At the 2018 OFN Conference in Chicago, practitioners representing 304 CDFIs and 85 funders and investors, from 46 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Canada gathered for two and half days of an intense, practitioner-driven curriculum. With more than 90 sessions, plus many opportunities to network, our attendees celebrated past successes and looked for more opportunities to align capital investment with justice.
The Conference opened with Chicago’s own Grammy-nominated Ricky Dillard and the New G, who spread goodwill with their uplifting contemporary R&B Gospel tunes. Warm welcoming remarks were delivered by Senator Dick Durbin (IL), Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago President Charles Evans, and President of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Julia Stasch.
Our opening plenary, Change Agents, featured three dynamic speakers—all together, they shared experiences spanning six decades. Jim Capraro of Capraro Consulting, Sister Corinne Florek of Religious Communities Investment Fund, and Craig Nash of Chicago CRED inspired the audience with real-life stories of confronting some of America’s greatest challenges head-on.
In her keynote speech, This is Our Time, OFN President and CEO Lisa Mensah encouraged us to use our decades of accumulated experience to ensure that America lives up to its claim as the land of opportunity. You can read the full transcript here. Later that evening, at the 13th Annual Native Awards ceremony, Mazaska Owecaso Otipi Financial Inc. was honored with the 2018 Circle of Honor Award, and Tawney Brunsch, Executive Director of the Lakota Funds, was recognized with the Visionary Leader Award.
Day two began bright and early with the Annual Fun Run to benefit the Justice Grant Awardee, LUCHA, that was honored for their work in affordable housing. The OFN Membership Meeting included candidate speeches and the election of five members of the OFN Board of Directors. Congratulations to David Beck, Self Help; Betsy Biemann, CEI; Marla Bilonick, Latino Economic Development Center; Robert Villarreal, Bankers Small Business CDC of California; and Pearl Wicks, Hope Enterprise Corporation/Hope Credit Union.
At lunch the second day CDFI Fund Director Annie Donovan reminded us all of our commitment to our communities with her uplifting words and also addressed upcoming changes to CDFI certification designed to grow the industry. Nancy O. Andrews, a lifelong industry champion who recently retired as CEO of LIIF, was honored as the Ned Gramlich Lifetime Achievement Award for Responsible Finance, where she declared she felt like she was “just getting started.” The second plenary luncheon concluded with an intriguing conversation between Lisa Mensah and Ariel Investment Chairman, CEO, and Chief Investment Officer, John W. Rogers, Jr., where they discussed how CDFIs can broaden strategies for minority communities in A Full Court Press for Diversity: Broadening our Strategies.
To relive these moments, see photos, check out videos, access resources (including many Conference presentations from the 90+ sessions) go to the 2018 OFN Conference recap page. And Save the Date for the 2019 OFN Conference, October 20-23 in OFN's new home, Washington, D.C.!
Thank you again to our wonderful sponsors and co-hosts who help us make this the must-attend event for CDFIs each year.