Shift Innovation: National Community Development Conference

August 25, 2014

The Kansas City Fed is hosting a national community development conference Sept. 22-23.


More than five years after the recession officially ended in June, 2009, the low- and moderate-income (LMI) economy remains weak by most standards. According to the Kansas City Fed’s most recent edition of the LMI Survey, the LMI labor market has improved significantly. Nevertheless, the overall assessment of economic conditions in LMI communities is well below its neutral level, indicating that a significant share of contacts believe that economic conditions in the LMI community continue to deteriorate.

In particular, an index generated from the survey which measures demand for the services offered by survey respondents is substantially below neutral, where it has remained since the survey began in the first quarter of 2009. Data from the USDA on applications for SNAP benefits (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly “food stamps) and information from housing agencies around the country on the demand for Section 8 housing vouchers show similar trends: rising throughout the recovery.

The chief problem raising the demand for services reported by most contacts is long-term unemployment. Many of the long-term unemployed have exhausted their personal financial resources, including debt, as well as unemployment compensation, and have turned to social service organizations for assistance. In addition, affordable housing is reported to be in short supply, and LMI consumers are having difficulty securing affordable credit. This increased demand for services has left many community development and social services organizations with a much larger client base than they have typically assisted, and unfortunately, resources have not increased sufficiently to meet the increased need. In many cases, resources have declined.

Funding for community development and social service organizations has declined and is continuing to decline, according to LMI Survey. If community organizations are to continue to meet the needs of their clients with fewer resources, they will have to innovate so that they may do more with less.

The Kansas City Fed is hosting a conference on September 22 – 23, 2014, that will seek to explore strategies that community development and social services organizations can adopt to innovate in the face of a mounting client base and stale or declining resources. The purpose of the conference is to provide an outlet for experts in innovation – particularly community development – to share with participants the process of innovation, examples of successful strategies, and tools with which organizations can create innovation in their organizations and service delivery.

A number of dynamic keynote speakers and special guests will participate in the conference. Speakers will include:

  • Esther George, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Kansas City Fed
  • Kathie Thomas, Principal, Beyond Concepts LLC
  • Clifton Taulbert, Founder of the Building Community Institute and author of Eight Habits of the Heart: Embracing the Values that Build Strong Communities and Who Owns the Ice House
  • Richard Boly, technology consultant to the World Bank and past Director of the Office of eDiplomacy for the U.S. Department of State

These speakers will discuss their experiences and knowledge in innovation that has been highly successful in a number of businesses and nonprofit organizations, practical entrepreneurial strategies, and how low-cost information technologies can be used to further social and community development.

The conference will conclude with a special event: A “Conversation with the Mayors,” featuring Mayor Andy Berke of Chattanooga, TN, and Mayor Sly James of Kansas City, MO. The mayors will share their experiences with innovation in the context of improving the quality of life in their cities.

In addition to these dynamic keynote speakers and special guests, the conference will include concurrent sessions about:

  • Performance Improvement in Community Development
  • Growing Creative Entrepreneurial Communities
  • Quality of Life
  • Lessons from the Fed
  • Harnessing Technology and Data

The conference also will include a Creative Ideation Exercise, where conference participants are provided with an opportunity to define problems, discuss potential solutions, and apply models and techniques from the conference.

Attendees will gain significant information and tools to innovate in the community development field.