Karen Kelleher

by Hanalei Steinhart
Photo of Karen Kelleher a white woman with curly brown hair

MKI Affiliation:

Cofunder and financial sponsor


Executive Director


LISC Boston


“The Mel King Institute is the envy of my colleagues in other states.”

Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) Boston Executive Director and Mel King Institute (MKI) partner Karen Kelleher has spent much of her career working to address affordable housing inequities. She observed deep inequities through volunteering while at Boston College and teaching middle school in Roxbury, inspiring her to pursue a career creating and preserving affordable housing. Karen’s work at LISC is informed by a legal background, 13 years at The Community Builders, and 6 years at MassHousing. Her current role provides a platform for broader work creating economic opportunity and confronting systemic racial inequity.

LISC is a cofounder and financial sponsor of the Institute, which was inspired by draws on Mr. Mel King’s legacy. Karen describes MKI as “lighting and fueling the flame of passionate advocacy for low-income communities and communities of color over generations.” LISC is a national organization, and Karen believes that the Mel King Institute is the envy of her LISC colleagues in other states, leveraging training and capacity building programs to create systemic change, empower current and future community development leaders and build the future of community development in Massachusetts.

In 2023 LISC and MKI will partner to support CDCs with training, capacity building resources, and policy support on topics such as housing, small business, and climate resiliency. The LISC AmeriCorps program connects members placed at nonprofit community to professional development opportunities at MKI, and we look forward to welcoming a new cohort in 2023. MKI and LISC will also be cohosting Innovation Forums to take deep dives into community development topics this year such as exploring digital strategies for nonprofit programs and operations. LISC also makes capacity building grants to CDCs and other nonprofits.

Since joining LISC four years ago, Karen has sought to grow the scope and impact of LISC’s work in Massachusetts, doubling the team and increasing LISC’s programs, partnerships, and investments. Some new initiatives she and the LISC team are excited about are LISC’s new Bridge to Green Jobs program, LISC’s Digital Growth Accelerator and Growth Capital Fund promoting wealth building by entrepreneurs of color, several Green Homes programs, and new financing and capacity building tools to empowering developers of color. To follow LISC’s work in Massachusetts, subscribe to their newsletter here.