(Rome, Italy) - The World Council of Credit Unions, Inc. (WOCCU) is nurturing the next generation of leaders at its annual World Credit Union Conference through the WOCCU Young Credit Union People Program (WYCUP), an annual program that is in its fifth year. WYCUP gives talented credit union professionals under the age of 35 the chance to compete for a scholarship to the following year's meeting and gain career-building connections in the process. This year, a group of 26 are competing for 5 scholarships to the 2006 World Credit Union Conference in Dublin, Ireland.
The nominees come from a wide range of nations and backgrounds, but what they have in common is a commitment to credit union values that started early. Nominee Allan Moffatt of Canada, 34, has been working for the past 5 1/2 years to help establish the Anashinabek Nation Credit Union, the first financial institution ever granted a charter to operate on reservation land. From his perspective, young people are vital to the credit unions they serve. They "keep the cooperative spirit alive," he said. "By listening to the older leaders in the community we can learn a lot, but we also need to listen to the differing views of the next generation. That's how we can attract new members."
Another nominee, Claire Fisher of Ireland, 25, knows quite a bit about outreach. She works with the Clonard Credit Union on a volunteer basis, visiting elementary schools to educate children about financial responsibility. By organizing competitions and games, she spreads awareness in ways that appeal to the youngest audience. "Children need to learn the value of money," she explained. "If they learn it at a young age they'll maintain that lesson throughout their lives."
Moffatt and Fisher had the chance to elaborate on their views about the future of the credit union movement in a small group activity on Monday, when the nominees were asked to formulate presentations addressing the question "How can credit unions retain cooperative values as they expand?" Each of the four groups will have fifteen minutes to present their ideas to all the nominees at the end of the conference, and their performances will be part of the criteria upon which the winners will be determined.
Other criteria includes past experience, position and degree of influence in one's credit union, initiative shown and the quality of a written essay that is sent with the application form and reviewed prior to the conference. The WYCUP committee, which judges the competition, consists of six WOCCU board members, Grzegorz Bierecki, Poland (committee chairman); Mark Bailey, Ireland; Síncrito Cifuentes, Guatemala; Ron Hance, USA; Sylvester Kadzola, Malawi; and Neil McDonald, New Zealand.
The winners will be announced on the closing night of the conference. Before the judging takes place, however, all nominees and last year's winners will spend the duration of the conference networking, learning and sharing ideas in several formal and informal sessions led by Kimberly Johston, WOCCU marketing and communications manager, and Skott Pope, VP of training, Washington CU League. This rare chance to connect with other young people in the credit union community and learn from one another seems to be as big an incentive for the nominees for participating in the competition as the chance of winning.
"Often we get stuck in our own little bubbles,
our own credit unions, especially as young
people," said Moffatt. "The importance of WYCUP
is that it helps introduce people like to me to
other people like me — which is important." He
added that it was a unique opportunity for young
people to attend an international conference.
Fisher agreed, "This is a learning experience.
You get to explain what works for you
and then hear what works for others. It opens
your eyes." To learn more about WYCUP, visit the
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.