Twenty-two years ago, Andrea Levere met Paul Bradley for the first time, before ROC USA was established. Paul worked at the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund and proposed an idea for the Corporation for Enterprise Development’s grant program, where Andrea was the vice president. Just seven years after CFED, which today is Prosperity Now, invested in Paul’s idea, ROC USA was founded and Andrea became the chair of the ROC USA Board.
Now, fifteen years after ROC USA’s start, Andrea reflects on how it all began, discussing the time and effort involved and the fun that was had amid the hard work. She reminisces about and raises up ROC leaders she’s had the pleasure of interacting with, and she looks to the future, projecting more great things to come at ROC USA.
Episode: The History and Future of ROC USA with Andrea Levere
Welcome to the Ownership Matters podcast, where hosts Paul Bradley and Mike Bullard of ROC USA highlight the stories of people at the heart of the resident ownership movement! In today’s episode, Paul and Mike welcome guest Andrea Levere.
0:12 – Today’s episode and guest introduced.
Today’s guest is Andrea Levere, ROC USA’s Board Chair. Andrea is Executive Fellow at the Yale School of Management. In this role, she wrote the blueprint for enterprise capital. She is working with several foundations and the Federal Reserve Banks of New York and San Francisco to advance the practice of enterprise capital, an approach that aims to scale non-profits through a new approach to philanthropy. She is President Emerita of Prosperity Now, an organization that designs and opiates major national initiatives serving low income people building assets and savings. In 2013, President Obama appointed her to the National Cooperative Banks Board of Directors and she has recently been appointed as Board Chair of their new CDFI, Rochdale Capital. She is also the founding and current Board Chair of ROC USA.
2:34 – Andrea’s experience in her first role in the field of manufactured housing.
At Prosperity Now, Andrea and her team ran the Local Capital Markets Investment Fund. The program’s goal was to help fund innovators on the ground who were creating new ways of supporting low income individuals and homeowners to build wealth. They were approached with the idea to create a mortgage product to serve the owners of manufactured homes in resident owned communities in New Hampshire.
4:58 – How investment and financing resident owned communities fit into CDFE’s strategy.
In 2001, the organization was in the process of building out the asset building field. They elevated the fact that wealth creation was as important as income in addressing poverty. They learned quickly that manufactured housing was the most affordable of all the housing development strategies in the country.
8:17 – Andrea’s work with Prosperity Now
After Andrea became President of Prosperity Now, she recruited new team members and created a 4 part theory of change which guided the organization’s work for the next decade. Their focuses were: How to do manufactured housing right? How to build homes that are sustainable, efficient and healthy? How to support resident ownership as a key element in solving the issue that homeowners own their homes, but they don’t own the land underneath their home? How to advance public policy to support homeowners and the creation of a dynamic asset class of homes to serve the public? Finally, how to solve the dilemma of providing owners of manufactured homes with high quality, single family finance?
10:47 – Going back to the start of ROC USA.
It was at the first investment they made in the Loan Fund that the organization began to connect at the conferences of the Local Capitals and Markets Investment Fund with other agencies interested in manufacturing housing. It quickly became clear that there needed to be a scaled social venture out of the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund. Andrea pitched the work they were doing to the President of the Ford Foundation and was awarded a $10 million reserve grant, half of which was for ROC USA. This made all the difference considering the 2008 financial crisis that was to follow.
14:28 – Memories with ROC leaders.
Andrea shares some of her favorite memories of ROC leaders around the country and how ROC USA’s deep engagement with ROC leaders compares to the other national organizations Andrea works with.
19:48 – Andrea’s proudest accomplishment at ROC USA.
She doesn’t just have one proudest accomplishment, but three. The first was to help secure the initial $10 million in funding to launch ROC USA. The second is helping to build a highly effective board that engages in the right ways, provides guidance and sets a standard of high quality advice without micromanaging. The third thing is supporting the staff’s ability to evolve the organizational structure and responsibilities over time to meet the needs of the organization.
21:21 – The future of ROC USA.
There are three things about ROC USA’s latest strategic goals which are most critical. The first goes back to restructuring themselves to serve as a national intermediary for both federal funding and other national sources to help build the infrastructure of manufactured housing communities and create state level pools of capital to address the changes in the marketplace. Second is how they have reimagined their service delivery to serve communities in all different levels of readiness to become resident owned communities. Lastly is building out training, learning and leveraging technology to share what they have learned and how to build capacity in these communities to be successful.
25:08 – The biggest opportunities for ROC USA going forward
Their most recent strategic planning convening focused on environmental sustainability in great depth. The other piece is bringing forth and connecting diverse leaders in this movement.
Learn more about ROC USA through our website.
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