Cooperative Model of Finance Remains Relevant, Stress 2 People

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SAN ANTONIO-The cooperative principles that are the historical underpinnings of credit unions remain relevant, contemporary growth drivers, according to two people.

"Credit unions are unique in the financial services space with their cooperative model. Leveraging the credit union difference can help generate growth and financial success," said Jennifer Kuhn, talent management and recruiting director for CUNA Mutual, told America's Credit Union Conference last week.

Kuhn said that many credit unions develop principle-centered initiatives and generate positive economic results for their members, the community and the credit union itself.

Joining Kuhn was Deborah Wege, community affairs manager at BECU and executive director of the BECU Foundation, who shared with the the audience BECU's support of Express Credit Union in King County, Wash. The focus of Express CU is on providing low- and moderate-income families affordable financial services as an alternative to payday loans and check cashers. BECU works with Express CU to expand its capital and extend its influence to immigrant and low-income families in the Puget Sound region.

"Not only does BECU's sponsorship help the members of Express CU, it enhances the ability of BECU to do our cooperative part in strengthening our underserved communities," said Wege.

According to Wege, the BECU and Express CU example demonstrates two of the seven principles of highly effective credit unions. A concern for the community and cooperation among cooperatives drove BECU to be part of the development of Express CU, Wege said.

The 7 Principles of Effective Co-ops

Kuhn and Wege shared with their audience the seven principles of highly effective cooperatives developed by the International Co-Operative Alliance and challenged them to develop a cooperative, purpose-driven credit union.

• Voluntary and Open Membership. Cooperatives are voluntary organizations, open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.

• Democratic Member Control. Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting policies and making decisions. The elected representatives are accountable to the membership.

• Members' Economic Participation. Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their cooperative. Members allocate surpluses for any or all of the following purposes: developing the cooperative, benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the cooperative; and supporting other activities approved by the membership.

• Autonomy and Independence. Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If they enter into agreements with other organizations they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their cooperative autonomy.

• Education, Training and Information. Cooperatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperatives. They inform the general public, particularly young people and opinion leaders, about the nature and benefits of cooperation.

• Cooperation Among Cooperatives. Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.

• Concern for Community. While focusing on member needs, cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies accepted by their members.

Cooperative principle learning is at the core of the National Credit Union Foundation's Credit Union Development Educators (CUDE) Certification program. Kuhn and Wege are Credit Union Development Educators, representing the CUDE Advisory Council. More information can be found at www.ncuf.coop.

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