Lissa Johnson

CSD Associate Director; Director of Administration and Research;
Co-Director Financial Capability and Asset Building

LISSA JOHNSON, MBA, MSW, LCSW, is Associate Director of Administration and Research with the Center for Social Development (CSD) and adjunct professor at the Brown School of Social Work, Washington University in St. Louis. She is also Director of Policy Initiatives for the Grand Challenges for Social Work. She manages CSD’s finances and operations as well as research projects in the areas of financial capability, asset building, and civic service with a particular focus on youth. She led the YouthSave Savings Demand Assessment in Colombia, Ghana, Kenya and Nepal. She also led the design and rollout of the first commercially available Management Information System for Individual Development Accounts (MIS IDA). Current research explores  financial capability and asset building education for the social work profession. She is a licensed clinical social worker, and earned her MBA and MSW from Washington University, and BA in English literature from Kenyon College.


American Dream Policy Demonstration (ADD)

Asset Building

This is the first large-scale demonstration of Individual Development Accounts, with approximately 2,400 accounts opened at 13 sites across the country. 

Assets for Independence Act Evaluation

Asset Building

We assisted the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families in designing the next evaluation of the AFIA program. 

Environment and Social Development

We examine social vulnerability to environmental change, and strategies for social action and adaptation.

Global Assessment of Civic Service

Community and National Service

We assess the forms, purposes, activities, servers  and operations of all civic service programs worldwide.

Management Information System for IDAs (MIS IDA)

Asset Building

We created a tool for the American Dream Policy Demonstration to track demographics and savings of low-income individuals participating in a matched savings program. 

Volunteerism and Civic Service in Latin America and Caribbean

International Service

We explore organizational factors promoting long-term civic service engagement at Habitat for Humanity International programs in Latin America and the Caribbean. 

Youth Service

Community and National Service

We investigate youth civic service worldwide and measure its impact on volunteers and the individuals and communities they serve.

AmeriCorps*VISTA Entrepreneur Corps

Community and National Service

We assess activities and recommended performance measurement indicators to organizations aiming to increase asset ownership among low-income groups.

Democracy and Civic Engagement

Our research focuses on societal inclusion and ways to promote engagement across the life course.

Financial Capability & Asset Building​ (FCAB)

Asset Building

We are building a body of evidence in financial capability, defined as both the knowledge to make optimal financial decisions and access to appropriate and beneficial financial services. 

Global Service Learning Research

International Service

Led by the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship at Haverford College, we surveyed students from multiple institutions of higher education who participated in global service learning.  

Service and Volunteering in Five Southern African Countries

Community and National Service

We analyze civic service and volunteering initiatives in five Southern African countries and examined their implications for social development in the region.

Youth Service in Latin America and the Caribbean

Community and National Service

We assess the status of youth volunteer service in Latin America and the Caribbean and its potential to serve as a strategy for social and economic development.


Global Asset Building

Our pilot program tests asset-building innovations for impoverished households and communities in Uganda. 

Civic Service Research Fellows Program

Community and National Service

We support innovative research on civic service in countries all over the world from a multinational network of scholars and researchers.

Financial Capability & Human Services Education

Financial Capability

We address the gap in professional FCAB training of social workers and other human service practitioners who serve low- and moderate-income households.

I Can Save

Financial Capability

We research how financial education and saving affect student’s financial literacy, academic engagement and plans for college. 

The Impact and Sustainability of an Intervention of the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps into Communities

Community and National Service

We use the Social Network Analysis as a tool to measure the community-level impacts of the work accomplished by AmeriCorps volunteers in three U.S. cities. 


Global Asset Building

This initiative in Colombia, Ghana, Kenya and Nepal was to understand conditions for delivery of savings products and services to improve the lives of low-income youth.