Global collaboration, inclusion and impact

Cooperation among international credit unions is important to the strength, sustainability and global impact of the credit union movement. A great example of this, and it is only one of many, is the relationship with UK and US credit unions and their associations.

Expanding financial inclusion

For the past 10 years, ABCUL and Inclusiv have shared a common interest of learning and collaboration. This has included delegation visits to each other’s conferences and joint educational events from members of both associations. This friendly engagement has evolved over time and has led to an expanded focus on a creation of a formal UK community development program. Leaders from “both sides of the pond” have been enthusiastically engaged in the ideation and due diligence of the process.

Inclusiv Director Hank Hubbard, CEO One Detroit CU has been engaged in this development work from the beginning. “Credit union community development initiatives and funding has improved the lives of millions of families in the U.S. The idea that the best practices here could be replicated among UK credit unions is inspiring and reflects international values for network cooperation.”

In August, this ongoing partnership resulted in an ABCUL delegation visit to Madison, WI. They were hosted by Alison Carr, Chief Strategy Officer, Your Credit Union Partner (YCUP) and Pablo DeFilippi, Executive Vice President, Inclusiv. The purpose of the visit was to share best practice strategies to identify resources to support ABCUL members on the path of creating a formal UK community development program like the US community development program developed by Inclusiv.

The delegation heard from Inclusiv, with an overview and discussion on the US CDCU model. The National Credit Union Foundation presented on financial inclusion and financial well-being for all, CUNA Mutual led a discussion on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and how DEI is integral to financial inclusion, and community development leaders from the Wisconsin Credit Union League shared local community development initiatives and how these are leveraged from an advocacy perspective. The group traveled to the WOCCO and Filene offices where they heard from WOCCU EVP, Paul Treinen; Filene Senior Director, Research Taylor Nelms, as well as Holly Fearing, Senior Director, Marketing and Cortney Arnold, Director, Community Development. In addition, the group heard from community development expert Sarah Marshall, Profound Hope Industries and Scott Butterfield, Principal, YCUP facilitated a strategic discussion to identify the near, short, and long-term investments and opportunities.

During the many interactions, US credit union leaders learned much from the UK delegation that included amazing public and private partnerships with local English governments and non-profits that support community food banks and wide access to financial education and coaching. We heard about outreach and education that UK credit unions provide to help consumers overcome addictions like gambling, faith-based products. and plans to end payday lending schemes in their local communities. DeFilippi said, “these interactions with international credit union partners always result in mutual learnings that strengthen the internal credit union system and the outcomes are inspiring, recommitting each to the importance of the credit union international operating principles.”

He added, “Finding the time to engage is often difficult, but it is always worth it.”

Following the four-day visit – a framework for a future UK community development program was created and will guide the next level of planning and action for ABCUL and their membership. The US participants left with a long list of ideas and UK best practices that will support the community development work here in the U.S.

In search of a fresh perspective

2022 has been a year full of UK and US collaborations. Earlier in the year, Inclusiv and Scott Butterfield from YCUP attended the ABCUL conference in Manchester, England. During this visit, Scott Butterfield visited Bradford District Credit Unions food pantry and was introduced to their deep bench of community partners. “I left my tour of BDCU and conversation with their leadership and community partners with new ideas that will help community development credit unions at home and it refueled my cooperative spirit,” said Butterfield.

Another visit that occurred during the same trip was with the HEY CU board and management. The purpose of this visit was to debrief the virtual strategic planning session that YCUP facilitated earlier in the year. “The planning process was important for me, I was reminded of how many things credit unions from different countries have in common. The HEY team inspired me with their vision for the future and their commitment to their staff as a certified living wage employer and development of their team,” said Butterfield.

When asked why the HEY CU board looked for a planning partner a significant way outside of their market, in the US. Alan Hignett, Chair, HEY CU said, “2019 was a time of reflection and a time to refresh many of the ways we served our members. The board together with staff looked at how change could be driven and what was the best path forward. Looking outside for a fresh perspective led the board to seek a planning partner from the US. This provided a fresh perspective; new ideas and it gave us a level of certainty as well as reassurance that we were on the right track.”

Why it matters

The UK/US interactions are but one of many international credit union interactions and support that happens each year. It’s inspiring to know that credit union programs that originated in one country can expand and improve to support other countries, expanding geographically to reach greater numbers and increasing impact. And yet, it’s even more than the ideas or programs these international interactions generate: it’s friendship. Friendship strengthened by shared values among credit union leaders that want the same important things for their members, lasting friendships that add to the value of credit union service and fill our need to leave things a little better than we found them.