Profile: Chicago community development leader Susana Vasquez joins IFF’s executive team in new position November 1, 2015

Susana Vasquez, formerly executive director at Local Initiatives Support Corporation Chicago, joins IFF this month in a newly created position as vice president of strategic initiatives and resource development. Although based in IFF’s Chicago headquarters, Susana will focus on strategic program development and resource development that supports our work throughout the Midwest.

What made you decide to join IFF?
I was ready to contribute to community development in a new way with a new organization. I have known Joe Neri and Trinita Logue for almost 20 years and respect the organization they have built and the range of work IFF leads in Chicago and the Midwest. The new position of VP for strategic initiatives and resource development was a good fit for the work I love to lead.

How will your previous experience help you in your new role?
I’ve worked for 20 years in community development in a range of roles from community organizer to resource development to senior leadership. I enjoy developing innovative strategies and aligning the right resources to advance the work at the community level. I’ve raised resources from the public and private sectors, foundations, and individuals. As vice president for strategic initiatives and resource development at IFF, I will help develop innovative strategies and identify capital and grant opportunities to advance IFF’s mission. While I have deep roots in Chicago, I am looking forward to learning about the other cities where IFF is working as well.

What career accomplishments are you most proud of?
I am most proud of the work I led at LISC Chicago for the New Communities Program, where I worked with a diverse set of talented LISC staff and community partners to advance community engagement and comprehensive planning that led to significant impact and investment in neighborhoods. I also valued LISC’s partnership with the city of Chicago on the Smart Communities demonstration program, where LISC and its local partners developed and advanced comprehensive strategies to increase digital skills and broadband Internet use in low-income communities. Both programs are considered national models. As executive director, I helped diversify the Chicago program’s funding base and built a strong staff and committed board to carry on the work of comprehensive neighborhood development.

How did you become involved with community development?
I first got involved with community development as a community organizing intern with the Chicago Rehab Network after college, working on the Affordable Housing Campaign more than 20 years ago. I went on to do community organizing for the Metropolitan Tenants Organization and for The Resurrection Project. And at LISC, I had the opportunity to work citywide on a range of community development programs and to ultimately lead the Chicago program.

What other activities are you involved in?
I have been an active partner with the University of Chicago on its Civic Leadership Academy, a six-month program for emerging nonprofit and government leaders. I also volunteer with different organizations to help develop fundraising and communication strategies on a range of issues. In my free time, I like to read and spend time with my family.

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