The theme of our Conference is Lending Where it Counts. Lending where it counts is our purpose; it’s what motivates CDFIs and distinguishes us. We do this lending not just where it counts but for people who count... I want to speak today about the people who count — people who count for CDFIs; people who count in America.

I’m not talking about a census. I’m talking about the fundamental principles we embrace as a nation: the belief that all are welcome in the United States; the belief that all are welcome to the American dream of equality and prosperity. I don’t have to tell you this promise is not fulfilled for far too many people. You know it. It’s why you’re here right now.”

With these words, OFN’s President and CEO Lisa Mensah ushered in OFN’s 2019 Annual Conference during her keynote speech first thing on Monday, October 21.

In her roughly 20-minute speech, Lisa expanded on the Conference theme, looking from Lending Where it Counts to the people and communities impacted by CDFI lending and partnership: "CDFIs exist because we believe Every. Person. Counts. We believe all communities count. When a CDFI makes a loan to a bright, excited entrepreneur, we’re saying: You count! When we extend a mortgage to a first-time homebuyer, we’re saying: You count! When we finance a rural health center or open a small-town credit union, we’re saying: You count! CDFIs see opportunity and potential in people and places. We seek diamonds in the rough. We invest in future successes... We move money into communities because all people count."

Lisa shared stories of Native CDFIs in Hawaii, homeowners in Detroit, and community developers in the Appalachian community of Elk City, ending with a call to action for the entire CDFI community — policy champions, new and longtime partners, investors, and funders, and practitioners across the U.S.: “Let us unite and say to people in Detroit and Elk City, in Native and Latinx communities across the U.S... let us say to people in the deep South and the remote North and on both coasts: “We see you. You are important. You belong. And you count.”

(OFN 2019 Conference: Lisa Mensah Speech on Vimeo.)

Read the full transcript here.

See more 2019 OFN Conference highlights — speaker videos, session materials, photos, and blog recaps — at  conference.ofn.org!

 

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