Exploring Financial Resiliency and MobilitySeptember 27, 2016
The 2016 National Community Affairs Conference, “Exploring Financial Resiliency & Mobility,” Sept. 7-8 at the Bank, attracted more than 200 community development professionals for two days of learning, networking and interaction with industry leaders, influencers and peers.
This was the Bank’s fourth national community development conference, presented in even years since 2010. The conferences are designed to provide the latest research on key community development issues, along with innovative programs and solutions.
This year’s conference focused on issues that affect the ability of low- and moderate-income (LMI) households to bounce back from financial shocks (“resiliency”) and move ahead (“mobility”). This concept, also known as “financial health,” examines contributing factors, such as housing, health, education and financial services, and their interconnectedness.
Ann Huff Stevens of the Center for Poverty Research at the University of California, Davis, a conference presenter, explained: “The lives of the poor are more and more complex. Putting together all those pieces … is difficult and thinking about their financial lives and trying to take constructive steps is critical.”
Presenter Jennifer Tescher of the Center for Financial Services Innovation described financial health as “not just a financial services problem; it’s a health care problem, it’s a higher education problem, it’s a workforce problem, it’s a global problem.’Presentations were made by more than 30 speakers from across the country, representing organizations such as The Brookings Institution, Kaiser Family Foundation and Pew Charitable Trusts.
“One of the best conferences I’ve attended,” said Gloria Reynolds of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. “The best session was on whether or not post-secondary education was worth it. The moderator called the session 10 minutes after it was supposed to end. Fascinating discussion; the speakers touched on a myriad of points, it was great.”
In fact, participants were engaged in every session, commenting, asking questions and having conversations with the speakers and each other.
Janet Fisher of the North Topeka West Neighborhood Improvement Association confirmed the sentiment: “The conference was organized in a great way; the presentations were fantastic and kept my attention the entire time. I am enlightened.”
Participants learned about the latest statistics, developments and their effects on financial health, housing, jobs and other issues that affect the financial resiliency and mobility of LMI households and individuals.
“It’s hard to understand some of the financial decisions low-income individuals make,” said Tamicka Bradley of the Financial Hope Collaborative at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb. “The keynote on financial decision making in LMI households really opened my eyes—that was worth being here.”
Jackie Loya-Torres, a community development officer at Commerce Bank, said her key takeaway was that “collaboration is key in human services” and having an understanding of the functions and objectives of other disciplines helps them create effective partnerships and “connect the dots” for their clientele.
Another conference session focused on how organizations and their services affect LMI communities, the ins and outs of launching a new program, and how to tailor them to distinct regions.
“We’re always looking for innovative ways and best-practices to bring and adapt them to our community,” said Ethel Byndom of the Saint Louis County Executive’s Community Empowerment Office. “I’m looking forward to bouncing off new ideas with my associates.”
Other themes included small-dollar loan regulations and alternatives, the reciprocal relationship between health and financial stability, family structure of LMI households and two-generation strategies for economic mobility.
And in his closing keynote, the Rev. Thomas B. Curran, president of Rockhurst University, made a correlation between his topic on ethical aspects of serving LMI populations and the Vulcan hand salute and blessing of “live long and prosper,” made popular by the Star Trek TV series and movies. Sept. 8 marked the 50th anniversary of the series’ first TV episode.
President Esther George delivered the closing remarks, in which she highlighted the importance of understanding and accounting for issues that affect LMI communities, their long-term prospects of economic growth and the overall high standard of living. She also encouraged participants to reach out to their respective Reserve Bank to see how they might help build financial strength and stability in their local communities.
The conference yielded insight into trends, and tips to help with efforts related to the financial wellness of LMI communities. Attendees were inspired by fresh ideas and left ready to tackle their challenges in creative and innovative ways.
Visit the conference webpage to see the conference recap video, session recordings and presentations.