Exploring Innovation: A Conference on Community Development Finance

Faith Weekly

May 9 –11, 2011 | Chase Park Plaza | St. Louis, Mo.

Registration begins Feb. 1, 2011.
See 2011.exploringinnovation.org for more information.

The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis and the Atlanta, Dallas and Minneapolis Feds are preparing for our third biennial Exploring Innovation conference to be held May 9-11, 2011, in St. Louis, Mo., at the historic Chase Park Plaza Hotel. The conference theme is Exploring Innovation: A Conference on Community Development Finance. We hope to provide conference-goers with real-world examples of innovative models that will address the financing of all aspects of thriving communities—from housing and infrastructure to community engagement and leadership development, each of which contribute to vibrant, desirable places to live, work and play.

During our conference, participants will learn about innovative business models in community development finance and explore new opportunities. Four conference tracks—Retail Products and Services, The Green Economy, Investments and Equity, and Financing Comprehensive Community Development—will feature the best and brightest in the field. Jessica Jackley, co-founder of Kiva, will deliver the luncheon keynote address on Tuesday, May 10.

In addition to participating in an exchange of ideas that will reshape the practice of community development finance, attendees will engage new partners who will collectively lead them on a journey toward collaboration, recovery and sustainability. The conference will be attended by lenders, investors, nonprofit community development practitioners and others who are interested in innovative ideas, policies and programs that will advance community development.

Since 2007, the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis has sponsored annual conferences and events weeks under the theme of Exploring Innovation in Community Development. The Bank focuses on innovation for several reasons. We believe innovation is essential to sustain progress that has been made in community and economic development and to provide solutions to extremely complex issues. In addition to financial reform, innovative and practical solutions are needed to support the rebuilding of communities devastated by foreclosures and the financial crisis.

Our conference is designed to:

  • re-imagine community development finance in this new environment;
  • illustrate how innovation can result in new finance models;
  • establish an ongoing dialogue with conference participants and generate new ideas;
  • highlight industry best practices, state-of-the-art policies and innovative thinking;
  • create an ongoing discussion with input from conference participants through a variety of methods, accommodating diverse learning styles and teaching techniques;
  • explore innovative solutions through an interactive dialogue with conference participants;
  • connect individuals from diverse sectors and organizations; and
  • serve as a catalyst for future discussions and dialogues around topics of significant importance to community development.

In an effort to engage the next generation of community development professionals, we will sponsor a Community Development Finance Competition, soliciting entries from college students on a question related to the New Market Tax Credit program. The authors of the top four submissions will receive a scholarship (registration, travel and lodging) to attend the conference and have an opportunity to present during a breakout session. The student who submits the most innovative solution will qualify to win a summer community development internship at his or her choice of the Minneapolis or St. Louis Feds. A Request for Proposal (RFP) will be sent via e-mail to colleges and universities in late January.

Highlights from the 2009 conference can be found at our Exploring Innovation web site. Online registration will begin on Feb. 1, 2011.

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