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In 1844, a small group of weavers from Rochdale, England created the blueprint for how their newly-formed cooperative would operate and serve the local community. These values, known as the Seven Cooperative Principles, serve as the operating guidebook for credit unions and cooperatives throughout the world. This blog was created to honor that legacy and to showcase the everyday efforts of credit unions in the Carolinas that embody the cooperative mission and purpose.


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Cooperative Initiatives adds to and enhances programming in 2016

Posted By Jeff Hardin, Tuesday, November 29, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The League's Cooperative Initiatives department added exciting new tools and programs for credit unions and enhanced others this year. These additions provide credit unions with powerful tools and opportunities for staff development in the year ahead. 

Thanks to a partnership with Coastal FCU and Carolina Foothills FCU, the League is able to offer the Life Simulation exercise for credit union staff and volunteers. Developed by the National Credit Union Foundation, 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. It is unique and special because it combines the financial and emotional distress that 25 simulated families tackle as one of up to 90 participants. This exercise is an ideal staff training program that can also be used as an event break out session, an extended chapter meeting or community educational event.

"The Life Simulation is a powerful experiential tool that is sure to raise awareness and empathy among credit union staff and volunteers," noted Jeff Hardin, the League's director of cooperative initiatives. This simulation is available for credit unions to use free-of-charge. 

In addition to the Life Simulation, the League makes available the Reality of Money simulation for high school students. Students learn, as they participate, about the impact their choices make in their budget and lifestyle, as they are "transformed" into wage earning, bill paying and financially independent young adults. The end result is that students get a powerful lesson about the real-life choices they will soon be making. 

The Reality of Money, which was developed by Credit Union Development Educators in the Carolinas, was updated and enhanced in 2016. The update includes new stations and student profiles, plus other modifications to the materials based on feedback from students and volunteers. The Reality of Money is available for download on this page of the League web site (please log in using your CCUL account and scroll to the bottom of the page to view and download the materials).   

The Principles & Philosophy Conference provided an inspirational educational experience to more than 40 credit union staff from the Carolinas. The conference, now in its seventh year, took place October 18-20 at the Caraway Conference Center near Asheboro. The curriculum continues evolve over time and is annually among the League's highest rated professional development events. The 2017 conference will be held in South Carolina (dates and location to be determined).  

The CUaware Protégé Mentor program also continues to evolve. The program, which recently completed its third year, is now open to all young professionals in North Carolina and South Carolina. The program also has been enhanced to provide support, direction and resources to mentors and protégés. The 2017 program launches in December with a welcoming conference call, and officially kicks off early next year with an in-person meeting. 

Finally, The Bridge blog successfully launched in 2016, giving credit union staff a greater awareness of the happenings in the wider cooperative movement in the Carolinas. The blog covered several exciting developments, including the grand opening celebrations for the Hub City Co-operative in Spartanburg in the spring, and Greensboro's Renaissance Community Co-operative in the fall. 

"All these efforts are part of the League's commitment to helping credit union staff and volunteers gain a greater appreciation for cooperatives, as well as provide meaningful educational opportunities to staff and members," Hardin said. "We look forward to working in partnership with credit unions in the Carolinas in the upcoming year!" 

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Three credit union staff earn CUDE designation

Posted By Jeff Hardin, Wednesday, November 16, 2016
Updated: Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Forty credit union professionals became Credit Union Development Educators (CUDEs) after being guided by dedicated program facilitators and mentors through the intensive Credit Union Development Education (DE) Training from the National Credit Union Foundation (the Foundation). The DE training was held November 2-9, 2016 at the Lowell Center in Madison, Wis.

Three staff from the Carolinas earned the CUDE designation, including Emma Norman (Local Government FCU), Tilman Kelly (Coastal FCU), and Katie Mitchell (SC Telco FCU). “DE Training was so inspiring,” said  Mitchell, who is the electronic services manager at SC Telco. “It rejuvenated me and confirmed why working in the credit union movement is so important to me. It is not just a job, because I have the power to change lives!”

The mission of the DE program is to promote credit unions’ social responsibility and domestic and international development through interactive adult education and professional networking. By linking credit unions’ past and present, the DE program brings renewed relevance to credit unions’ seven cooperative principles and the philosophy of “People Helping People.”

DE Training provides these critical lessons by incorporating challenges credit unions face today. During the recent week-long program, participants were involved in group exercises, field trips, discussions with speakers from around the credit union system, and are required to complete team projects proposing solutions for credit unions to help alleviate or eliminate challenging situations in any given area. For this training’s final case studies, participants worked through and presented solutions to critical issues that included financial stability among young adults and families, credit union board disruption, building microfinance programs in developing countries, credit union solutions to predatory lending, the increasing issue of homelessness in America, and rejuvenating a stagnant credit union.

The November DE Training was the last training of 2016 and four are scheduled for 2017 in Madison, Wis. If you are interested in participating in DE next year, visit to learn more or you can email to be put on a notification list for when registration opens up.

Tags:  Credit Union Development Education 

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Kenyan SACCO delegation to visit North Carolina in December

Posted By Jeff Hardin, Wednesday, November 16, 2016
Updated: Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Principle Six: Cooperation among cooperatives. Credit unions serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative principles by working with other cooperatives through local, state, regional, national, and international structures.


A group of 26 savings and credit cooperative (SACCO) employees and volunteers from Kenya will visit the Raleigh-Durham area December 5-9. The visit, sponsored by the World Council, is an immersion program designed to encourage an exchange of best practices and innovative ideas between financial cooperatives around the world. The exchange includes a series of credit union visits during which NC credit union hosts share their experience through facilitated discussion and presentations.

The group's itinerary begins with a briefing from the League about the credit union system in the Carolinas and the USA. The League also plans to share more about the political landscape in North Carolina through a visit with lawmakers in the Old North State.

Local Government FCU, Coastal FCU and Latino Community CU also plan to host the Kenyan delegation through the week. Each credit union will share an overview of its history, member make-up and governance, as well as products, services and overall operations. These exchanges are also an opportunity for the host credit unions to highlight any innovative or particularly successful products and services, community engagement efforts or initiatives that set the credit union apart from other financial institutions in the area.

As of last year, there were more than 5,700 SACCOs in Kenya with 5.4 million members. These financial cooperatives have enjoyed tremendous success by providing affordable financial services to members who have not traditionally been served by for-profit banks. 

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.

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CUaware Triangle holds speed networking event

Posted By Jeff Hardin, Wednesday, November 2, 2016
Updated: Wednesday, November 2, 2016
Thirty credit union professionals attended CUaware Triangle's speed networking event Tuesday, November 1. The event took place at Local Government FCU's Wake Forest Road location. 

“This was a successful and fun event with a very diverse group of attendees," shared Jennifer Moore of CUaware. "One colleague had 8 months of experience while two others have been part of the credit union movement for over 20 years. This is what CUaware is all about – bridging the gap between the “newbies” and “seasoned” industry professionals. I hope this trend continues for years to come as the industry is constantly evolving,” Moore said.

The professionals were paired up and exchanged answers on a question for three minutes, then rotated to another partner for a new question. The fast format generated lively discussions on a range of career questions covering their current and past roles in the work force. A few credit union system questions were included as well. A sampling of the questions included:

  • What was the first paying job you ever held and how did it help prepare you for the work world?
  • What is the most challenging aspect of your current job?
  • If you could make some change in the credit union industry, little or big, what would it be and why?

“I thought it was interesting how Jeff Hardin and I shared our first paying job – which was on a farm," Moore noted. "And now we’re both part of the credit union movement. A movement founded by farmers. It really makes you stop and reflect for a moment.”

In addition to the fast-paced networking event, CUaware Triangle hosted a catered reception and mixer before the event. After the speed networking concluded, the group received a tour of LGFCU's new location, which opened earlier this year.

CUaware is a council of the Carolinas Credit Union League, with meetings and events in various parts of North Carolina and South Carolina through the year. To learn more, please click here


Tags:  CUaware 

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Guest post: Akira Jacobs on mentoring young professionals

Posted By Jeff Hardin, Wednesday, October 26, 2016
Updated: Wednesday, October 26, 2016

(Editor's note: Akira Jacobs, a service manager at South Carolina Federal Credit Union, is the 2015 CUaware  Protégé. Akira reflects in this post on the impact of being mentored at her credit union, as well as participating in the CUaware Protégé Mentor program. If you are interested in participating in the Mentor program in 2017, please contact Jeff Hardin.)

When I started my career in the credit union industry, I had no idea how embedded the credit union movement would be in my heart. I started as a teller in 2008 and instantly fell in love with the people I worked with. I saw an atmosphere of encouragement, leadership and education within the company. It was apparent to me that employee growth was supported from within the senior management.

After a month of working with South Carolina Federal Credit Union, the vice president of my region called me into an office to see how I was doing. In that meeting she spoke words of affirmation into my life that gave me the confidence to be who I am in my credit union career today. I often wonder if she even remembered that moment or knew the impact her words had on me. I imagine that at some point in her career someone influenced her the same way she did me, and that is why she knew it was her responsibility to do the same. To me, that moment portrayed true mentorship.

Everyone who is a leader has had a person in their life encouraging them along the way, and people who desire to become leaders are in search of a person that will influence them. The Carolina’s Credit Union League has designed a mentorship program that places mentees with a mentor in a leadership position.   

After winning the 2015 Protégé Competition I had the opportunity to engage with several mentors from the CUaware Protégé Mentor program. This program has helped my career grow tremendously. I was able to engage with senior managers and board members of various credit unions from North and South Carolina. I learned the steps they took to get where they are today. Having a person in your corner rooting you on is such an important connection to have.  

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to sit among the next group of credit union professionals who were competing in the 2016 CUaware Protégé Finals Competition. As I sat there and listened to each of their presentations, I couldn’t help but think how amazing the next year would be for them.  I never thought my career would take off the way it did after being involved in this program.

A week after I turned over my Protégé title to Paul Narcisse, the 2016 winner, I was promoted to a management position.  I am living proof that programs designed for career and leadership development truly work.  I will always have someone who is mentoring me, but now I am in a position to be a mentor and help a new group of people reach their career goals.

The credit union movement is about “People Helping People”. This is not just for our members but internally as well. I believe if we all live by this philosophy then we will continue to have strong people leading the way for the future of our credit unions.

Akira Jacobs is a service manager for South Carolina Federal Credit Union. She has worked at SC Federal for more than seven years and aspires to become a senior manager. She has her Associates degree in business administration from Strayer University. Akira serves as vice chair for SC Federal's foundation committee, and is the communications chair for the Lowcountry Chapter CUaware. She also enjoys doing outside charity work.

Tags:  CUaware Protégé  CUaware Protégé Mentor program 

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