For the past year I’ve had the privilege of communicating the various ways World Council of Credit Unions carries out its mission of improving lives through credit unions and other financial cooperatives.
Engagements and immersion trips run through our Global Classroom provide me with the opportunity to showcase countless examples of that work.
At the end of each Global Classroom trip, I spend an hour or so on the phone with Thom Belekevich, our Program Manager for Member Services, listening to him passionately describe the incredible things he just experienced—so I can communicate their impact and importance to the rest of the world.
Without a doubt, some of the experiences Thom has been most passionate about derived from events designed for young credit union professionals—including the 2019 Young Professional Exchange and a January 2020 Immersion Trip, both held in Brazil.
It was at those forums a transformative idea—one that could literally change the global credit union movement—came into focus and gained momentum. That idea will move one step closer to reality in March—at the 2020 Young Professional Exchange and Global Youth Summit in the United Kingdom.
That’s where young credit union professionals will finalize a toolkit that any credit union in the world can utilize to replicate the Sicredi Youth Committee model.
But instead of having Thom explain it to me over the phone, this time I’ll be there to experience it myself and document the process as it happens. And you’re about to read why I’m so excited about that opportunity.
Why replicate the Sicredi Youth Committee model?
Sicredi, Brazil’s largest credit union system, created Youth Committees to attract and retain young people with an interest in community and professional development. By connecting cooperative education with professional development, Sicredi is building a community of engaged young people to advance sustainability.
The way they work is simple. Credit unions identify an employee who is an advocate for young members. This coordinator of cooperative development facilitates Youth Committee activities and provides strategic guidance to further sustainability goals. Once established, Youth Committee members explore the cooperative model as they implement an agenda of professional and community development activities based upon their individual and group priorities. The initiative builds awareness of the cooperative sector and strengthens the relationship between young people and their credit union—in many ways redefining that relationship. Youth committees are empowering young members by:
- stimulating a culture of volunteering.
- encouraging social responsibility.
- providing professional development opportunities.
- encouraging social entrepreneurship and the cooperative model as tools for social and economic development.
At the January 2020 Brazil Immersion Program, young professionals from outside the credit union space described how Youth Committees have helped their careers and communities.
Amanda Juliao recently completed university studies in law. She credited Sicredi for offering comprehensive training on the cooperative model and quickly became an advocate for the cooperative philosophy. Juliao is using that experience to promote financial education among children in her community.
Pedro Dantas, a university graduate in electrical engineering, said his Youth Committee inspired him to embrace the power of the cooperative philosophy. He changed his solar energy business to reflect a model of conscientious capitalism and cooperative principles, with a focus on social enterprise. Since then, his business has grown significantly. From installing three solar panel projects in the first year of business to 14 in the second, Dantas implemented 54 projects in year three—crediting that growth to the cooperative spirit he injected into his business model.
Our international delegation also learned how the Youth Committees are inspiring members to help their local communities through development projects. They visited the dairy farm of WYCUP participant and Sicredi Youth Committee member Marcos Paulino, who created a community development project that provides technical assistance to other farmers in the region. As a direct result of his efforts, the region is now recognized for producing the highest quality milk in the country and has led to new government standards based upon his techniques. Small farmers affiliated with the project have also increased productivity and improved the sustainability of their operations.
Bringing Sicredi’s Youth Committee model to the world
During an ideation session at the end of the Brazil Immersion Program, participants agreed on the tremendous potential for replicating the Youth Committee model at credit unions around the world and networking them through the World Council Young Credit Union Professionals (WYCUP) program. Credit unions can create an entirely new professional development opportunity for young people. The concept is already opening eyes on the potential for financial cooperatives in Brazil. Now, we want to bring it to the world.
During the 2020 Global Youth Summit in Manchester, our delegation of young professionals will build upon the lessons learned from Brazil and contribute to the development of toolkit for replicating the Youth Committee methodology at credit unions around the world. Their multinational perspective will provide useful guidance for implementing Youth Committees across the great diversity of credit unions and communities.
I’m extremely excited about the opportunity to share this story with you as it unfolds. It is just the latest example of how World Council of Credit Unions is working to improve lives through credit unions—and I look forward to bringing those activities to life for credit union professionals across the globe going forward.