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Staff learn history, purpose of credit unions

Posted By Jeff Hardin, Tuesday, October 31, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, October 31, 2017
The 2017 class included nearly 20 credit unions and credit union organizations. 

Forty credit union staff learned the history, purpose and values of credit unions at the Principles & Philosophy Conference October 24-26. The event took place outside Winnsboro, SC at the White Oak Conference Center. 

Produced by a group of volunteer Credit Union Development Educators (CUDEs) working in partnership with the League, the curriculum is designed with three major outcomes in mind:

  1. To raise awareness of and empathy for the struggles that many credit union members face today;
  2. To share the knowledge that credit unions and cooperatives were specifically formed to address these struggles; and
  3. To encourage conference attendees to act on what they've learned when they return home. 

"Credit unions, like all cooperatives, are best seen as problem solvers," said Jeff Hardin, who coordinated the conference working in partnership with the DE group. "Credit unions came to the Carolinas a century ago because affordable, ethical credit was not available to most people - particularly those of very modest means. We were seen as a solution to a very difficult problem. That's a helpful framework we use in delivering the conference."

The event kicked off Tuesday afternoon, October 24 with the Life Simulation. The Life Simulation experience is designed to help credit union employees, volunteers and leadership begin to understand what it might be like to live in a typical low-income family trying to survive from month-to-month. The attendees were randomly organized into family units, with each person playing a unique role and each family having a unique set of challenges. These families then role-played the simulation through a series of four, 15-minute "weeks". 

Following up on the experiential learning of the Life Simulation, the group learned about the origins of the credit union and cooperative moments on Wednesday and Thursday. This portion of the program focused on the problem solving aspect of cooperatives, and shared the specific and unique role the credit union business model plays within the financial system. 

The attendees also worked in small table groups to share their perspectives and learning points throughout the event. In one exercise, each of these seven small groups analyzed the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) of one principle and reported their findings with the larger group. 

On Thursday, this group work culminated in group presentations about one of seven credit union pioneers. This assignment included research of their assigned pioneer prior to arriving at the conference, and then working together as a small group to teach the rest of the class what they had learned about their pioneer. 

This Pioneer Storytelling segment also challenged each group to see the motivations each pioneer had in helping the credit union movement organize, understand what problems their pioneer was attempting to solve, and consider how this information connects to the present day. The pioneers profiled included Alphonse DesJardins, Edward Filene, Roy Bergengren, Louise Herring, Dora Maxwell, Thomas B. Patterson of Rowan County, NC (organizer of the first African American CU in the US) and Esau Jenkins of Charleston (Civil Rights leader who organized several cooperative ventures, including the CO FCU). 

The conference concluded with an action planning session that challenged each person to set goals related to what they had learned that they could implement at their credit union or in their community. "I have been in the financial industry for over 25 years, in commercial banking regulation, consulting commercial banks and credit unions all over the country and now back to the regulatory side for credit unions. I have over 1,400 hours of training in the industry and have never attended a class that focused on the true nature and purpose, and history of the industry as this one," shared one conference attendee in an anonymous survey.

The 2018 Principles & Philosophy Conference is scheduled for October 23-25, 2018 at the Caraway Conference Center located near Sophia, NC. If you are interested in attending this event, please contact Jeff Hardin (919-457-9063).  

Tags:  Principles and Philosophy Conference 

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