Development Education Program To Test 'Mini-Seminars'

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The National Credit Union Foundation is looking to take a program that has been perceived by some in the CU community as a "social club of fringe players" and ensure everyone knows what it really is: a representation of the heart and soul of credit unions.

The Development Educator program was created to inculcate the history and core values of the credit union movement into its leaders, but somewhere along the way it developed something of an identity crisis and an image problem, according to NCUF Executive Director Steve Delfin. The plan is to continue the week-long DE program held at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and to supplement it with a scaled-down version so more people can participate.

Delfin inherited the DE program, which has floated among various CU associations, when he took over at NCUF just a little over a year ago.

"The question I had to ask was why someone would take a week out of their life to go to DE boot camp," he told The Credit Union Journal. "The answers were compelling. What impressed me was how many DE graduates have gone on to become real leaders in the movement. They talked of the importance of credit unions staying in touch with their history and their mission. They said this is even more important now than ever before. But if it's so important, then how come only about 600 people have gone through it in the many years this program has been involved?"

The easy answer is that it's tough for most credit union executives to get away from the credit union for a full week of almost anything, but that is just one aspect of the problem, Delfin noted.

"The DE program had an identity crisis, and it lacked leadership. It was going along without any significant resources being devoted to it," he suggested.

NCUF interviewed a number of credit union leaders-some DEs, some not-to delve deeper into the identity crisis.

"If you asked someone who is a DE about this program, what you'd typically hear is, 'I went through it, and it forms the basis for every single decision I make at my credit union,'" Delfin related. "But among those who weren't DEs, the program had gotten the reputation of being a small, cliquish group of fringe players, almost a social club more than anything else."

But that, he said, is decidedly not the case, pointing to some of the luminaries of the credit union community who are, in fact, DEs, including Texas league CEO Dick Ensweiler, NCUA Board Member Gigi Hyland, USA FCU CEO and NCUF Chairman Mary Cunningham, and CUNA Mutual SVP-corporate and legislative affairs Larry Blanchard.

"There are more executives today who have come to credit unions from outside of the credit union world who lack knowledge of the history and mission of credit unions," Delfin observed, noting reasons for the need to reinvigorate the DE program. "We have Congress and others challenging credit union service and challenging the tax exemption. The DE program is more important now than ever before."

Plans are in the works to streamline the week-long program to offer an "executive mini-seminar" that would make it easier to attend.

The NCUF is also looking to drum up support for and interest in the DE program from outside of the movement. "There are a number of foundations that have an interest in the DE program and the corporate social responsibility message it carries," Delfin commented.

The foundation is contracting with Consultant Tom Decker to be the new DE Program Officer to help streamline and grow the DE program. The revitalization effort was just one of several issues on tap at the 2006 Development Educators Workshop hosted by America First FCU in Salt Lake City last week.

About The DE Program

MADISON-The Development Education Program was originally created by U.S. AID in 1981 to help citizens better understand the role that developing countries play in the political, economic, security and humanitarian interests of the U.S. In 1987, it became funded by CU organizations, and was originally called the NYIB International Awareness program. For info: www.ncuf.org.

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