WASHINGTON, D.C. — An increasingly complex international regulatory environment is making it more challenging for credit unions worldwide to serve their members. Credit union and trade association representatives from nine Latin American and Caribbean countries traveled to Washington, D.C., this week to learn better ways of making a positive impact on their countries' lawmakers on their institutions' behalves.
The two-day workshop, organized jointly by World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) and Credit Union National Association (CUNA), WOCCU's member in the United States, introduced effective advocacy practices as well as the concepts behind those practices to 31 participants gathered at Credit Union House, CUNA's meetings facility on Capitol Hill. Lessons learned can be put to good use in countries around the world, according to Bill Cheney, CUNA's president and CEO who was one of several presenters to the group.
"Each country has a different political system, but the basic principles of advocacy are universal," Cheney said. "What we tried to do through this workshop was review these principles, give examples of how they are applied in the United States and provoke a discussion on how they may be applicable in Latin America."
Participants came from Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru and the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico to better understand proper lobbying techniques from CUNA, one of the credit union industry's most effective lobbying bodies. The value of the techniques taught in the meetings cannot be underestimated, according to Brian Branch, WOCCU president and CEO.
"Today more than ever, we all need to strengthen our advocacy programs to address the increasing complexity of regulations and the increasing compliance burden," said Branch. "CUNA has been recognized many times over the years as one of the most effective advocacy organizations in the U.S. We are privileged that CUNA is sharing its expertise with other countries."
In addition to Cheney, other CUNA lobbyists shared tips and techniques for effectively making the credit union voice be heard. Ryan Donovan, CUNA's senior vice president of legislative affairs, introduced the principles of basic lobbying as a method to enact meaningful legislation on behalf of credit unions. Lobbying efforts should be unified, clear and credible, and accompanied by an understanding of both allies and opponents to credit union efforts, he said.
Richard Gose, CUNA's vice president of political affairs, spoke about grassroots advocacy and the impact lobbying coalitions can have in producing effective outcomes. An educated credit union member base is important to communicating directly with legislators and holding them accountable for the decisions they make, he explained.
The workshop included exercises in developing practical lobbying scenarios, calling upon attendees to develop their own lobbying strategies based on a series of challenges set before them. The two-day event's blend of theory and practice provided a rich educational experience, according to Ramon Imperial Zuñiga, CEO of Mexico's Caja Popular Mexicana.
"Lobbying is one of the most important areas we need to understand as a movement, and all of us recognize that the U.S. movement has a lot of experience in this area," Zuñiga said. "What we have learned will help us be more effective in the lobbying we do with our own congresses and federal governments."
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.