Credit Union ‘Learning Map’ Reinvigorates Volunteers

Traveling back through time while analyzing the future through a crystal ball that is occluded by the winds of change sounds like the makings of another Marty McFly adventure sequel to “Back to The Future.”

But the cast is not made up of actors and the script is anything but a fantasy. The journey is led by Credit Union Development Educator (CUDE) Jennifer Kuhn, field coach for the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF), and the intrepid expeditioners are more than 120 credit union volunteers who took part in a two-hour exercise to rediscover the roots of the credit union movement and help chart a successful course for credit unions in the years ahead.

The educational exercise took place June 15 in Spokane, Wash., at the annual Volunteers’ Conference sponsored by the Northwest Credit Union Association (NWCUA). The program challenges board members to explore credit union growth with the “Not for Profit, But for Service” Credit Union Learning Map. The Learning Map program is sponsored by the NCUF in partnership with Credit Union Development Educators.

The core training tool is a table-sized map full of colorful visuals that track the roots of the Credit Union Movement from its earliest days through the complex financial marketplace of today. The original map and concept was a collaborative effort by a number of individuals including fellow Development Educator, Jennifer Kloepping and funding assistance provided by CUNA Mutual to use in training future CUDEs.

Part of the responsibility of a Development Educator is to make a commitment to a project that helps build the credit union community. Kuhn saw the interest and value the Credit Union Learning Map brought to the CUDE training program and decided to expand its boundaries to credit union staff and volunteers across the country as her CUDE project. She said the Spokane experience was “the largest group of participants” with which she has facilitated the program.

“It is really designed to promote thoughtful discussion about the credit union philosophy and how we integrate that philosophy with our vision statements and business models,” Kuhn said. “The Learning Map brings our core values, market challenges and changing regulatory environment into focus.”

Participants spend approximately two hours reviewing the map and answering questions posed by a facilitator that relate to the map visuals. The topics cover the origins and founders of the credit union movement, changes in regulatory policy and the market changes that have influenced today’s financial services consumer.

The entire exercise highlights the fact that while so many things have changed in areas like asset size, technology, enhanced products and services, and competitive influences, credit unions continue to be anchored in their fundamental calling as cooperative institutions with a mission of putting service ahead of profit.

Kuhn, who has facilitated more than 30 such training sessions, said she has found that participants in every instance have become totally engaged in the exercise.

“A common theme is that they want to take this exercise back to their staff or schedule it as part of a board retreat or planning session,” Kuhn said. Spokane participants echoed that assessment.

“It shows us where we have been as credit unions, the values that have guided us over the years, and brings home the importance and relevance of those principles in today’s financial world,” said John Vincent, a member of the board of Oregonians Credit Union.

“It really helps build an understanding of how we got to where we are today,” said Craig Baird of Solarity Credit Union. “It would be an especially good tool for orientation of new board members.”

Kuhn sees the “Not for Profit, But for Service” Learning Map expanding into board rooms and staff training programs throughout the country in the next year.

Credit unions interested in participating can contact the National Credit Union Foundation.

“I believe it is a great way to learn from each other and develop a unified sense of purpose within each credit union,” Kuhn said.


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Posted in Advocacy News.