Asuncion, Paraguay – Central de Cooperativas del Area Nacional (CENCOPAN)' s international seminar, "Cooperatives: Viable Alternatives for Economic and Social Development, Emphasis on Microfinance, Regulation, Technology and Cooperative Communication" was held June 2nd and 3rd in Asuncion, Paraguay. In attendance were World Council of Credit Unions' (WOCCU) international partnership manager, Victor Corro, and William Raker, board chair of CECOPAN's international partner Minnesota Credit Union Network (MnCUN). MnCUN and CENCOPAN have been working together for the past two years and signed a formal International Partnership Program agreement in May of 2004. Their areas of focus are (1) legislation and lobbying, (2) relationship with regulators and (3) technology.
At CENCOPAN's invitation, Raker presented a proposal for advancing to newer technology to the 400 conference attendees. Included in his presentation was an outline of the findings of a technology assessment conducted in October, 2004 by IT representatives from MnCUN and WOCCU, recommendations for advance, suggestions for preliminary steps, and an explanation of the benefits of taking such steps.
"It may be easier to find reasons why [technological improvements] can't be done than it is to commit to doing what must be done, but the only eventual choice is to do it," Raker told the attendees. "Acknowledging that positive, committed, and focused mindset early on... is the first step and most important step you can make."
Among his recommendations were careful and selective deployment of technology, the establishment of common or uniform standards for hardware and software, and most importantly, cooperation. "Cooperating is at the very heart of our fundamental philosophy of credit unions," Raker said. "It is our mission not only to help our members, but to assist one another."
Another of Raker's cornerstone recommendations was the formation of a CENCOPAN technology council to "confirm the shared need to advance technology for the benefit of all." Representatives from CENCOPAN assured Corro they would seriously consider Raker's suggestion. "It is a very innovative idea, especially to include credit unions of all sizes so that everyone has an equal voice," Corro said.
The benefits of such investments in technology, according to Raker, are better service to members, the ability to offer more products and services, improved productivity of staff, increased accuracy, better security, and overall reduced costs.
Also in attendance at the conference was Antonio Ortiz, president of Instituto Nacional de Cooperativismo (INCOOP), Paraguay's credit union regulator. Raker and Corro spoke with Ortiz and also visited with the USAID representative working for the U.S. Ambassador's office in an effort to educate and update them on the efforts of WOCCU and its International Partnerships.
Following their speeches at the conference, Raker and Corro were interviewed by a TV station, trade press reporters, and participated in two one-hour radio interviews.
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 105 countries serve 217 million people. Learn more about World Council's impact around the world at www.woccu.org.