On this episode of the Capital for Good podcast, host Georgia Levenson Keohane speaks with Lisa Mensah, president and CEO of Opportunity Finance Network, and one of the country’s leaders, and leading voices and visionaries, in the field of community and economic development.
We spoke with Mensah at the start of the new year, only days after the attack on the Capitol, and before the inauguration of the Biden-Harris Administration. In our conversation, we explore the world of community development finance institutions (CDFIs) — their rich history, diversity, and critical role as “financial first responders” during the COVID-19 crisis. Mensah helps us understand how CDFIs blend traditional banking and financial tools with “a good measure of heart” in the form of patient and flexible capital, technical assistance, and deep community knowledge, making them particularly well suited to meet this moment. In addition to traditional sources of public sector and philanthropic support, we learn how new sources of capital, including corporate investment, from the likes of Google, Twitter, and others, are making real these companies’ commitments to stakeholder capitalism and helping OFN and CDFIs “finance justice.” We end on a bright note, discussing the resources for CDFIs in the December stimulus, and, more broadly, ways in which the new administration can support CDFIs to “finance hope” and help struggling communities across the United States build back stronger.
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