Welcome to the 2023 Rural LISC Annual Seminar, Rural Talks Innovation and Investment!

Join us as we create purposeful connections and intentional dialogue around innovative approaches to solving complex rural challenges. On December 11-14, 2023, hundreds of thought leaders from across rural America will gather, both in Coachella Valley, California, and virtually, to share and learn innovative approaches to rural community and economic development.

At Rural LISC, our mission is to support resilient and inclusive rural communities as great places to live, work, and innovate. Rural LISC strives to assist rural communities in solutioning for complex challenges by deploying resources and programs that reflect local needs. We achieve this through integrated strategies and programs focused on five pillars of rural community development: Creative Capital, Broadband & Infrastructure, Workforce Development, Housing, and Disaster Solutions. The Rural LISC Annual Seminar is where we showcase the brilliant minds across rural America who help us live out our mission every day.

Come learn and network with fellow rural community development partners and investors. The Coachella Valley awaits!


Pre-Seminar Session: Building Capacity in Distressed Communities

Open invitation, in person

9:00 – 9:15 AM PST
Welcome and Introductions

LISC’s strategy and historic role around Capacity Building across the country. Share about our resources that allow us to provide TA/CB, including HUD Section 4, HUD DCTA and USDA RPN.

Madeline Fraser Cook

Vice President, Community Building and Resilient Solutions, LISC

Nadia Villagrán

Program Director, Fund Development and Strategic Partnerships, Rural LISC

9:15 – 10:15 AM PST
Building Capacity in Distressed Communities

Join us for an engaging conversation on what capacity building looks like in practice in communities impacted by disaster. What strategies, resources and support services does LISC provide? How do communities secure TA support, receive that support and see long-term impact? Discussion will include best practices related to the HUD Section 4 program.

Session Moderator:

Madeline Fraser Cook

Vice President, Community Building and Resilient Solutions, LISC

Session Speakers:

David Ferrier

Housing Director, RCAC

Kristyna Jones

Founder and Managing Partner, KJones Advisors

Pam Johnson

Senior VP of Partnerships and Programs,FAHE

10:15 – 11:30 AM PST
Public Funding after a Disaster - How To

Disaster recovery experts Hagerty Consulting to share what funding is available pre and post a disaster, how organizations/communities can prepare, what they should be doing during a disaster, and recommendations/does and don’ts after a disaster hits, to make themselves qualify for the most disaster public funding available.

Session Speakers:

Tracy Philips

Deputy Director of Recovery, Hagerty Consulting

Stan Gimont

Senior Advisor for Community Recovery, Hagerty Consulting

9:00 AM – 1:30 PM PST

Pre-Seminar Session: Intermediary Coalition Meeting

By Invitation Only

9:00 AM – 1:30 PM PST

Pre-Seminar Session: USDA Rural Partners Network (RPN) Training & Development

RPN Participants Only

9:00 AM – 2:00 PM PST

Pre-Seminar Session: Rural Works & Integrated Workforce Solution Partners

By Invitation Only

2:30 PM – 5:30 PM PST

Rural Advisory Committee (RAC) Meeting

By Invitation Only

6:00 PM – 9:00 PM PST

Opening Reception & Dinner - Outdoor Mexican Fiesta

Join us for the 2023 Rural LISC Seminar opening reception!

Caitlin Cain

Vice President, LISC and Executive Director, Rural LISC

Michael T. Pugh

Chief Executive Officer, LISC

Pedro Rodriguez

Chief Executive Officer, Coachella Valley Housing Coalition

Rockette Ewell

Vice President, California Region Manager, Community Affairs, U.S. Bank

8:00 AM – 9:00 AM PST

Funder Breakfast

By Invitation

9:00 AM – 9:15 AM PST

Welcome and Opening Session

Caitlin Cain

Vice President, LISC and Executive Director, Rural LISC

Michael T. Pugh


9:15 AM – 9:45 AM PST

LISC’s Case for Rural Investment

Michael T. Pugh

Chief Executive Officer, LISC

9:45AM – 11:15 AM PST

Exploring Rural Investment through a Multi-Sectoral Lens

Session Host:

Caitlin Cain

Vice President, LISC and Executive Director, Rural LISC

Session Speakers:

Nathan Ohle

Chief Executive Officer, Economic Development Council (IEDC)

Sarah Kackar

Director, Rural Initiative, NeighborWorks America

Will McIntee

Senior Advisor, Public Engagement, The White House

Matt Josephs

Senior Vice President Policy, LISC

11:15 – 11:45 AM PST

Break & Informal Networking Time

11:45 – 1:25 PM PST

Lunch Plenary

11:45 AM PST
Ballroom Doors Open for Lunch
12:00 – 12:15 PM PST

Farah Ahmad

Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development, USDA

12:15 – 1:25 PM PST
Panel: Rural Community Development Solutions, Partners, and Federal Resources – New Approaches in Rural Investment.

Session Moderator:

Kelliann Blazek

Special Assistant to the President, Agriculture & Rural Policy, The White House


Lee Jones

Executive Director, Rural Partners Network (RPN), USDA

Kagan Coughlin

Executive Director, Yalobusha County Economic Development; Co-founder, Everest; Co-founder, Base Camp Coding Academy

Erich Yost

Senior Community Planning and Development Specialist, HUD

Monica Smith

Supervisory Community Liaison Mississippi, USDA

1:25 – 1:45 PM PST

Federal Policy Update

Mark Kudlowitz

Senior Policy Director, LISC

1:45 – 2:00 PM PST

Break & Informal Networking Time

2:00 – 3:30 PM PST

Breakout sessions – 4 concurrent sessions

Breakout session A1:

Designing Scalable Co-Funding Solutions for Broadband and Digital Equity– A Rural Opportunity and Developments Sessions (ROADS) event

Rural LISC has worked with exceptional partners in recent years to help rural communities get and use high-speed internet, including Schmidt Futures, Lead for America’s American Connectivity Corps and the T.L.L. Temple Foundation. Join our discussion with these innovators on creative mechanisms that can unlock private and philanthropic contributions to help public broadband and digital inclusion funding reach underserved communities. LISC will share its national map of opportunity for mission-aligned investment in broadband for more than 3,500 communities and we’ll invite the audience to help charter next steps for collective impact.

Session Moderator:

Christa Vinson

Senior Program Officer – Broadband & Infrastructure, Rural LISC

Session Speakers:

Jerry Kenny

Program Officer, T.L.L. Temple Foundation

Brian Rathbone

Principal, Broadband Catalysts

Benya Kraus Beacom

Co-Founder, Lead for America

Zaki Barzinji

Senior Director, Aspen Digital

Breakout session A2:

Economic Development: Empowering Communities: Making Economic Inclusion Work in Your Town

Join us for an engaging conversation on Community-Centered Economic Inclusion, a place-based framework for inclusive growth developed by LISC and the Brookings Institution that has been deployed in twenty communities across the country. In this session, you will learn more about this innovative approach, including a recent pilot in three Indiana towns. The panelists will share practical strategies and tools that you can apply in your town or community. Discover insights and gain the know-how to foster inclusive growth and community development locally.

Session Moderator:

William (Bill) Taft

Senior Vice President for Economic Development, LISC

Session Speakers:

Elizabeth Demetriou

Senior Director, Economic Development, LISC

Hanna Love

Senior Research Associate, Brookings Institute

Breakout session A3:

Innovative Solutions to Supporting Small Businesses in Rural Communities

Rural communities are comprised of community organizations of which small businesses are the heart. Thriving small businesses help elevate local landscapes and are integral to creating resilient and inclusive communities. Join this discussion to hear from key partners who are critical players in amplifying the impact of small businesses.

Session Moderator:

Destiny Allen Mitchell

Senior Program Officer, Economic Development, LISC

Session Speakers:

Ana Maria Cintron

Founder and Executive Director, Causa Local

Michael Carroll

Vector Fund Director, RCAC

Chris Wendel

Initiate Program Manager, Northern Initiatives

Breakout session A4:

Growing Your Talent Pool from Your Own Communities

These panelists will discuss resources and programming they have used to identify which populations are not being served and how they were able to make programming shifts to engage, recruit, and serve.

Session Moderator:

Julianne Dunn

Program Officer - Workforce, Rural LISC

Session Speakers:

Justin Burch

President & CEO, Washington County Economic Alliance

Tania Hernandez Batista

Training & Employment Manager, PathStone Corp.

Dustin Fuller

Financial Opportunity Center Manager, Habitat for Humanity of Findlay/Hancock County FOC

3:30 – 3:45 PM PST

Break & Informal Networking Time

3:45 – 5:15 PM PST

Breakout sessions - 4 concurrent sessions

Breakout session B1:

Innovations and Misconceptions in Housing Production: Manufactured, Modular, and 3D-Printing

Housing production is transforming. This breakout session offers a comprehensive exploration of the latest advancements in manufactured, modular, 3D-printed, and tiny homes. Experts will present real-world case studies, dispel misconceptions, and highlight the potential advantages and limitations of each solution. This session aims to enlighten attendees on the immense potential and challenges of these cutting-edge housing solutions in rural communities, offering insight into some diverse and dynamic strategies to create more affordable, sustainable, and resilient homes.

Session Moderator:

Ramsey Cohen

Director of Industry and Community Affairs, Clayton

Session Speakers:

Daniel Elkin

Director of Policy, Impact and Innovation, come dream come build

Gene Eidelman

Co-founder of Azure Printed Homes

RaShawna Fahie

Manufactured Housing Program Manager, NPHS

Breakout session B2:

An innovative approach to banking in the digital world: Case Examples from Our Banking Partners

Access to online banking and digital skills are paramount especially in rural communities burdened from the closure of commercial banking establishments. Come dialogue about opportunities and challenges related to rural banking and learn about new programs and approaches that are being launched to help strengthen digital skilling and access to capital networks in rural places.

Session Moderator:

Diane Bevan

Founder & CEO, National Women’s Business Community Network and the NWBCN Foundation

Session Speakers:

Kimberly Lorensberg

Chief Development Officer, GROW South Dakota

Richard Weeks

Senior VP & Head of Conversational Experiences – Consumer Digital Office, U.S. Bank

Breakout session B3:

Follow the Data: Amplifying Opportunities in Underserved Markets

Panelists will discuss how they have used their collected data to identify populations that are not being served and to explore better solutions to gauge community and client impact.

Session Moderator:

Julianne Dunn

Program Officer - Workforce, Rural LISC

Session Speakers:

Carol Moralez

President and CEO, Upskill NWA

Joseph Ceasar

Founder and Executive Director, Legacy Institute for Financial Education (LIFE)

Wendi Rowles

Financial Administrator and Victim Witness Director, Office of the District Attorney, 5th Judicial District

Breakout session B4:

Building a Strong Foundation with Rural LISC Programs and Innovative Financing Tools

Please join us for an informative session on Rural LISC’s programs and financing tools, and how these can be used in your communities. You will hear about LISC short- and long-term financing tools, including grants from HUD section 4 and other private and government sources, loan and equity investments for economic development, community facilities, housing, and small businesses.  We will review grants management and compliance as well as LISC’s loan funding process and restrictions. In addition, we will provide updates on new Rural LISC programmatic initiatives, and early-stage repayable investment tools. This session will also provide an opportunity for us to hear from you on other ways we can support your work and projects.

Session Moderator:

Murat Unal

Senior Director of Finance and Operations, Rural LISC

Session Speakers:

Bukola Adekoje

Operations Manager, LISC

Julie Ngo

Grants Manager, LISC

Melaku Gebreselassie

Senior Program Officer, Rural LISC

5:30 – 7:30 PM PST

Networking Cocktail Reception – The Case for Grassroots Capacity Building

Sponsored by National Equity Fund, LISC and the Coachella Valley Housing Coalition

7:30 PM PST

Dinner on your Own

9:20 – 10:30 AM PST

Morning Plenary Session
The State of Housing in Rural America: Fireside Chat

Session Host:

Nadia Villagrán

Program Director, Fund Development and Strategic Partnerships, Rural LISC

Caitlin Cain

Vice President, LISC and Executive Director, Rural LISC

Session Speakers

Joaquin Altoro

Administrator, Rural Housing Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development

Tom Collishaw

Executive Director, Self Help Enterprises

Annette Morales

Multi-Family Housing Director, Tierra del Sol

10:30 – 10:45 PM PST

Break & Informal Networking Time

10:45 – 12:15 PM PST

Breakout sessions - 4 concurrent sessions

Breakout session C1:

The Highs & the Lows of Affordable Housing Finance

With construction labor and materials costs on the rise, and interest rates on a steady incline, calling the affordable housing finance market volatile is being kind. Affordable housing developments are at risk of stalling. Join us for a conversation with debt and equity experts as they discuss the proactive, creative, and/or innovative solutions that can bring more stability to the market and ensure housing units are built in 2024 and beyond?

Session Moderator:

Mike Walsh

Assistant Director, Housing & Workforce Solutions, Riverside County

Session Speakers:

Dan Wendle

VP of Acquisition West, Raymond James Affordable Housing Investments

Todd Fabian

Managing Director West Region, National Equity Fund (NEF)

Sebastian Glowacki

Community Development Corporation Vice President, US Bank

Jessica Gonzalez

Vice President Relationship Management, Wells Fargo

Bob Powers

Managing Director Community Development Banking, JPMorgan Chase

Breakout session C2:

Equitable Connectivity for Low-income Housing: Lessons learned from the Virginia Multi-Family Pilot

Rural places historically fall behind in high-speed internet access, creating a digital divide that has negative impacts on financial well-being, education, health and more. This panel will overview the results of a pilot project led by Rural LISC and LISC VA that explored solutions for nonprofit developers of multi-family housing to plan for, pay for and advocate for opportunities to get residents better connected, and will highlight California's first-in-the-nation program created to fund such initiatives. The Viginia pilot considered three affordable housing projects in different phases of development: a complete rehab, a retrofit and a new build. Panelist will discuss opportunities to replicate the models and the implications of addressing this gap for a range of projects and their development teams. A technical document and grant resource factsheets will be available in hard copy.

Session Moderator:

Christa Vinson

Senior Program Officer-Broadband and Infrastructure, Rural LISC

Session Speakers:

Diane Luther

Principal, Forward Consulting, California Emerging Technology Fund

Jane Ferrara

Executive Director, LISC Virginia

Kelli Smith

Vice President of Planning and Evaluation, People, Inc.

Breakout session C3:

Funding Resource Roadmapping for Community Revitalization

Public funding can have a transformative impact in rural communities, but navigating federal and state grants can be daunting. Join Rural LISC as well as national experts for a dynamic session exploring how to prioritize community projects, identify appropriate funding opportunities, draft a compelling narrative, and submit a successful application. During this session, participants will also learn about local advocacy strategies to better position priority projects for public funding.

Session Speakers:

Alex Holland

Chief Executive Officer, Atlas Community Studios

Kate Greene

Redevelopment Director, Atlas Community Studios

Breakout session C4:

Communication Tools & Tactics: How to Drive-up Engagement & Activate Diverse Audiences

Join this panel of communication leaders who represent the non-profit, funder and program partner perspectives on how to measurably increase engagement and galvanize audiences around mission-driven goals. You’ll hear best practices and results from challenging projects and hear how language and overcoming stereotypes specifically impact rural communities. Session attendees will also be able to participate in thoughtful Q&A with this diverse panel of communication professionals.

Session Moderator:

Tiffany Taylor-Minor

Director of Communications, Rural LISC

Session Speakers:

Saba Aregai

Communications Officer, LISC

Erin Cahill

Associate Director of Communications, Aspen Institute

Barrett Newkick

Director Strategic Communications, Life to Rise

12:30 – 4:00 PM PST

Coachella Valley Tour

Pick-up Boxed Lunches & Board designated bus
Eastern Coachella Valley Tour – three buses

5:30 – 7:00 PM PST

Closing Reception & Awards Dinner

Caitlin Cain

Vice President, LISC and Executive Director, Rural LISC

Michael Levine

Rural Advisory Committee, Rural LISC

Frequently Asked Questions

Each year, Rural LISC organizes and presents a multi-day Seminar for Rural LISC Partners and stakeholders. The Seminar provides rural practitioners the opportunity to gather and share challenges, opportunities, and emerging trends in the field. It features workshops and plenaries, conversations with nationally recognized community development leaders, and a wealth of networking opportunities. This year, you will learn the most up-to-date information designed around three of Rural LISC’s five key investment pillars. To learn more about Rural LISC, visit lisc.org/rural/
Rural LISC CDC program partner agencies that are eligible for Seminar scholarship have two in-person scholarships available that can be used to cover the cost of two in-person registrations. If you are a Rural LISC Partner that qualifies for a scholarship, please select the scholarship option to waive your registration fee. Please contact ebradley@lisc.org if you have questions.
There is no cost to attend Seminar virtually. There is, however, a $450 cost for our limited capacity in-person option to attend.
Yes! The Rural LISC Seminar is open for anyone to attend. If you love rural communities like we do, join us!
Yes, while there is no cost to attend virtually, you must register to access any seminar session. To register, click the REGISTER button above.
Yes, while the seminar workshops are free to attend, you will need to register in order to get access to the sessions. Please click the Register button at the top of the page to get access.
No. You do not need to download or install any software to participate in our conference. You only need to have access to the Internet.
You can find more information by clicking on the Travel & Lodging button above.