Nassau, Bahamas-The World Council of Credit Unions' International Partnerships program is one of the most visible ways World Council (WOCCU) creates networks between those in the developing and developed worlds. Pairing credit union systems from different financial environments for mutual support, knowledge exchange and developmental assistance leads to greater success for all credit unions involved. 2003 saw the birth of three partnerships—Ohio and Bolivia, Oregon and Uzbekistan, and Arizona and Mexico. Missouri and Barbados, along with New Mexico and Mexico-Alianza will be added in 2005—for a total of sixteen partnerships.
Arthur Arnold, WOCCU president and CEO explained, "We strongly believe that partnerships are the model for future growth. Credit unions sharing what we have in common—expertise, experience, and best practices that others may not have is the unique component to continued growth in different member movements."
Arnold continued to explain World Council's role in International Partnerships is that of facilitator, "we bringing credit union movements together."
Working collaboratively, each partnership develops different goals and strategies based on the needs of the credit unions involved. For example, the Ohio Credit Union League and Corporate One Federal Credit Union, two American organizations, are currently working with the Bolivian credit union movement on a two-year collaboration aimed at technology transfer, the implementation of a shared branching system and WOCCU's PEARLS Financial Monitoring System (see www.woccu.org for more information), and membership expansion.
The Arizona/Mexico (Caja Libertad) partnership is the second in the program that involves a Mexican credit union league. Mexico's largest league, Caja Popular, has been working with the California and Texas leagues since February 2002 to address cross-border services, expand remittance services, improve marketing plans, and develop new savings and microfinance services, among other goals. The new partnership between the Arizona Credit Union League and Caja Libertad, Mexico's second largest league, will also aim at shared branching and expanded remittance services.
Remittances are an important tool for growth in developing nations, especially Mexico. The world's single largest remittance market, U.S.- Mexico, saw roughly US$13 billion transferred in 2003 alone. With the help of WOCCU's IRnet (International Remittance Network) program and International Partnerships, millions of people receive the money necessary to support themselves and realize their dreams, growing small economies in the process. Now, with the addition of a second U.S.-Mexico partnership, growth will accelerate.
The Oregon/Uzbekistan partnership has some larger hurtles to jump before it witnesses the level of financial activity seen by Mexican credit unions. Thankfully, WOCCU has been laying the groundwork since 1999, working diligently with the Uzbekistani government to develop enabling legislation and regulation—not an easy task in a former Soviet republic where the vast majority of the population lacks access to affordable financial services. But in 2002, seven credit unions opened there, and these pioneers had collected roughly 5,500 members and US$1 million in assets by the end of 2003. Though progress in the country is still an uphill battle, these positive signs indicate that it will be possible to maintain steady growth, especially with the help of the Credit Union Association of Oregon (CUAO), its new International Partner.
In fact, the benefits of the partnership are already visible. Laspochka Savings and Credit Union (SCU) is the most profitable credit union in Uzbekistan thanks to advice it received from CUAO on profit distribution. Another Uzbekistani credit union, Baraka SCU, will soon show its own signs of growth as it begins to offer the range of services commonly found at Oregon credit unions. In Uzbekistan, Mexico and Bolivia, the positive effects of International Partnerships may already be seen, and will only continue to reveal themselves. On the other side of the coin, benefits may be less visible, but are no less profound.
Credit unions in developed countries have a lot to gain from partnering; the broadening of perspectives experienced when collaborating with credit union leaders from different cultures more than compensates for the time and resources they invest. Dick Ensweiler, president and CEO of the Texas Credit Union League explained in an International Partnership meeting, "The knowledge we have gained from CPM, our partner, in marketing to the Hispanic market has been invaluable. We are thankful for the exchange."
During the last day of WOCCU's Leadership Institute, partner countries met at an International Partnership Meeting to learn about the challenges and successes of other partnerships, as well as work plans for 2004. To learn more about WOCCU International Partnerships, please visit the WOCCU website at www.woccu.org or contact Victor Corro at firstname.lastname@example.org.
World Council of Credit Unions is the global trade association and development agency for credit unions. World Council promotes the sustainable development of credit unions and other financial cooperatives around the world to empower people through access to high quality and affordable financial services. World Council advocates on behalf of the global credit union system before international organizations and works with national governments to improve legislation and regulation. Its technical assistance programs introduce new tools and technologies to strengthen credit unions' financial performance and increase their outreach.
World Council has implemented more than 290 technical assistance programs in 71 countries. Worldwide, 57,000 credit unions in 103 countries serve 208 million people. Learn more about World Council's impact around the world at www.woccu.org.