From Curitiba to the world

Exchange brings young leaders together

World Council event inspires global collaboration.

August 7, 2019

For most U.S. credit union professionals, just getting to Curitiba—in the southern reaches of Brazil—includes three separate flights and nearly 24 hours of travel.

If the distance, climate, and culture made it seem like the other side of the world, that was nothing compared to the professional development and learning experiences the World Council’s Young Professionals (YP) Exchange provided.

From Curitiba to the world

Click to enlarge. Attendees participate in the Sicredi Youth Summit.

As World Council’s program manager for member services, I spent more than a year developing the YP Exchange with a team from Sicredi, Brazil’s largest credit union system—and one of the world’s most innovative.

At the heart of the exchange was the 2nd Annual Sicredi Youth Summit, a forum that brings young professionals together to explore strategies to address financial cooperatives’ shared challenges.

Throughout the summit, attendees shared inspiring life stories celebrating the diversity of the human experience. These included:

  • Resilience of a Syrian refugee creating a new life in Brazil.
  • Empowerment of women entrepreneurs through technology.
  • Bravery in the face of discrimination: expanding awareness and employment opportunities for the transgendered community.
  • Improvement of accessibility and digital inclusion for the hearing impaired.
  • Opportunities for culture and creativity for marginalized children.

That was followed by an ideation session applying the insights gained to new initiatives for building stronger bonds between credit unions and their communities.

‘Youth committees have the potential to redefine how young people perceive their credit unions.’

Sicredi Youth Committees

The summit also brought World Council Young Credit Union Professionals (WYCUP) representatives together with other young credit union professionals and members who make up Sicredi youth committees.

Youth committees are established at the individual credit union level. Most of the committees are made up of credit union members, with some employees involved as coordinators.

The initiative builds awareness of financial cooperatives among this important demographic to ensure the organization’s future viability. It also strengthens relationships with young members by:

  • Stimulating a culture of volunteering.
  • Encouraging social responsibility.
  • Providing professional development opportunities.
  • Encouraging entrepreneurship and cooperativism as a tool for social and economic development.

The WYCUP representatives who attended the Youth Summit were so inspired by the active involvement of Sicredi members they took on the challenge of trying to replicate the Sicredi model globally and create youth committees through the World Council.

Over the next few months, they will work together to develop a toolkit all credit unions can use to implement such youth committees.

These committees have the potential to redefine how young people perceive their credit unions. As we plant the seeds for credit unions to create their own youth committees, we will work with state leagues and national associations to create the structure that networks young professionals with their global peers.

With our local focus and global impact, we look to a future where credit unions inspire young people to come together, collaborate, and demonstrate the credit union difference during an annual Global Youth Summit.

THOM BELEKEVICH is a program manager for the World Council of Credit Unions.