This was originally posted on Treasury's Notes blog on August 28, 2015.
This month, Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (CDFI Fund) wrapped up its National Listening Tour. We spent the summer soliciting public input regarding a new strategic framework for the CDFI Fund. These forums provided an opportunity for constructive dialogue that will build on the growth and success of Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), Community Development Entities (CDEs), and the communities that they serve. Using what we heard, we will be creating a "Framework for the Future," which will be a set of strategic directives to guide our work over the next five years.
At the CDFI Fund, we are mindful of the tremendous responsibility that we play in promoting economic revitalization in our nation’s low-income communities. That is why we convened these sessions to hear from stakeholders firsthand their thoughts on our strategic direction over the next five years. More than 300 people attended sessions in five cities and over 70 others joined me on two conference calls for those serving rural communities in the continental U.S. and in Hawaii, Alaska, and the territories.
We asked participants to weigh in on six areas of inquiry, including:
- How can the CDFI Fund'support the use of data to strengthen the industry and increase our impact?
- How can we best support CDFIs to continue to innovate? What will it take to scale solutions we know work?
- What more can we do to reach communities that need CDFIs but are either not being served by them, or have limited access to CDFI Fund'support?
- Are our programs effective and working optimally for communities?
- How is our customer service? What needs to be improved?
- What issues should be on our radar screen but are not?
Some highlights of what I heard are:
- CDFIs appreciate the flexibility and usefulness of our programs, especially financial assistance awards;
- CDFIs use our awards to support a wide diversity of community development strategies, from consumer services and credit, to micro and small businesses, to community facilities and affordable housing;
- CDFIs appreciate the knowledge and responsiveness of our staff; and
- CDFIs would like more transparency, to shorten our award cycle, and to make our data collection system easier to use.
This feedback comes at a pivotal time for the CDFI Fund. Next month will mark the end of our 20th year, and we have accomplished so much over that time. We’ve grown a nationwide network of almost 1,000 certified CDFIs, and we’ve awarded over $46 billion in monetary awards, tax credit authority, and bond guarantees. The CDFIs and CDEs that received these resources have delivered vital lifelines to communities. As we look to the future, we know that there is so much more to be done to bring economic opportunities to underserved urban and rural areas of the nation.
We thank those who participated in and hosted our Listening Tour, especially the Federal Reserve Banks of San Francisco, Kansas City/Denver, Chicago, New York and Atlanta.
Annie Donovan is the Director of the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund at the U.S. Treasury Department.