About Us

Living Cities is a collaborative of leading philanthropic foundations and financial institutions committed to closing the racial income and wealth gap so that all people in U.S. cities can live economically sustainable and abundant lives.

We promote equitable and inclusive wealth building by addressing barriers to capital investment, shared knowledge, and the collective action of its members, partners, and network of city leaders.

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Our Vision

All people in U.S. cities are economically secure, building wealth and living abundant, dignified, and connected lives.

Our Mission

To close the racial wealth gap using the collective power of philanthropy, financial institutions and local governments.

Our Strategy

To advance inclusive capital in key wealth-building pathways for Black, Indigenous, Latine and Asian Americans.

We Are Values-Driven

Living Cities’ core values are fundamental to our success and act as light posts that help us stay on track and achieve our mission. Our core values are collaboration, innovation, leadership, impact, and racial equity and inclusion.

These organizational values guide our everyday decisions about how, why, and what we do:

Collaboration

As a partnership of foundations and financial institutions, collaboration is at the core of our work. We believe that respect, diverse perspectives, power-sharing, and the open exchange of ideas among varied partners will lead to the structural changes necessary to close racial income and wealth gaps.

Innovation

Changing broken systems and closing racial gaps requires disrupting the status quo and elevating and sustaining successful ideas from communities while recognizing the value in fresh approaches to old problems. We aim to take risks and test novel solutions in service of economic opportunity for all.

Leadership

We continually ask difficult questions, engage in uncomfortable conversations, challenge obsolete assumptions, and support others to do the same to close racial gaps in our institutions and across systems. We strive to lead by example and to learn from the labor of those who came before us and those who continue to do the work.

Impact

We are committed to the economic security of all people in U.S. cities by undoing racist systems that create disparities for people of color. Through race-centered approaches and a results focus, we hold ourselves accountable to this commitment and are intentionally self-reflective as we work to continuously improve.

Racial Equity and Inclusion

Racism is at the root of so many of the problems we are trying to solve, so addressing racism must be squarely at the center of how we work. We rely on each other to hold the organization accountable to moving the needle on racial equity and inclusion by living the following cultural norms: work to understand history and the ongoing legacy of racism, interrogate our own biases, extend mutual acknowledgment and respect, challenge damaging power norms, be open to vulnerability and risk.

Our People

The Living Cities Team

We are driven by a set of core values that guide our decisions every day about what we do, why we do it, and how we will achieve our mission. We believe this is fundamental to our organization’s success.

Meet Our People

HIstory

Advancing economic equity and opportunity

Over the course of our history, we have remained committed to improving the lives of people in U.S. cities. In 2007, we pivoted from our original focus on neighborhood-level transformation to address the many, interrelated systems—education, transit access, workforce development and more—that impact peoples’ economic well-being, and since then have evolved to our current commitment of closing racial income and wealth gaps in U.S. cities.

This timeline is a brief overview of our racial equity journey:

2023

Initiating Systems Change

A cohort of six cities in the Network created work plans to build BIPOC wealth through home and business ownership.

Living Cities also entered into a partnership with Known, a values-aligned finance and asset management firm, paving the way for Catalyst Fund III, a $100m fund of funds.

2022

Expanding Influence

Living Cities published a book – Systemic Racism 101 – and shared our Reckoning with Race curriculum, co-developed with key partners and our cohort of cities. Our Closing the Gaps Network grew with formal commitments from 15 additional cities, and we launched the Breaking Barriers to Business initiative in the South.

2021

Laying a Foundation

During this year of reckoning with cohort cities, we built relationships, historical analysis, and racial equity competencies and lifted community voices. We also said goodbye to long-time CEO Ben Hecht and welcomed incoming leader and former board member, Joe Scantlebury.

2020

Hope over Despair

Living Cities supported city and community partners – and LC members – during the trauma of the pandemic and public lynching of George Floyd, and in fall of 2020, launched the Closing the Gaps Network with teams from six cities.

2019

Increasing Focus

At our May 2019 Board meeting, members adopted a portfolio for the next three years of work that focused resources on rooting out racism in public systems and using capital in innovative ways to close racial income and wealth gaps.

2018

New Partnership

Through partnership with the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE), a project of Race Forward and the Center for Social Inclusion and the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society, Living Cities worked with five cities to normalize conversations about race and operationalize new behaviors and policies.

2018

Colleagues Operationalizing Racial Equity launch

The Colleagues Operationalizing Racial Equity (CORE) team launched to dedicate staff to operationalizing racial equity in our work. Living Cities board approved a racial equity vision and values statement.

2017

Living Cities Commits to Anti-Racist Work

Living Cities began internal work to become an anti-racist organization and to hold ourselves accountable. Reforms made in response to a racial equity audit included an Undoing Racism training for staff, racial equity competency building in recruiting, and staff survey to better understand competencies and skills.

2016

Racial Equity Here Initiative launch

Through this initiative, designed by the RUSC Task Force and the result of the New Member Compact commitment, five cities began work with the Government Alliance on Race & Equity (GARE) to apply a racial equity lens to local government.

2016

Blended Catalyst Fund launch

The Blended Catalyst Fund is a structured debt fund with a portfolio of investments that work to test innovative investment approaches to address the racial wealth gap, shift power within capital systems, and achieve better outcomes for all people in U.S. cities.

2015

Race in U.S. Cities Task Force Launches

A new task force is launched to address structural racial inequities. In confronting the shocking headlines about Freddie Gray and others, we couldn’t avoid reckoning with the history of America—from genocide and slavery, to Jim Crow and mass incarceration — and the role that institutions like ours have played in perpetuating inequity.

2015

Freddie Gray's Death Sparks Change

At a May Board meeting, Living Cities discussed how our collaborative should respond to Freddie Gray’s death and the pattern of police brutality. A task force was established to determine how we might collectively respond, an action that would not have been possible without staff encouragement.

2010

Establish The Integration Initiative

Living Cities officially established The Integration Initiative (TII), a cross-sector, multi-city initiative “to transform the lives of low-income people and the communities in which they live.” The project was directly based on more than a decade of lessons learned about how change happens in U.S. cities.

2008

Catalyst Fund launch

Designed by Living Cities philanthropic and private sector members, the Catalyst Fund was launched to attract new investors by reducing the cost and perceived risk of investment with the ability to invest side-by-side with PRI stalwarts such as Ford, MacArthur, and Casey Foundations.

2008

Project on Municipal Innovation Launch

We launched several new initiatives focused on supporting cross-sector leaders in places to move beyond delivering programs, toward accelerating the range and adoption of solutions that could effect lasting change to benefit low-income people.

2007

Shift Focus to Neighborhoods & System Transformation

In 2007, we made an extraordinary pivot to leverage the full capacity of our remarkable collaborative, shifting from a core focus on community development to a multidisciplinary focus on neighborhood and system transformation. Ben Hecht came on board as CEO and President to lead this effort.

2005

Living Cities Supports Gulf Coast Rebuild After Katrina

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, our members passed millions of dollars through Living Cities to the Gulf Coast, an area previously absent of philanthropic funds.

2001

Living Cities Is Emerged

Living Cities, in its current form, emerged from NCDI to continue providing capital and building the capacity of Community Development Corporations (CDCs) and to better support the growing needs of the collective.

1999

The National Community Development Initiative Invests $250 million

Several early participants joined Living Cities, including the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the McKnight Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Bankers Trust Co. (later Deutsche Bank), NationsBank (later Bank of America), and Chase Manhattan Bank (later JP Morgan Chase).

1991

Expanding the Work of CDCs

The National Community Development Initiative (NCDI) was founded in 1991, with an initial focus on providing capital and building the capacity of local community development corporations (CDCs). As financial institutions were subject to the Community Reinvestment Act, banks joined the NCDI effort to expand the work of CDCs.

Annual Reports

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