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Ask the Expert

How does having a council of outside experts influence and improve the work the Cleveland Fed does in support of underserved and lower-income people and communities?

As appeared in the Cleveland Fed Digest's Ask the Expert

It’s really important for us, in concentrating our efforts in certain directions, to understand people’s experiences through community stakeholders’ lenses. The mission of the Cleveland Fed’s Community Development Department is to support and promote economic resilience and mobility for low- and moderate-income neighborhoods, and we believe we can have the most impact in three core areas: workforce and economic development, affordable housing and quality neighborhoods, and access to credit and capital for small businesses. The Federal Reserve does research and analysis, but there would be a huge void if we didn’t listen to and learn from community stakeholders who provide greater insight on how the economy is impacting people’s lives. One of these stakeholder groups is our Community Advisory Council (CAC).

The last time our CAC met, there was a lot of discussion about inflation and how it was impacting individuals served by the council members’ organizations. The CAC comprises 15 members from across the region the Cleveland Fed serves with varying areas of expertise—among them, housing, rural communities, and community health—and with working relationships with underserved and lower-income individuals.

Families are continuing to make difficult decisions and trade-offs. Many work low-wage jobs while trying to cover the basic needs of life. When inflation is layered on top of food insecurity and housing insecurity, our council members are seeing more and more families showing up for help, for example, at food pantries. In our last meeting, council members also discussed how the supply of affordable housing has not kept pace with demand, leaving families priced out of the market for quality rental housing.

The conversation during that CAC meeting influenced what the Cleveland Fed contributed to the Beige Book, the Federal Reserve’s summary of economic and community conditions that is published eight times a year. Anecdotal in nature, the Beige Book reveals to the Fed and its audiences lived realities not yet showing up in data, and its perspectives are used by Federal Reserve decisionmakers, including our Bank’s president and CEO, as they make monetary policy. The CAC’s feedback is also critical as our Community Development Department decides its priorities for work, including our research, data analysis, and the agenda of our upcoming Policy Summit.

I’ve worked with boards and councils throughout my career, most recently for the Cuyahoga County Division of Senior and Adult Services and the Greater Cleveland Food Bank. I have leaned on members to share their wisdom, expertise, and time to advance these organizations’ missions and help shape programs to better serve our community. I look forward to working with the dynamic group of community leaders of the CAC to advance the Cleveland Fed’s mission and better serve the Bank’s region, too.