The power of a voice
Creating a sense of community and belonging is key, says Robyn Cousin.
Robyn Cousin’s voice is a powerful tool, and she uses it to make a difference and advocate for those who need it most.
“I can influence the direction and the vision of what we do from wherever I am with my voice,” says Cousin, board vice chair at $3.5 billion asset Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union in St. Paul, Minn. “I use any opportunity to be a voice for those who aren’t at the table.”
When she joined the Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union board in 2016, her goal was to be the “voice for the disenfranchised,” not only people facing racial and income disparities but those lacking financial well-being.
The board began examining policies, procedures, and services offered during strategic planning sessions to tackle these issues. Then, George Floyd was murdered in May 2020.
“That murder and the conversation it triggered opened up, in a more amplified way, not only the challenges but the opportunities that were before us,” Cousin says.
The credit union wanted to respond but knew its response needed to recognize that people had different levels of experience and understanding of the events that had just happened. Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union CEO Dave Larson reached out to Cousin—who lives a few miles from where the murder took place and had a community connection to Floyd—for her input on how to respond.
The result was a board statement centering on the themes of equity and inclusion while addressing what took place.
“A lot of organizations were coming up with statements,” Cousin says. “We wanted it to be significant and embedded in our core, our culture, our policies and practices, our services, and our inclusion and commitment.”
Creating a sense of community and belonging was key, and Cousin says it’s something Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union continues to do today. The credit union highlights these efforts in its first Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging report, which describes actions—big and small—that have had an impact.
The work isn’t done, and Cousin will continue to use her voice. “The future is volatile, but it has so many opportunities,” she says. “If we stay where we are, we risk everything. We need to be open to possibilities and nimble enough to grasp them.”