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Founded in 1991 as an informal partnership of seven foundations and an insurance company with a commitment to “help improve under-invested urban neighborhoods and local community-development organizations,” Living Cities (LC) was originally named the National Community Development Initiative. It has since has grown into a philanthropic collaborative of 22 of the world’s largest foundations and financial institutions. Among its members are the AARP Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Surdna Foundation, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
LC aims to “strengthen neighborhood institutions from the bottom up and re-engineer, from the top down, the public systems that fail to create adequate opportunities.” In an effort to “improve the lives of low-income people and the urban areas in which they live,” the organization seeks to “bring philanthropy, investors and the public sector together to help re-imagine underinvested neighborhoods and find new ways to connect low-income people to economic opportunities.”
LC focuses its philanthropy on several major concerns:
In addition to the foregoing initiatives, LC also holds periodic Catalytic Convenings—“strategic forums” that “facilitate the exchange of information from diverse perspectives and allow members to build relationships with a broader range of actors needed to create transformative change in America’s cities.” LC held its first “catalytic convening” in partnership with MacArthur Foundation and the White House Council on Environmental Quality in March 2011, with a focus on accelerating retrofits in commercial and multifamily properties.
LC’s board of directors boasts a number of influential executives as well as leaders from the most powerful progressive foundations in the U.S., including all those listed in the first paragraph as well as the Fannie Mae Foundation. Some of these leaders also have had ties to the Clinton-Gore Administration and the Nature Conservancy.
To promote its agendas as actively as possible, LC conducts intensive, two-day boot camps that convene at the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation (at Harvard’s JFK School of Government), where major stakeholders from various geographic areas gather to discuss critical issues facing their respective communities. Each LC boot camp has enjoyed the support and cooperation of the Barack Obama administration, which has given the participants ample opportunity to communicate directly with the federal agencies that have influence over their work.
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 Emphasizing that neither philanthropic, private, or public funds are sufficient, on their own, to address the problems plaguing American society, LC contends that “we can’t ‘nonprofit’ our way out of our problems but neither can we fix them solely with government grants or market forces.”
 Former Fannie Mae CEO Franklin Raines and Goldman Sachs official Alicia Glenn are key figures at ECP. Further, ECP president Doris Koo and LISC president Michael Rubinger both sit on the board of Joel Rogers's Emerald Cities Collaborative.)
 Four months after that first "catalytic convening," LC's Integration Initiative Symposium convened White House officials and key staffers representing ten federal agencies to discuss ways in which the federal government could better utilize community development financial institutions to revitalize America’s cities.
 LC's Green Boot Camp, for instance, focused on efforts to create jobs “especially for lower-income people” and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions through energy-efficiency retrofit initiatives in buildings in numerous locations. And a Neighborhood Stabilization boot camp convened local officials from 12 of the regions hit hardest by the housing crisis, to develop strategies for dealing with rampant foreclosures.
(Information on grantees and monetary amounts courtesy of The Foundation Center, GuideStar, ActivistCash, the Capital Research Center and Undue Influence)