Skip to:
  1. Main navigation
  2. Main content
  3. Footer
Notes from the Field

Listening, Collaborating, and Learning: How the Cleveland Fed’s Community Advisory Council Helps Foster Inclusive Economies

With the help of its Community Advisory Council, the Community Development Department collaborates with business and community leaders to promote economic resilience and mobility of low- and moderate-income communities and underserved individuals.

The views expressed in this report are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily those of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland or the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.

To build an inclusive economy wherein everyone can reach their full potential, we must first start by listening to, collaborating with, and learning from our communities. At this year’s Policy Summit 2023: Communities Thriving in a Changing Economy, keynote speaker Angela Williams, president and CEO of United Way Worldwide, shared three strategies for making impactful change. First, lead by listening to those currently being excluded and ensure the right voices are in the room. Second, reimagine cross-sector collaborations of people with diverse backgrounds, experiences, and expertise to resolve issues that are barriers to an inclusive economy.  Third, learn from each other and effect policy change and resource coordination at every level of our country.

After listening to Williams’s remarks, I thought about how the Cleveland Fed’s Community Development Department works with community stakeholders to ensure actions are truly impactful.  Most of us have heard the African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together.”  The Cleveland Fed’s Community Development Department is deeply committed to collaborating with business and community leaders to promote economic resilience and mobility of low- and moderate-income (LMI) communities and underserved individuals.  One of the ways we do this is through our Community Advisory Council (CAC).

To fulfill the Federal Reserve’s dual mandate of price stability and maximum employment in support of an inclusive economy, we rely on valuable input and insights from a diverse range of stakeholders—particularly those working with, or in, lower-income communities.  Our commitment to listen, collaborate, and learn is a tenet of the CAC. The council serves as a vital link between the Bank and community partners throughout our District, which includes Ohio, eastern Kentucky, western Pennsylvania and the northern panhandle of West Virginia.  Because CAC members have strong relationships with people and organizations in their respective communities, we hear first-hand about issues and challenges as they arise.

Why was the CAC established?

Many Federal Reserve Banks and the Board of Governors formed CACs to listen to, collaborate with, and learn from community stakeholders on current and emerging economic and social issues and trends impacting LMI communities and underserved individuals. The Cleveland Fed’s Community Development Department established its CAC in 2018 to help staff, senior leadership, and the Bank’s president gain a deeper understanding of challenges faced by the local economy and uncover potential solutions that drive policymaking and program development.

Who serves on the CAC?

The CAC is a diverse group of experts who represent the geographic, demographic, and varied sectors in our District, including, but not limited to, leaders from nonprofits, small businesses, academia, philanthropy, government, and community organizations.

What do they do as a CAC member?

CAC members are thought leaders who, through significant experience and/or expertise, have knowledge of and can represent issues of concern for LMI communities and underserved individuals. The CAC convenes a few times a year to engage in meaningful discussions on affordable housing, rural communities, transportation, workforce development, small business, and other community health factors impacting the Bank’s region. CAC members have an opportunity to inform policy perspectives of Bank leadership and make recommendations to improve the community’s economic condition. Members serve three-year terms. Sometimes, CAC members contribute to the Community Development Department’s Community Issues Survey, the Cleveland Fed’s Beige Book entry, and other data, reports, and analyses by sharing their perspective of what is happening in the communities they serve. For example CAC member, Lark Mallory, president and CEO of Affordable Trust in Columbus, Ohio, shared her views on regional efforts to increase affordable housing in Central Ohio.

How can you join the CAC?

If your work serves LMI communities in our District, including through community development financial institutions, minority depository institutions, or other financial institutions, or you have the expertise that supports the mission and strategic priorities of the Community Development Department, we’d love to hear from you. The CAC application form is currently available on our website.