Podcast: Lia McIntosh on Community Development

Growing up in St. Louis with a mother who put on a suit and walked out the door with a briefcase made Lia McIntosh (@LiaMcIntosh) interested in business. The Inroads program matched her with Procter & Gamble where she served as an intern for four years. After a business degree at the University of Missouri, Macintosh worked in marketing management at P&G for 12 years. She loved the work but the travel was brutal. It was time for a change.

After getting married, a Ghadi quote stuck with her, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

Her pastor was Emanuel Cleaver, now a congressman representing Missouri’s 5th District. She decided to follow his footsteps in community service and enrolled in seminary.

McIntosh spent a decade serving Methodist congregations in Kansas City and took seriously her vow to lead in word, sacrament, order, and service. Like civic and educational leaders, she sought to inspire a vision and carry the responsibility of a community. “School and church leaders all impact the community,” said McIntosh.

Community organizing is in Lia’s blood. Her dad was a leader in the civil rights movement at a Missouri in college. In 2015, she stepped out of the pulpit into a new ministry of community organizing. After her field experience in organizing, she took on a regional leadership role with her denomination launching new congregations and revitalizing existing ones.

EdFellows: Innovative Community Building

A year ago McIntosh took on a program leadership role in community engagement and innovation at the Kauffman Foundation.

The foundation launched a new program called Education Fellows with the goal of cultivating community leaders who are advocates for education. It’s a nine-month opportunity for civic and faith leaders to learn together. The current cohort of 37 EdFellows meet monthly and have the opportunity to visit other cities together.  The Getting Smart team has had the opportunity to plan and facilitate several site visits with the EdFellows.

“We see dividends in relationships, innovative ideas, and advocating for quality education,” said McIntosh about the innovative program. She anticipates that some will run for school board, lead a PTA, or host internships.

EdFellows is also an opportunity for the foundation to listen to the community and to acknowledge that “those closest to the problem have the solutions.”

The Lawndale Miracle

After visiting a couple of great schools in Chicago, the Ed Fellows spent the afternoon visiting North Lawndale, a low-income African American neighborhood west of downtown.

Wayne “Coach” Gordon kicked off a tour of the redevelopment sparked by Lawndale Christian Development Corporation, “a developer, partner and catalyst for community revitalization in the North Lawndale community.”

Gordon moved into the neighborhood more than 40 years ago and served as a basketball coach at the local high school and started what became the Lawndale Church.

By “loving in a holistic way” and seeking to meet local needs, the church became a real estate developer. Over the last few decades, LCDC has supported the development of a youth center, learning center, pizza parlor, urgent care clinic, health center, eye clinic, recovery center, senior daycare center, social services, cafe, and fitness center. LCDC is active is producing affordable housing by building and renovating local properties and encouraging homeownership.

Over 30 years, Gordon met John Perkins, a Baptist minister from Mississippi. They formed the Christian Community Development Association to spark transformation in communities across the country.

In 2013, Gordon and Perkins wrote Making Neighborhoods Whole: A Handbook for Christian Community Development. It lays out the eight guiding principles of CCDA including reconciliation, redistribution, listening to the community, leadership development, and a holistic approach.

Two years ago, Perkins and Gordon wrote, Do All Lives Matter?: The Issues We Can No Longer Ignore and the Solutions We All Long For.

The Lawndale Miracle wasn’t an overnight change. It was produced by values-based leadership that has been responsive to community, persistent, and smart about leveraging political assets.

Together we’ll make it through

With support from the Kauffman Foundation, CCDA is planning to meet in Kansas City this fall. It was two EdFellows that brought the CCDA partnership opportunity to her. It’s part of listening to the community.

EdFellows is an innovative community-building strategy. It’s about taking smart risks, including multi-sector leaders (faith, civic, social, and business) and taking the long view.

We spoke to McIntosh two weeks into the pandemic and she said about her community, “Together we’ll make it through.”

“With a sense of hope and belief we will rebuild, it won’t be the same, but it can be better,” said McIntosh.

Despite huge inequities and gaps that continue to widen, the pandemic makes clear that “We are connected. We must meet the needs of our neighbor.”

Key Takeaways:
[1:21] Did Lia grow up in Missouri?
[1:29] Why did Lia decide to study business?
[2:04] Did Lia grow up Methodist?
[2:17] How did Lia get an internship at Procter & Gamble?
[3:33] Lia shares how her internship led to a job opportunity after college.
[3:47] Did Lia enjoy her time at P&G? What did the experience teach her?
[4:28] Why did Lia choose to go to a seminary?
[6:06] Did Lia find that this experience was well-aligned with her personal values?
[7:24] Lia shares her perspective on what it is like to lead a church.
[9:08] Wayne ‘Coach’ Gordon speaks about CCDA and community development.
[9:53] Tom and Lia continue their discussion.
[10:20] Would Lia agree with the idea that you’re always “on” as a community leader?
[11:18] After a decade of serving several congregations, Lia decided to join the Kauffman Foundation. What originally drew her to the foundation?
[13:02] Does Lia feel that all of her prior experience has really prepared her for her role at Kauffman? And how would she describe the work that they do at Kauffman?
[14:29] Lia explains what the Education Fellows Program at the Kauffman Foundation is all about!
[16:49] How many Ed Fellows are there this year? And when does the program start and wrap up?
[17:15] Lia details what the Ed Fellows Program looks like and what they’re advocating for.
[18:55] Tom speaks about the schools he, Lia, and a group of Ed Fellows have visited together.
[20:01] Lia gives an overview of what she saw at Lawndale.
[21:21] Jessica shares an important resource: Getting Through on GettingSmart.com.
[22:03] Tom provides some background about Lawndale and Lia gives her reflections.
[23:08] Lia gives her thoughts on one of the themes Coach talked about during their trip: loving in a holistic way.
[24:39] Tom speaks about Lawndale’s pastors’ commitment to the community.
[25:34] Lia talks about another important theme in Lawndale’s community: empowerment.
[27:27] The role ownership played in Lawndale’s success.
[28:18] Coach shares his story of moving to Lawndale in 1975 and why he also believes in the importance of committing to place.
[29:56] Tom and Lia continue their discussion on the themes of ownership, empowerment, and commitment to place at Lawndale.
[31:15] Coach provides his thoughts on community.
[31:49] Tom and Lia discuss the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) Conference and why it is of importance to the Kauffman Foundation.
[35:20] Lia gives advice to other foundations that are trying to approach community development in a thoughtful way.
[36:44] Lia gives her closing thoughts on the importance of community during times of crisis.[39:12] Tom thanks Lia for her community-building work and for joining the Getting Smart podcast!
[39:52] Jessica closes out the podcast by thanking Lia once again and thanking listeners for tuning in.

Mentioned in This Episode:
Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation
The Kauffman Fellows Program
Lia McIntosh
Lawndale Christian Development Corporation
Christian Community Development Association (CCDA)
Wayne ‘Coach’ Gordon
LEAP Innovations
Cristo Rey Network
William Julius Wilson

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Getting Smart Staff

The Getting Smart Staff believes in learning out loud and always being an advocate for things that we are excited about. As a result, we write a lot. Do you have a story we should cover? Email [email protected]

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