On February 15 during Black History Month, OFN held its first Regional Meeting of 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia – the birthplace of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the cradle of the modern civil rights movement.
More than 100 community development financial institutions (CDFI) practitioners and other partners, representing more than 30 OFN member CDFIs, joined in person at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta to discuss challenges, opportunities, and other key topics facing CDFIs in their region.
Attendees engaged in productive and inspiring conversation that demonstrated the industry’s deep roots in the civil rights movement and their commitment to social, political, and economic justice for African Americans and other people of color. During the meeting, CDFIs discussed their common challenges, opportunities, and existing solutions to address pervasive wealth gaps that continue to hold back communities from reaching their full potential.
Southeast Regional Meeting Highlights
Meeting attendees voted on topics to discuss in small group sessions, including:
- The value of networking and collaborating more with fellow CDFIs in the Southeast region
- The EPA’s $27 billion Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund and ways to integrate more green practices into CDFI work
- Talent recruitment, operations, and change management
- Technical assistance best practices
- Innovative ways to raise flexible capital
Leaders of several OFN member CDFIs and partners from the region also led panel discussions on a few other key topics, including CDFI growth, affordable housing challenges, and innovations in CDFI product development. Speakers emphasized the need for robust and customized technical assistance programs that adapt to each client’s specific needs, the importance of collaboration and partnership, and ways to engage in more positive, supportive communication with clients, particularly with those who are not yet loan-ready.
Additionally, a Federal Reserve Board of Atlanta representative spoke about the state of the economy and labor market in the region, sharing that more people are out of the labor market due to illness or disability in the Southeast region than in any other area of the country.
OFN’s Chief External Affairs Officer, Jennifer Vasiloff, also shared OFN policy priorities, including the 2023 Congressional outlook, federal grant funding, CDFI certification updates, and the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund. She highlighted the importance of boosting private investment in communities and of advancing policies that promote consumer protection and fair lending.
The meeting concluded with a reception at CDFI-funded business Zocalo.
Spotlighting CDFI Impact in the Southeast
A few weeks before the Southeast Regional Meeting, OFN was delighted to have Dr. Thelma Adams Johnson, president and CEO of Albany Community Together, Inc. (ACT!), join our staff virtually to talk about the transformative work ACT! is doing in the Southwest Georgia region. She highlighted ACT!’s ongoing work with 50-year-old civil rights organization Southwest Georgia Project and the Phoebe Putney Health System to convert an abandoned grocery store in an under-resourced census tract hit hardest by Covid into a community service hub called The Table.
This new $14 million community hub, named for the practice of civil rights activists who used to travel house-to-house and meet around kitchen tables to organize their efforts, will serve as a food aggregator for local Black farmers.
The Table will also feature wellness services, a commercial kitchen for food entrepreneurs, catering space, and more.
Learn more about ACT! in our recent OFN Member Spotlight!
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