Lifting voices: The power of Fed community development advisory councils


Jennie Blizzard

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When it comes to making decisions on monetary policy, the Federal Reserve considers information from a variety of sources. One source is input from community leaders who represent people in communities where they work and live. These community insights play an important role in fostering an inclusive economy.

To gain a fuller understanding of how lower-income communities are experiencing the economy, the Board and most Reserve Banks actively involve groups known as community development advisory councils. The Fed is decentralized. This means that it operates with a Board of Governors (Board), which is an independent government agency, and 12 regional Reserve Banks. This structure was created to help ensure that monetary policy decisions represent all regions of the country.

These councils represent leaders from various community-based organizations, nonprofits, foundations, academia, and other institutions. These councils may have different names across Reserve Banks. Regardless, their intent is the same: to ensure the Fed listens to and considers diverse perspectives on the economic circumstances and financial services needs of low- and moderate-income communities when making decisions about monetary policy.

Discussions that inform decision making

The engagement between the Fed and these advisory councils is dynamic and continuous. They meet regularly, often with senior leadership, their Federal Reserve bank’s president, and community development staff. These meetings provide opportunities for community leaders to share insights on various topics, including workforce conditions, affordable housing challenges, and small-business issues. The meaningful discussions that take place allow the Fed to better comprehend the realities faced by different communities.

Matuschka Briggs

“Our community development advisory council members help us keep a pulse on some of our more diverse communities while suggesting ways the Bank might support local development efforts.”
– Matuschka Lindo Briggs, Senior Vice President and Regional Executive, St. Louis Fed

“Anytime we can gather a group of external stakeholders from our region to ensure we are hearing community voices and priorities reflected on Main Street, it’s a win,” said Matuschka Lindo Briggs, senior vice president and regional executive at the St. Louis Fed. As a regional executive, Matuschka builds relationships with the public in her district to build a common understanding of the Fed’s mission. In her role, she also gathers real-time, economic information through her interactions with industry executives, business leaders, and academic and community contacts.

Members’ selection and roles

The selection process for each Fed’s community development advisory council varies. Members are either nominated or people can apply for membership for limited terms. Those chosen for the council are primarily selected by Reserve Bank leadership. Agenda topics are often shared before the meetings so council members can be prepared to share their local perspectives.  

“CAC members bring different and unique sets of skills and knowledge to the group. Through our discussions, I’ve taken away a better sense of what is needed for equitable economic growth in my community and how I can better prioritize projects and initiatives that will help to achieve it.”
– Chris Groner, Cleveland Fed Community Development Advisory Council member and vice president of the Erie County Redevelopment Authority

Chris Groner
Debra Gore Mann

“Serving on the CAC of the San Francisco Fed provides a unique opportunity to bring firsthand, frontline experience from community development work, offering valuable insights into local dynamics, challenges, and successes. It is invaluable to our communities that our perspectives help ensure that the SF Fed is well-informed about the real-time needs of communities, enabling them to craft policies that effectively address these issues and contribute meaningfully to sustainable economic and low-income community equity.”
– Debra Gore-Mann, San Francisco Fed Community Development Advisory Council member and president & CEO of The Greenlining Institute

Continued commitment to inclusivity

While data tells one story about the economy, active engagement with community leaders and organizations can create a more complete picture of the economy. Insights from community development advisory councils help address the needs and aspirations of all individuals, regardless of income level. By lifting voices and valuing diverse perspectives, the Fed strives to make informed decisions that positively impact communities and drive sustainable economic growth.

Get to know your District’s Community Advisory Council members
Federal Reserve Board of Governors building illustration
Federal Reserve System Map
Two representatives from the Atlanta Fed’s District serve on the Board of Governors’ Community Advisory Council.

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