This is an important time for our movement, as we recommit to our principles through the critical work around Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI). DEI is not only the right thing to do, it’s integral to the credit union philosophy of “people helping people.”
As leaders fostering ideas and initiatives across the system, leagues’ DEI work is a key component of a vibrant and just credit union movement. Credit unions across the country have made great strides in their respective DEI journeys, and so too have their state Credit union leagues/associations. In addition to the efforts made at the local level, leagues are collaboratively making important progress at regional and national levels as well.
Championing the CU DEI Collective
AACUL joined 14 other credit union system organizations and service providers to found the Credit Union Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Collective, an expanding group within the credit union movement devoted to furthering DEI efforts. Going forward, the AACUL/league system will have active representation as part of the CU DEI Collective’s governing body. More than 200 credit unions and industry organizations have signed the Collective’s pledge, including AACUL, individual leagues, league foundations, league service corporations and the Credit Union National Association (CUNA).
Partnering with Diversity-Centric Organizations
Credit union leagues have enhanced their DEI efforts with a renewed commitment to diversity-centric organizations such as the African-American Credit Union Coalition (AACUC), Coopera, and the Network of Latino Credit Union Professionals (NLCUP). For example, many credit union leagues are supporting AACUC through membership and through financial investment in its “Commitment to Change” initiative.
Working Towards Financial Well-Being for All
Many leagues and league foundations are addressing the financial health challenges of marginalized communities, especially those that arise from racial discrimination and the disproportionate affect COVID-19 has had on people of color. For example, several leagues and their foundations have allocated funds to DEI initiatives specifically for employees of member credit unions, to programs which support financial education in underserved communities, and to initiatives which improve access to credit unions.
Leagues and AACUL are actively planning and coordinating with CUNA and the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) in championing the Financial Well-Being for All effort for our industry.
Leagues and AACUL are also deepening their partnerships with organizations like Inclusiv, to support financial well-being for all with efforts such as working to expand the number of credit unions designated as Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs).
Sharing through the AACUL DEI Collaboration Forum
Behind the scenes, leagues are sharing among themselves in order to learn and grow. AACUL’s DEI Collaboration Forum provides an opportunity for leagues to inspire each other through encouragement and by sharing their experiences. Recent conversations have included releasing anti-racism statements, holding open – yet potentially uncomfortable – conversations with staff on DEI topics, DEI-related trainings and resources, effective ways of inspiring and supporting credit unions’ efforts, and more.
Facilitating Difficult Conversations
Similar to the way they are having conversations with each other, leagues are facilitating conversations amongst credit union employees as well. Not only are individual leagues facilitating collaboration between credit unions, they are coordinating with other leagues to expand the conversations to include credit unions throughout a multitude of states. One great example is a conversation with AACUC President/CEO Renee Sattiewhite designed specifically for Young Credit Union Professionals nationwide and promoted by the league system.
Providing Learning Opportunities
Thanks to the impactful work of leagues and CUNA alike, there is no shortage of quality learning opportunities for credit union professionals wanting to expand their knowledge around DEI efforts. CUNA’s DEI eSchools are a great example of the credit union movement coming together to focus on DEI. These include speakers from many facets of the industry; in fact, a recent session features a panel that includes AACUL Chairwoman Diana Dysktra.
In addition to CUNA’s national effort, many leagues have partnered regionally to host educational webinars. Others have partnered with local colleges and universities to create Diversity, Equity and Inclusion certificate programs designed specifically for credit union leaders.
Continuing to Learn and Grow
DEI is an ever-evolving journey, and these examples are just a few highlights of recent league system efforts. I’m looking forward to sharing AACUL/league system’s work, as it continues to develop.