Credit Union Professionals get Inspired at Leveraging the Credit Union Difference Workshop

Participants from Leveraging the Credit Union Difference workshop gather for a group photo during the event, held recently on Bainbridge Island, Washington.


Credit union professionals renewed their inspiration for the Credit Union Movement in the perfect location recently during the second annual Leveraging the Credit Union Difference Workshop – a multi-day event that was created by Credit Union Development Educators with support from the National Credit Union Foundation, the Northwest Credit Union Association, and BECU.

Surrounded by nature and majestic trees at remote Islandwood, a 250-acre environmental learning center located on Bainbridge Island, Wash., participants reconnected with our industry’s roots and developed a better understanding of the Credit Union Movement. The workshop, held Nov. 30-Dec. 2, is a peek into the full Development Educator’s program held each year.

“The opportunity to unplug from your day job and do the deep work of uncovering your unique passion for the Credit Union Movement is truly priceless,” said Northwest Credit Union Association’s Director, Cooperative Development, Carmen Vigil. “This year’s workshop developed 28 passionate credit union advocates and champions that will return to their shop energized and poised to make an even greater impact within their teams and communities.”

Debbie Wege, Cooperative Community Advocate at BECU, and Lois Kitsch, co-founder of the independent consulting firm CU Difference, co-facilitated the workshop.

Man writes in red pen on large paper

Andy Peña with Express Credit Union contributes to an empathy map during the workshop. The map helps teams delve into the unique perspectives and experiences that are shaping the lives of the members they serve.

“Watching credit union professionals of every level and tenure, from three months to 35 years and up, collectively share their passion and learn from each other by expressing thoughtful, creative ideas on how to deepen our impact by leveraging the credit union difference is rewarding for me, and even more rewarding for the movement,” Wege said.

Participants from all over the Northwest explored the concept of “finding their why” ( identifying their unique passion for the Movement) throughout the workshop, culminating with each attendee developing a personal action plan for implementing their learnings into their daily work. Guest speakers for the event included Mark Lynch, co-founder of CU Difference and Troy Stang, NWCUA President and CEO.

Participant Amanda Nixon, HR and Compliance Coordinator at Lewis Clark Credit Union, came with an open mind and left with much more.

“I didn’t have any expectations for the workshop, but walked away with a lot of information and impactful experiences,” said Nixon. “It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day motions and forget that each person’s “why” is just as important as our own. As a movement and a cooperative, our “why” is so important to what we do every single day.”

Working in small table groups led by Development Educators from across the Northwest, participants engaged in a number of activities to understand the unique history and role of credit unions, and how to leverage the credit union difference now and in the future.

Table mentor Kimberly Ingham, Vice President of Member Engagement at Peninsula Credit Union, enjoyed watching the light bulb moments of understanding happen for those in attendance.

“When you can help someone understand the purpose of credit unions, not only how it connects to the bigger Credit Union Movement, but how it ultimately ties all the way back to serving the member, when that connection takes place, the fire is lit and the magic happens,” said Ingham. “Once they get it, they don’t see problem members, they see a member with a problem and everyone starts thinking differently to get at the root cause and find real solutions.”

Another table mentor, Liz Henderson, Business Development Officer at Maps Credit Union, reported a similar experience.

Attendees look at presentation on large screen“As the workshop progressed, I saw my team and the rest of the group have shifts in their perceptions and way of looking at the Credit Union Movement,” said Henderson. “In the end, they walked away with a network of peers, an action plan to implement what they had learned, and energized (or re-energized) about their contribution to the Credit Union Movement.”

As part of the workshop agenda, participants gave back to the local community, by  assembling care packages for donation to the Helpline House, a social services organization local to Bainbridge Island. Materials for the project were funded with generous support from CUNA Mutual Group and Footprint Promotions.

“The workshop is a small taste of the full DE program, and I hope it inspires many to take the deeper dive and attend the full program,” said Ingham.

If you would like more information about the Leveraging the CU Difference Workshop, contact Carmen Vigil, NWCUA Director, Cooperative Momentum. For information on the Credit Union Development Education Program, visit the National Credit Union Foundation’s website.

Editor’s Note: Read about five Northwest credit union professionals who became the latest Certified Credit Union Development Educators at NCUF’s November training here.

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