WOCCU’s International Partnerships Program added three new relationships in 2004:Paraguay/Minnesota, Missouri/Barbados, and Caja Libertad (Mexico)/Arizona. This translates into improving the quality and scope of services in credit unions serving more than 1.1 million members in these countries.
While international partnerships remain a means for cultural and information exchange, their focus has evolved to become more technical in nature. With increased interest in international transactions and technology-driven operations in credit unions, many US League partners are now playing a key role when working with WOCCU to provide operational expertise and to offer experienced advice in information technology requirements to developing partners.
WOCCU’s goal is to make the partnerships as effective as possible. Partners work with WOCCU to conduct planning sessions to set annual goals and work plans for their partnerships. Each partnership conducts a review session at the end of each quarter to measure work plan effectiveness so priorities and activities are continually evaluated and realigned. This assures that the partnership remains focused and both partners feel that their relationship adds value to their mission.
Partners outside the United States report they have received invaluable advice and concrete benefits. To cite a few examples, CENCOPAN in Paraguay expressed that their international relationship has allowed them to have face-to-face meetings with their own government officials; Caja Popular Mexicana saved about two million dollars on a software purchase; Kenya credit unions’ management and board have been able to participate in a formal training program; credit union members in rural Bolivia enjoy the benefits of shared credit union branches.
United States credit union leagues have reported they were pleased with the benefits they received from volunteering the time of their staff and their credit unions. Many found partnerships illustrated the credit union difference when talking with their state or national policy makers. Others reported benefits to their marketing programs due to the awareness this program brought of new membership segments such as Spanish speaking members or new immigrants. Leagues and credit unions reported the partnerships contributed to their staff’s professional development both from credit union philosophy and technical perspectives.
All partnerships are country-to-state league; some include credit union-to-credit union matches under the state league umbrella. As of December 2004, WOCCU’s international partnerships portfolio consisted of 15 active partnerships and 5 progressing toward formal agreements.