Wharton - University of Pennsylvania
Menu Search

Wharton Hosted 50 Community Development Finance Leaders Who are Fighting for Opportunity For All

Executive education program focused on building transformational leadership capacity in the opportunity finance industry

Philadelphia, PA: Wharton Executive Education hosted the third and final gathering of 50 Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) leaders participating in the “Citi Leadership Program for Opportunity Finance” program on June 3-4, 2014.

Opportunity Finance Network (OFN), the premier national network of community development finance institutions (CDFI), selected Wharton as its academic partner to help deliver a unique professional development experience. The program is supported by the Citi Foundation. CDFIs are community lenders dedicated to providing financing to low-wealth, low-income, and disadvantaged people and communities.

The Citi Leadership Program for Opportunity Finance brings together the country’s top emerging, mid-level, and executive-level CDFI leaders in three cohorts to engage and explore leadership and transformational change that they can apply at their organizations and to the industry as a whole.

  • The first module kicked off at the Sheraton Society Hill in Philadelphia at the end of January, when Wharton faculty and OFN leaders explained the role of values in leadership, and defined transformational leadership and high performance.
  • The second module, exclusively for emerging leaders, was held April 7-8, and focused on fine-tuning each participant’s leadership and communication skills, and exploring CDFI career paths.
  • The third module brought all three cohorts to Wharton’s campus to share insights focused on building effective teams for change. The attendees heard examples and participated in a breakout session to integrate their learning with Wharton and OFN facilitators.

“We’re thrilled to partner with the experts of Wharton as they enhance our program with their world-class knowledge on how to build transformational leadership. CDFI leaders are focused daily on bringing opportunity to low-income communities by aligning capital with justice,” said Pam Porter, OFN's executive vice president of strategic consulting.

Throughout the program, Wharton faculty members provided a conceptual framework for leadership, with rich examples from both inside and outside of the CDFI industry that illustrate the impact and the conditions necessary to create it.

"The CDFI industry faces the need for adaptive change from the vantage point of solving problems that no one has an answer to right now -- questions such as, ‘How does the industry continue to innovate?’ ‘How does it continue to develop the kinds of passionate leaders with the technical and interpersonal skills to lead organizations?’” notes Jeff Klein, executive director of Wharton’s Leadership Program and the learning director of the Wharton/CDFI program.

Klein continues, “The dialogue both within and cross the cohorts are the most important aspect of the program. We’ve built into it mutual accountability – where members of each cohort hold each other accountable. A longer term benefit of this program is we are strengthening connections between organizations and increasing the ease at which information and ideas can flow at the industry level.”

Unlike traditional banks, CDFIs, which number more than 850 in the U.S. as of 2014, with more than $40 billion of assets, are exclusively focused on responsible and affordable financial products and services for low-income, low-wealth communities underserved by conventional financial institutions.

Wharton and OFN officials believe leadership development at every level of the industry will enable the CDFI industry to have a greater impact on communities over the long term.

“Our membership network is committed to high performance in terms of financial sustainability and social impact,” explains Porter, noting that OFN members enjoy a 97 percent repayment rate of loans they make to communities.

“This program is designed to develop leaders who will bring about transformational change to benefit low income communities across the country," she continues. "This will mean more financing for small businesses, community health centers, affordable housing, consumer finance, and other needs found in under-served communities.”


OFN, the leading network of private financial institutions, creates growth that is good for communities, investors, individuals, and the economy. Members of OFN are community development financial institutions (CDFIs) that deliver responsible lending to help low-wealth and low-income communities join the economic mainstream. Through 2012, OFN’s Network originated more than $33.3 billion in financing in urban, rural, and Native communities, and financed development/rehab of 960,000 housing units, started or expanded nearly 94,000 business and microenterprises, and helped create or maintain nearly 600,000 jobs. More information is available at: http://www.ofn.org.


Founded in 1881 as the first collegiate business school, the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania is recognized globally for intellectual leadership and ongoing innovation across every major discipline of business education. With a broad global community and one of the most published business school faculties, Wharton creates ongoing economic and social value around the world. The School has 5,000 undergraduate, MBA, executive MBA, and doctoral students; more than 9,000 annual participants in executive education programs; and a powerful alumni network of 92,000 graduates.

Media Contact

  • Eleena de Lisser
    Director of Marketing Communications
    Aresty Institute of Executive Education
    The Wharton School
    University of Pennsylvania