Sometimes the best classroom is the one that’s found on another continent.
A delegation of 14 credit union representatives will spend next week in Brazil as part of the World Council of Credit Unions’ (WOCCU) Young Professional Exchange. It’s an opportunity for the delegates to share information and learn from others in the credit union movement.
“One of our greatest resources is our willingness to share positive and negative experiences,” says Thom Belekevich, WOCCU program manager. “We’ve created a platform that encourages credit union professionals to connect with people in other countries and share what has gone well with their credit unions or, conversely, what they’ve learned through an experience that can help others avoid some of the same challenges.”
Kristin Ryan, CUNA’s director of learning events and lead for the CUNA Young Professionals Committee, and Blair Wolston, part of the financial services team at $778 million asset VSECU in Montpelier, Vt., and president of the Credit Union Young Professionals of Vermont, are involved with the exchange. They’ll provide CUNA News with daily updates via video and photos about their experience in Brazil and what they’re learning.
The group—which includes eight people from the U.S. as well as representatives from Costa Rica, Colombia, and Chile—will travel to Curitiba, Brazil. They’ll spend time at the headquarters for Sicredi, a financial cooperative that allows credit unions to share branding, back office services, a common information technology platform, and accounting systems.
“They have a structure that encourages collaboration, and it brings out the best examples that credit unions have to offer,” Belekevich says. “It highlights this as an example of the power of collaboration, and what’s possible when a group of credit unions make that decision and that commitment to come together and work together for something larger.”
‘One of our greatest resources is our willingness to share positive and negative experiences.’
The group will also attend an international youth summit, where 150 credit union representatives—managers, young professionals, and young credit union members—will address diversity and inclusion and explore how credit unions can better serve their diverse communities.
In addition to a visit to a Sicredi branch, the group will visit with a dairy farmer who’s a member of both an agricultural cooperative and Sicredi, and they’ll hear from the farmer how the cooperatives have affected the business, Belekevich says.
“When people talk with colleagues who are in similar roles at their credit unions or are working toward similar goals, it changes your life, the way you approach your work, and your motivation to advocate for credit unions,” Belekevich says.