC. Be sure to go to EvePicker.com to find out more about Annie on the show notes page for this episode, and be sure to sign up for my newsletter so you can access information about impact real estate investing and get the latest news about the exciting projects on my crowdfunding platform, Small Change.
Eve: [00:01:39] Hello, Annie, I’m really honored to have you on my show and pretty excited to talk to a fellow Pittsburgher.
Annie Donovan: [00:01:46] Well, thank you, Eve. I’m very happy to be here and I’m always thrilled and delighted to talk to Pittsburghers.
Eve: [00:01:55] Good. So, the first question I have is actually about Pittsburgh. So, you grew up in Pittsburgh, and I’m wondering how that shaped the way you see the world.
Annie: [00:02:04] Thank you for that question. It very much did shape the way I see the world. Well, first of all, let me just tell you a little bit about my context. I grew up on the North Side of Pittsburgh. From an Irish Catholic family, I am the 10th of 11 children.
Eve: [00:02:19] Wow.
Annie: [00:02:19] My father’s family, so he was first generation American. His parents both came from Ireland. They actually bought a house on the North Side. So, the way that my, my parents were actually able to afford to raise a family that big was because my grandparents passed their home on to my parents. And so they never had to pay a mortgage. So, yeah. So, that’s how we sort of made ends meet economically, and, you know, were able to create some mobility in our family.
Eve: [00:02:58] What neighborhood was that?
Annie: [00:03:00] Brighton Heights.
Eve: [00:03:01] Brighton Heights. Ok.
Annie: [00:03:03] But the things about Pittsburgh, you know, when you’re from there or when you’ve lived a long time there, you know, Pittsburgh can take a hit for, you know, being provincial. And that’s certainly the case. I mean, in my parents’ generation, my parents had an ethnically mixed marriage because, you know, my father was Irish, and my mother was part German. But in their generation, people even went to church based on ethnicity. So, you know, so there’s a lot of that sort of ethnic pride and it can feel a little provincial. But Pittsburghers are also very unpretentious and very warm and open hearted, I think, and just possess a lot of resilience and, you know, grit. Those are qualities that I’m very proud to have had instilled in me growing up that I’ve relied on throughout my career.
Eve: [00:03:58] So, you know, I think also what I noticed in Pittsburgh and I heard stories about the steel mills actually purposefully separating neighborhoods into ethnicities.
Annie: [00:04:09] Yes.
Eve: [00:04:10] And that sort of prolonged that here.
Annie: [00:04:13] Yes.
Eve: [00:04:13] And it’s made the city architecturally interesting …
Annie: [00:04:15] Yes.
Eve: [00:04:15] … because the neighborhoods are really distinctive and unique …
Annie: [00:04:20] Yes, yeah, very much so.
Eve: [00:04:21] … and look very different. It’s fascinating. And then, of course, there’s the managers neighborhoods and the steelworker neighborhoods, so you know …
Annie: [00:04:28] Right. And you know, interestingly, what happened in my family, I grew up in a working-class neighborhood and it was very working class. My father actually went to school at night and earned a college degree from Duquesne, and he was the only person in the neighborhood who had a college degree. And he was an accountant. He worked for the Allegheny County. So, we had this interesting blend of, you know, when our country was experiencing sort of white flight. Right, so lots of white folks moving out to the suburbs.
Eve: [00:05:03] Yes.
Annie: [00:05:03] And those white folks moved out and then they went on toward more upward mobility. And we stayed in the working class neighborhood. But we were still, in my family, able to experience upward mobility because we owned our home. And my father had a college degree.
Eve: [00:05:21] A degree, yeah yesh, yeah. What led you into the world of community finance?
Annie: [00:05:25] I had always had, I think, a heart for social justice work. I thought a lot about poverty, and I thought a lot about the kind of injustices that were in my world growing up. Of course, I was born in 1964, Pittsburgh being, you know, not only ethnically divided, but lots of really hard lines around racial division, as well.
Eve: [00:05:54] Yeah.
Annie: [00:05:54] And I have to say, I have to hand it to my mother, because when we were growing up, this is probably the mid-70s and my brothers … well, so, in my family, there are six girls, and then three boys, me, and a boy. So, it’s almost like having two generations, you know. And I grew up with the boys. They wanted to start a street hockey league. And you know so, of course, I was out there playing street hockey with them. I’m a Title IX gal, and they were looking for a coach. And so they put an ad in the newspaper and a guy responded to it. And his name was Curtis. He was from the Hill District. And of course, the Hill District is the historically Black neighborhood. And so they signed him up and he came over to Brighton Heights, which was a very white place, and coached the street hockey team. For me, you know, they just got me thinking about, like, why why do we have these divisions? And I have these ideas of what people from from Black communities were supposed to be like. And he wasn’t like that. He wasn’t like my image. And my mother, you know, they’d play street hockey and it’d be time for dinner, and of course, whoever was around my mother invited in for dinner. So, often times Curtis would eat dinner with us. When we said Grace before dinner, the way he bowed his head and prayed, you know, it just struck me that everything I’d kind of learned about our Black neighbors I didn’t see in him. And so this is what got me thinking, like, what was all that education about? And so I’ve always been on a quest to understand what these racial lines are, too, and what the class lines are. And so, you know, I studied economics in college. Early on in my journey there was a 101 economics class and we were learning about rational thinking and optimization.
Annie: [00:07:53] And I remember thinking, well, this isn’t really a fair way to allocate resources across a society. And so I said that to my professor afterwards, who was, you know, a classically-trained economist who was like, Chicago School. And he said, well, this isn’t about fairness, it’s about efficiency. And that was like, OK, I’ve found my mission. And so, you know, and then I joined the Peace Corps, went to the Peace Corps after college. You know, lived in a very poor place. And then, you know, then it really sunk in because the people that I lived around were supremely resourceful and smart and really dirt poor. And so, what was that about? So, that’s when I became sort of even more fiercely committed to it. And, you know, that’s so, that’s been the pursuit of my career since then, is how do we use the tools of economics and finance, and how do we rewrite them in a way that produces a more inclusive prosperity, because we are leaving a lot of talent on the table.
Eve: [00:09:10] Ok, so you’ve had some really big roles from the White House to the head of the CDFI Fund. And now you’re at LISC. And I’m wondering, I’m familiar with LISC, I actually benefited from a loan from LISC years ago …
Annie: [00:09:23] Good.
Eve: [00:09:23] … for one of my projects. And I’m wondering what brought you there.
Annie: [00:09:28] Yeah. So, what brought me to LISC was, so after my experience at the CDFI Fund, I knew I wanted to go back into practice, because that’s kind of where my heart and soul lies. And so, one of the characteristics about LISC is that it is very committed to local – ‘local initiatives’ is part of our name. And I wanted to be in a place that was toiling more closely to the ground. You know, we have local offices, we have 35 and growing, local offices that really are programmatically focused and focused on capacity building alongside lending. And so, that’s where I saw the ability to more closely connect those pieces and not just be finance oriented. But to get deeper, closer to the community. And then the second thing was I saw in Maurice Jones, a leader in our industry who is boldly ambitious, is ambitious for the sake of impact, and I was attracted to that as well. So, yes, so that’s what drew me to LISC.
Eve: [00:10:41] Then like about community capital, what does community development capital look like today versus 20 years ago?
Annie: [00:10:49] Yeah, that’s a really good question. So, I think 20 years ago, if you think about, or even 25 years ago, you know, the sort of the history of community development or community capital, community investment … The community investment world, really, it braids together organizations and institutions that come from different origin stories. So, there’s the origin story of the black-owned banks and minority depository institutions that got underway right after emancipation, for Black Americans to build wealth. There is the credit union movement that was tending to people of modest means who wanted to come together and save together and, you know, have access to financial services that were owned and controlled by them. And then you had the nonprofit loan fund world that emerged because community development really took shape in the war on poverty and the commitment of the federal government to funding community development corporations. There was an era there where there’s a lot of federal funding, and we can talk about urban policy and how that, you know, CDCs kind of shifted urban policy. But then in the beginning of the Reagan era is when the feds really pulled back. And that’s when loan funds really started to emerge to say, well, we have to create new ways to finance the activity of community development. And that’s when the loan funds really started taking root. And then when Clinton came into office, he created the CDFI fund. And that has been a really important policy innovation, still as a policy innovation today, that has been investing the kind of equity capital that the industry needs to grow, that you can’t really get anywhere else.
Annie: [00:12:46] So, the industry has really blossomed, partly because we had good seed capital and partly because we just have been a bunch of people who have had a faith in the people and the communities that we’re investing in and have found a way to work with traditional and non-traditional sources of capital, to blend them in a way that allows investments to work in, you know, places where, you know, my old economics professor would have said you wouldn’t invest in because it wasn’t efficient, the rate of return wasn’t commensurate with risk, and all those sort of traditional measures, you know, that’s the reason capital doesn’t flow to some of the communities that we care about. And we are becoming more mainstream. And even though we’re still a tiny percentage of the financial services sector, I think through, even through the pandemic, you start to see CDFIs emerge, getting more attention in mainstream media. And certainly LISC has gotten a lot of, we’ve been able to raise a lot of resources through this pandemic because there’s a recognition, and we’ve not only done the investing and gotten the money there where people said it can’t go, but we’ve done it financially in a fiscally responsible way. So, we’ve proven that the places and the people we’re investing in are creditworthy. That has allowed this industry to grow. And I think it’s going to continue to grow. I’m optimistic about that.
Eve: [00:14:19] Years ago, I helped found a CDC in Pittsburgh. And what was really fascinating to me, because I was pretty new here and I didn’t really understand this lay of the land very well, you know, I sort of dropped in from another country. But, you know, all of the work we did was to get us to the same place as neighborhoods and places that were doing OK. And I’ve been in, I’ve been in this work for a long time and we never seem to get there. And so, I’m wondering, you know, because when you take a step forward with CDFIs, and maybe this is, you know, a really naive way to look at it, but you take a step forward with CDFIs, and you take a step back with banks who no longer really want to bank in or lend in communities, or want more equity or want, you know, more traditional products to lend in, and it’s just this never ending catch up, so, how does it all get better.
Annie: [00:15:30] Yeah. So, of course, I, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this and I think a lot of, a lot of folks have been soul searching around this, particularly because of the uprisings, demanding more, you know, racial, that we address racial equity. And so, it does often feel like, you know, some days it really just feels like we are just doing the work of bandaid, you know, putting bandaids on things. And that’s, that’s where I think this the work right now is really important because we can’t be satisfied with what we’ve done because it’s clearly not enough. And, but I think we are in a moment that we have to take, make the best use of, because we can’t do this on our own, as our, with our little bitty organizations. And even if we’re a billion dollars or two billion dollars or 10 billion dollars, we’re still to itty bitty to to create change on the scale that needs to be, that needs to happen. But that doesn’t mean this stuff shouldn’t happen. And it’s, and it does have to happen because even over my career, you know, 25 years ago if somebody had said that you’ll be working for a CDFI or you will help the, you know, build a CDFI, that will get to be a billion dollars. You know, wow, that would have been, because we, these loan funds were starting at, they just wanted to get to 10 million, you know.
Eve: [00:17:04] Right.
Annie: [00:17:05] And and we we wouldn’t be we wouldn’t have the opportunities that are in front of us now if we hadn’t taken all those baby steps to get to here. So, over the long haul, you know, I hope that we can get there. But, you know, there’s the bigger, we have to be able to impact the bigger picture. And, you know, for example, it was discouraging to me when I was at the CDFI Fund, and the second two years I was there under this administration that, you know, that a tax policy got, got enacted that just, you know, felt like it was going to undo everything that we were trying to do. So, there are these macro forces that, you know, that we have to try to turn the tide on.
Eve: [00:18:04] Yeah, that’s depressing. But I know (laughter) but I know it’s a really long patient game because I’ve been, I’ve seen that, you know, on things I’ve worked on that initially were like, what are you doing? You’re nuts to now being, OK, this is mainstream. Like co-working or lofts downtown or revitalizing downtowns …
Annie: [00:18:27] Exactly.
Eve: [00:18:27] … or all of that. And we’re actually …
Annie: [00:18:29] Exactly.
Eve: [00:18:29] … I think you’re right. We’re in a moment. All of the progress we were heading towards has been unbelievably compressed by everything that’s happened this year. So, maybe that’s a good thing, but …
Annie: [00:18:44] Yeah, and I think that it’s also very complex too, right? Because, even we see in some places tremendous progress running exactly alongside of things that feel like tremendous regression …
Eve: [00:18:56] Yes.
Annie: [00:18:56] … you know, so, and both of those things are happening at the same time.
Eve: [00:19:01] Well, what’s … I’m going to ask you, may not know the answer. But I really puzzle about what’s happening in traditional financial institutions. So, you know, I have this crowdfunding platform and what’s been startling to me and, you know, and our purpose is to help raise money for creative change-making projects and help developers get a little equity together, that seems to be a little more and more equity every year as banks change their position on what they lend for. Because we think that creative, those projects are important for making cities better. B
Annie: [00:19:41] Yeh, yes.
Eve: [00:19:41] But it seems to me that they’re retracting even further because we’re just being flooded at the moment, and equity requirements go up. It just seems to be harder and harder to borrow money, to do things, that are different than the things we have today. And we know we need to do things differently to fix some problems.
Annie: [00:20:09] Yeah, yeah. Well, the way I think about this and what I see from my perch is that I think that we have to, we have to start thinking about the world beyond banks, and, you know, think about and work hard on this, you know, the idea of having broader stakeholders. I mean, banks have been brought to the table on community finance because of the Community Reinvestment Act.
Eve: [00:20:45] Right.
Annie: [00:20:45] And so, so what are the ways in which, you know, there might be policy levers that need to be pulled to get more folks to the table. But also, you know, what the next generation of employees and employers, I mean, I think that we’re in for change and I’m really hoping that we’re in for change with the next generation of leaders. Because they have been raised with different expectations and they are already changing, corporate, the way … corporations are reacting. And you see now, you know, we’ve been the beneficiary of, you know, almost a 100 million dollars in corporate contributions that are going out to small businesses, as, you know, in this pandemic, in the form of relief grants.
Eve: [00:21:44] That’s pretty fabulous.
Annie: [00:21:45] And what we did was, the first one that came in, the first corporation that came in and said, can you do this for us? And we said, yes, we can do it for you, but we’re going to do it in our LISC way. And that means we are going to get to community-serving businesses that are majority-owned by people of color and women. And they said, OK, cool. Go ahead and do it. So, you know, and then the next company that came in said we want to buy that, we want to buy, especially as PPP, the paycheck protection program and SBA, major piece of the the CARES Act, you know, was clearly written in a way that was just going to follow the old rules for how you distribute capital. And then people started saying, wait, wait, wait, there has to be other ways to do this. And so the work that we were doing was tipping the scales. We put our thumb on the scale in favor of community-serving small businesses and gave preference, and we’re ending up with, you know, somewhere in the low 90 percent, of the businesses that we’re funding, are owned by people of color.
Eve: [00:23:04] That’s pretty great.
Annie: [00:23:05] And yeah, and in the paycheck protection program, we got to about 80 percent of our companies being minority women- and women-owned companies. And when you put together and in the, on the private sector side, our formula was where we’re going to advantage certain census tracts. We’re going to advantage minority ownership and women ownership, and we’re going to advantage certain size. So, when you line all those up, it’s not that hard to come up with lots of folks to invest in. And that’s where our money’s gone.
Eve: [00:23:43] So, another question I have is looking at the other side of it. If a real estate developer has access to community capital, what should her reciprocal responsibilities be to that community?
Annie: [00:23:59] I think that’s really, really very important because, and we have to all get better at this as well, in terms of how we doing community engagement, and how we’re bringing people into ownership of what happens at the community level. And so I think, you know, there are just these models and this seems to me to be what’s out there on the fringe right now, you know, and it’s always what’s happening on the fringe that’s eventually going to be where where we all go, hopefully. But what I see is, I’ve been been advising on a project that’s being done by a foundation of philanthropy. It’s not a traditional philanthropy. It’s one of the newer philanthropies. And they are, they’re going to do they’re investing in a real estate project in a very, one of the most distressed census tracts in Washington, D.C. And they are bringing together community stakeholders to say, how do we create a vehicle for people who live in that community right now before the development happens? How do we create a vehicle for them to invest in it and to get ownership in it? And those are, I think, the kind of strategies we need to be thinking about. You know, how do we, because otherwise if you just let this play out via market forces, you get gentrification a lot of times.
Eve: [00:25:40] Right, right, right.
Annie: [00:25:42] So, you know, we don’t want to go in that direction. And that that means giving people real ownership stakes.
Eve: [00:25:48] I mean, I agree. That’s what we at Small Change, I’m having similar conversations with some very large developers who are starting to think about that ownership piece, in really humongous projects in D.C. and New York. And it’s really exciting to see that people are thinking about it. It is hopeful.
Annie: [00:26:08] So, yeah. And if you think about like, so, another example, and this is not at the project level, this is at the fund level. But, you know, we’re managing we’re going to be managing money on behalf of Netflix. And Netflix went out, and this was somebody inside Netflix who said, you know, in their treasury department, why are we sitting on all this money and not thinking about where it’s invested? Why don’t we get this to black-owned institutions and, you know, and that, and that’s when, so, you know, like back to your question, when are we ever going to see this get better? I mean, that’s when it’s going to get better, right? When that person inside that corporation goes to the CEO, and the CEO says, yeah, absolutely, why aren’t we doing that?
Eve: [00:26:53] Yeh, yeh.
Annie: [00:26:53] And then you put it out there. And once, when Netflix put that out there and they made the investment in us, we had so many corporations respond to say, well, how do we do that, too? So, that’s what we have to do. We have to create the bandwagon. But the bandwagon that’s moving money in this direction.
Eve: [00:27:12] Yeh. Yeh, yeh. So, I mean, how would you define impact investing then?
Annie: [00:27:20] Ok, so impact investing to me, I always define it as it’s a spectrum, right, because I like I think it’s important for all of us to have a big umbrella and be inclusive. Right? And on one end of the impact investing spectrum are the folks that would say, you know, you can invest, and do good and do well at the same time. Right? And there’s not really a trade off. And then the other end of the spectrum is, you know, where my work has always been, which is on the whether you call it concessionary or catalytic capital, where you’re trying to, because on that that first end of the spectrum, you’re not disrupting any kind of the market forces. You’re sort of saying the market can do this, but there’s something missing in terms of information flow. So, if everybody had perfect information, then you know that that would solve the problem. So, I’ve never bought into that because I don’t think that it accounts for the systemic racism that exists in our society and in our economy. And so, I think you have to be more disruptive than that. And that requires capital that, that is, that can be designed in a, and stacked and engineered in a way that allows more people to get access to it, to do the kind of projects, to create the kind of businesses that are going to let them into, you know, more economic activity. So, yeah. And my dream is always in my work is always trying to think about, how do we get the people who are on one end of the spectrum down toward the catalytic end? Because if you want to disrupt poverty, you can’t do it on the market end, purely market end.
Eve: [00:29:28] No. Interesting. I mean, impact investing has been growing, I still think it’s small. Do you expect, I’m, I suppose I’m wondering if you expect this, the events of this year to rapidly increase interest in that, too. Well, certainly if you see it from Netflix.
Annie: [00:29:52] Yeah, I think I think it is. And I think the question is, you know, the question that’s on our mind at LISC is how do we, how do we convert the short-term interest into long-term relationships. Because, and how do we get people to see? Because actually, frankly, in the short run, it’s good for a corporation’s brand to step up and do this kind of work.
Eve: [00:30:17] Oh, yeh.
Annie: [00:30:17] I mean they’re … Yeah, and there’s not really much at stake there. And frankly, you know, they could direct, if they wanted to, they could purely direct this out of their PR budgets.
Eve: [00:30:28] Yes.
Annie: [00:30:29] You know, and so how do we, how do we, you know, convert people to the long-term play? That’s the work that’s in front of us right now.
Eve: [00:30:40] Right. So, Just shifting gears a little bit, how, you know, what do we need to think about to make our cities and neighborhoods just better places for everyone?
Annie: [00:30:55] Yeah. I think that we have to, we have to think comprehensively, first of all. So, I don’t think, that’s the other another reason that I wanted to join LISC is because I like the comprehensive approach. Because I don’t think there’s any one dimension to neighborhood life that is a silver bullet. Right? So we have to invest more in education and housing stability is fundamental to economic mobility. And so, we have to invest in all of these things. And, you know, back to, back to the big picture of tax policy and how we tax and spend. I do think we just, the thing is, we know exactly what we need to do.
Eve: [00:31:54] Yes.
Annie: [00:31:55] We just have to invest in it. Right? We know the payoff of early childhood education. We know the payoff of education in general. We know the payoff of preventive health care. So, you know, what more evidence do you need? We just need to have the will and the commitment as a society. And once that’s there, I think everything else follows.
Eve: [00:32:24] Yeh. And I see physically, too, we know the payoff of neighborhood parks and better streets and better lighting and all of those things that everyone wants in their own neighborhood. And some people don’t have.
Annie: [00:32:39] Right. And we have to develop we have to develop our collective will to say that that’s not OK. That’s not the world we want to live in.
Eve: [00:32:49] So, what community engagement tools have you seen that have worked that, you know, you mentioned that that’s a critical piece of it and that’s hard.
Annie: [00:32:59] It is hard. It’s hard for a lot of reasons, one of which is that when community developers who don’t know community, if they don’t know the community, if you’re coming in to this, you know, as a sort of professional, you may have certain assumptions about what people, and I think one of the things we make a mistake on this all the time, like what does the community want? Well, you know what? Not everybody in the community agrees on what they want, just like, and just like in your community, you know.
Eve: [00:33:35] Yes.
Annie: [00:33:35] So, I think starting with listening, and being open is really, really important. And so, I mentioned a, you know, the project where, you know, in Washington, D.C., where the funder was coming in and actually saying, OK, we want to do, we want the result of, to be that people have an ownership stake. But why don’t we find out from the community what that means to them, how they would do it? What, is that what you, is that what’s really wanted? You know, so I think, you know, good community engagement starts with listening, not making assumptions and and bringing people in and just providing the space for voices to be to be heard and listened to. And, you know, just having a faith in that. That that’s, you know, that that’s going to going to lead you down the right path is a good way to get people involved. And I think that also, you know, when I started my career, after I got back from the Peace Corps, I went to work for the Campaign for Human Development. And in that work, we funded a lot of community organizing. And the ability of communities to organize themselves is also an important piece of this. Like the, there’s very little investment that goes into community organizing. And I think that’s a really important component.
Eve: [00:35:24] You know, that’s what I was just going to say, because I think about, like when you’re a very large developer doing a large scale project, you can absorb that community organizing piece.
Annie: [00:35:35] Yes.
Eve: [00:35:35] But when you’re a small developer doing like interstitial projects that are, you know, fit into a neighborhood, that becomes a pretty heavy lift in terms of resources …
Annie: [00:35:46] Exactly.
Eve: [00:35:46] … and there to help, and how do you get that done properly. It’s really, it’s hard. It’s hard.
Annie: [00:35:53] Right. Right. And it’s also, you know, and we need more philanthropy dollars in that because that’s a really hard role for government to play. And we administer a lot of Section 4 money, and that’s out of the HUD budget, and that’s for capacity building of local organizations, and, tt’s really hard money to work with.
Eve: [00:36:16] Yes. Yeh, yeh.
Annie: [00:36:16] You know, it’s, so there’s a need for investment in, of flexible dollars into neighborhood organizing and leadership development.
Eve: [00:36:27] Yeah, no, I agree. So, what’s what’s next for you and LISC? I mean, what do you think the next five years will look like in this pretty fast-moving time that we’re having here?
Annie: [00:36:40] Yes. So. Well, I think that we are on a pathway, move, you know, moving to the next level of growth and scale. And for us, that’s about how do we, how do we use the assets that we’ve built so far to get to the next, to get to that next level? And I think for us, you know, putting impact first, you know, the racial equity piece of this is really important. And I think, I am very hopeful that we are going to be able to do the deeper work there, that we’re going to, you know, take, choose the pathway of doing the harder, deeper work. Because the long-term outcome is going to be better. And we’re going to, you know, try to bring our partners along for that ride. And I think that we are through this period, we have greatly increased our capacity to reach small businesses, and to think about inclusive economic development. How do we build the infrastructure for more inclusive economic development? And ecosystems that support community, small community-owned or locally owned small businesses? And, you know, and we have to be thinking about how are we disrupting systems? So, because we’re at the edges of them now, you know, in terms of their usefulness and we have to build something that’s built to suit, for the next level of scale. So.
Eve: [00:38:41] Thank you very much. I really enjoyed the conversation. And I can’t I really can’t wait to see what you build and where LISC goes and where you go with all this.
Annie: [00:38:52] Well, thank you and I love the work that you’re doing, every dimension, you know, that, every strategy that brings in more capital and the, you know, more of the kind of equity capital that you’re pulling in and democratizing that, I think is a really powerful strategy. And I also wish you the best.
Eve: [00:39:17] Yeh, all takes … Thank you, Annie.
Annie: [00:39:19] Yes. I can’t wait to. I can’t wait to see that happening.
Eve: [00:39:22] Bye.
Annie: [00:39:22] OK. Bye, bye.
Eve: [00:39:29] That was Annie Donovan. Annie thinks we need to start thinking about the world beyond banks. We need to find a way to let communities invest in order to change how we tackle development. To give them a real stake in their own future. Listening is key, as is providing the space for people to be heard. For Annie, impact investment needs to have a big umbrella and be deeply inclusive. She also understands playing the long game, saying that we know exactly what to do, but that we need to develop as a society, the collective will to invest in that knowledge. You can find out more about impact real estate investing and access the show notes for today’s episode at my website, EvePicker.com. While you’re there, sign up for my newsletter to find out more about how to make money in real estate while building better cities. Thank you so much for spending your time with me today and thank you any for sharing your thoughts. We’ll talk again soon. But for now, this is Eve Picker, signing off to go make some change.
Images courtesy of Annie Donovan / LISC, and by Tim Mossholder from Pexels