Jane Campbell and Lisa Mensah catch up with an OFN Conference attendee in Washington, D.C.
The NDC Academy, a longstanding biennial event hosted by the National Development Council (NDC), is only a few weeks away. OFN is a proud collaborative sponsor. This packed program brings together nonprofit and governmental development professionals to learn how to fully use federal, state, and local development finance tools, share best practices, and advocate for the preservation and improvement of tools that have proven successful at local and national levels.
The NDC Academy takes place October 23-25 in Washington, D.C.
CDFI Connect had the opportunity to sit down with Jane Campbell, Director of Public Policy for NDC, to learn more about this year’s Academy and why CDFIs should plan to attend.
Tell us about the Academy:
The Academy exists for two reasons: the first is to allow practitioners in the field of economic and community development to share best practices with each other, the second is to understand and influence federal policy developments in community development. This is a smaller event, with just over 300 attendees, so people get an opportunity to really get hands-on in the sessions and in their networking.
We find our participants learn more from each other than from any one of the sessions, so we intentionally structure the event to be very interactive. One way we do that is with the NDC Academy Awards. This entails four semi-finalists who compete in each of four categories. The semi-finalists are chosen based on their extraordinary products in small business lending, affordable housing, using innovative financing, and investing in infrastructure. Each semi-finalist has an opportunity to show off the how and why of their project. Attendees then vote on a final winner. This award process is exciting both for the nominees and for the attendees, and is a wonderful way to show off innovation in the field.
New this year we are introducing more opportunities to really network with our sponsors and have high-level conversations in our Showcase. This is replacing the traditional tradeshow model. The showcase is intended to allow attendees to get a deep dive into the specifics of projects that are helping communities. We also structured the Academy so sessions are 75 min with 15 min break. We asked each speaker to stay for the full 15 min networking break. We took to heart the feedback that people want more time to talk to each other and with the speakers on a one-on-one basis.
What are some of the main areas of focus for attendees?
The event is really a combination of training, networking, and policy influence.
For us, right now, the most significant federal policy discussion is the Tax Reform conversation. What happens with Low Income Housing Tax Credits, New Markets Tax Credits, the Historic Tax Credit, continued tax exemption for Municipal Bonds, and the like are going to have an impact on the three pillars of NDC: jobs, housing and community development. So we have invited staffers from both the House and Senate, on both sides of the aisle, to share with us what is really going on. We invite staffers because ultimately this is who we work with on a day-to-day basis.
Another highlight is a panel that will allow members of the new Administration to share insights. This panel is made mostly of Assistant Secretaries, and will include someone from Treasury, someone from HUD and possibly someone from the Department of Agriculture. We have invited White House staff as well.
Our sessions are around four key tracks: Investing in Small Businesses, Innovating Project Finance, Rebuilding our Public Infrastructure, and Building Affordable Housing.
In addition to our sessions, we have a Hill Day, and scheduled Hill visits take place the better half of Tuesday.
Who should attend?
We generally have 60% attendees that are people in state and local government who work with CDFIs. They are finance staff and community/ economic development officers. The remaining 40% of attendees are people from CDEs, CDFIs and investor partners.
Because the Academy is organized by tracks we attract individuals who are looking to develop more capacity. For instance a CDFI might want to send a new team member or someone who has risen to a higher level within their organization. Or if someone who has a real hankering to understand the latest and greatest in one of our tracks, this is a great opportunity to learn something you don’t do every day.
What are you most looking forward to this year?
Watching the collaboration between the participants. Because we only do this every other year, we need to build it in a way that people can work together when their interaction after the session is more virtual. I believe you can have much better conversations going forward when you have done something together in person.