Six Questions for Rev. John Liotti | Sojourners

Six Questions for Rev. John Liotti

Bio: Founder and CEO, Northern California Urban Development (


1. How would you describe Northern California Urban Development’s work?
Our vision is broad—to relieve the causes and effects of systemic poverty. We strive to have an effect on “the street.” We’re honored to serve amazing communities: East Palo Alto and Redwood City. East Palo Alto specifically, while having an abundance of assets, has been overlooked by the success of our surrounding area, Silicon Valley.

2. What have you accomplished?
In NCUD’s short four-year history, we’ve brought a credit union to East Palo Alto, which was desperately unbanked and being preyed upon by financial predators. We’ve also founded a youth program that focuses on financial literacy and life skills, which is currently serving more than 200 “urban” students weekly. We’re working on an approach toward the housing crisis, including brokering an innovative program where cities help homeowners refinance in exchange for a stake in the house’s future appreciation. These efforts strive to break the curse of generational poverty by giving folks the tools and resources to conquer poverty.

The hallmark of all we’ve done is partnerships—collaborative relationships with individuals and organizations from outside and inside our community. Our role, in many ways, is to cast and shepherd the vision to completion—but to do so in a collaborative manner.

3. What is the best thing anyone has taught you in your work?
Dr. John Perkins, quoting an ancient proverb, says, “But of the best leaders, when their task is done, the people will remark, ‘We have done it ourselves.’ ” This has been a great challenge to me. So many times we want the credit.

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Sojourners Magazine August 2009
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