Cooperativas, SACCOs, credit unions and financial cooperatives may have different names around the world—but our DNA shines through collaborative initiatives like World Council of Credit Unions’ Global Classroom.
This unique platform for professional exchange brings together dedicated professionals from around the world through a variety of face-to-face learning opportunities designed to highlight impactful strategies for improving cooperative financial services.
For two weeks in December 2018, our collaborative DNA was on full display as the Global Classroom traveled coast to coast in the United States and explored how the digital transformation of credit unions is improving financial services for members. Credit union organizations in Southern California hosted a diverse delegation from Ecuador, Guatemala and Peru. In the D.C. metro area, a delegation of executives and directors from Savings and Credit Cooperative Organizations—or SACCOs, as credit unions in Kenya are known—braved the first gusts of winter to see how financial cooperatives are emphasizing a personalized approach to connecting with members across all service channels. Those gatherings provided insights on the realities facing credit unions in those nations.
- The average salary for secondary school teachers in Kenya is $300-500/month.
- Credit unions in Ecuador are subject to the same income taxes that for-profit businesses pay.
- In Guatemala, credit unions have come together under the MiCoope brand in a national network, sharing back office services and a core banking platform.
- The three largest credit unions in Peru were established to serve the community of Peruvians of Japanese descent
That’s a lot to unpack—credit unions addressing income disparity, defending the cooperative model for financial services, increasing awareness through collaborative initiatives and finding strength through a focus on community.
After the visits, our hosts often ask what the visiting delegation found most surprising about credit unions in the United States. They repeatedly are struck by one thing in particular—collaboration. From chapter meetings to shared branching, credit unions in the United States recognize the value in collaboration and gain strength from it. We see it in the diversity of CUSOs improving access to services and improving the sustainability of credit unions, big and small. Working together, we are stronger.
In 2019, the Global Classroom will continue to explore strategies for collaboration to assist financial cooperatives with the process of digitization. As we look forward to another year of travel and exchange, I hope you will consider making your mark and being marked by connecting with your peers around the world through the Global Classroom.